Now hear me out, I’m not saying that I agree with the way things played out, but it isn’t the system that messed up this time. I’ll show you what I mean. I’ve pondered a good bit about the way the BCS Standings came out and there are definitely compelling points that can be made when it comes to whether or not Alabama or Oklahoma State should be facing LSU in the National Championship game. In order to be as fair as possible, I will try to lay out (in as short-winded a way as possible) the cases to be made for both teams, and then ultimately point out where I think this all fell apart.
The Case for/against Alabama:
Best Loss – Clearly Oklahoma State’s loss is a far greater loss than Alabama’s. ‘Bama lost to the #1 team in the country who is undefeated, won the SEC Championship, and is playing for a National Title. And they did so in Overtime and did so without giving up a touchdown. This is also where many experts say Alabama passes the “Eye Test” of who looks better.
Ranking – Alabama has been ranked 2nd for the vast majority of the season and was ranked so the last couple of weeks leading up to the final poll. They didn’t do anything to change that.
Conference Championship – Alabama did not play the two best teams in the SEC East and they did not win the SEC West. They did not qualify to participate in the conference title game.
The Loss – Um… they already lost to LSU…and that was AT Alabama
The Wins – Victories over 4 teams in the Top 25 at the time the game was played. 0-1 against Top 10 teams at the time they played. Of the teams they beat, only 2 ended up in the Top 25 in the polls.
Non-Conference – Georgia Southern, Kent State, North Texas. Positively Bill Snyder-esque.
SEC Bias – The SEC has had the reputation in recent years for being the best football conference in America. This leads everyone out of the SEC to believe that this season came down to an SEC bias. The counter to that would be that the past 5 National Champions are from the SEC…so there probably is some merited bias.
The Case for/against Oklahoma State:
The Wins – Victories over 4 teams in the Top 25 at the time the game was played. 2-0 against Top 10 teams at the time they played. Of the teams they beat, 3 ended up in the Top 25 in the polls.
Worst Loss – The loss to an unranked Iowa State squad is the reason this is even being discussed. It should be factored in that this was a tough situation (odd night – Friday, road game, tragedy – 2 school coaches tragically killed). But in the end a 24-7 2nd half lead should have been enough. Instead, a disjointed offensive effort led to a double-overtime loss.
What LSU Deserves – LSU has already beaten Alabama. If they face off again and Alabama were to win, what does it settle? They would be 1-1 against each other. LSU would be penalized for winning the wrong game of the two. It makes the equation even more clouded.
Non-Conference – Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona, Tulsa (which ended up being played at 3:00am). Not amazing, but not cake-walks.
Conference Championship – Oklahoma State played every team in the Big XII and is the undisputed Conference Champion.
The Case for/against the System:
Formula – I honestly believe that this year the formula for calculating the BCS is at no fault in how this came out. If the two elements had been handled properly I believe that the right matchup would have happened. Now, my only complaint here is that there should be some sort of point bonus for winning your conference. That would at least make it where it’s not a disadvantage to appear in a championship game, and it would reward accomplishments instead of just perception.
Computers – The oft maligned segment of the formula actually would have actually paired LSU & Oklahoma State in the title game.
Human Voting Bias – Here is where things went awry. I believe, based on all I have read, that if voters had voted in a manner that was completely upright and honest we would have an OSU/LSU matchup and we would get to hear how much Stillwater hates Les Miles and vice versa. But instead, only a handful of voters across two polls, took this into their own hands and changed the outcome. Here are those I believe are to blame for what I believe is a disappointing outcome (NOTE: If all of these folks had voted OSU #3 and they still were behind Alabama, then I would be ok with the matchup in the title game. I simply don’t believe that would have been the outcome):
Gary Pinkel, Missouri – OSU #4. Hard to believe that intentions here were pure. All Big XII coaches voted OSU #2 (just as all SEC voted Bama #2), except the Tigers who happen to be leaving the Big XII for the SEC. Seems like kissing up to the new while spitting at the old.
Nick Saban, Alabama – OSU #4. Pretty self-serving to be able to give yourself an edge in this battle by bumping your opponent down.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force – OSU #5. Actually no ill will. He’s just undervalued OSU all season. He actually moved them up 3 spots this week.
David Cutcliffe, Duke – OSU #4. No ill will that is known. Seems that he favors the “smarter” school.
David Shaw, Stanford – OSU #4. Also self-serving. Knowing that Stanford fans don’t travel well and that they could get bypassed for a BCS at-large unless they landed in the top 4 gave him motivation to make sure they landed higher.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse – OSU #4. No idea.
Those were the coaches in question. Now the Harris Poll had even more questionable ballots. Here are the voters that voted OSU below 3rd:
OSU #4 – Sammy Batten, Dave Brain, Charlie Cavagnaro, Doug Plank, Harvey Schiller, Terry Shea, Fred Stabley.
OSU #5 – Craig Morton, Scott Johnson (In fairness… he ranked Stanford #7. The ranking of Boise State higher than Oklahoma State is baffling. He also had Oregon at #3), Jeff Van Note (Former Atlanta Falcon lineman…I was a fan growing up, but he should lose his vote. Wisconsin at #3 and Boise at #4),
OSU #6 – Derrick Mayes – Clearly he wanted Alabama in the title game. And just to enforce his need to lose his vote, he left Georgia off his ballot completely. George Wine – Clearly wants to champion the “little people”; he voted Boise State and Houston (who got DESTROYED in the CUSA title game) above Oklahoma State.
I will not question all of the #4 voters in the Harris Poll. There are arguments that can be made for Stanford at #3. While some may have intentionally done it to influence the outcome, without knowing them I refuse to speculate there. The men that voted OSU #5 or #6 should all lose their voting rights. There isn’t a defense for that, especially when you see some of the teams that they voted higher.
So the reality is that I don’t think that the system actually failed this time… the integrity of men failed. Unfortunately, that’s actually a pretty fitting conclusion for this season.
P.S. to OSU fans: First, a national commentator does not have to hate OSU or love the SEC to defend Alabama’s appearance in the title game. There are strong cases to be made for it. Their personal belief doesn’t make them a bad person (unless it’s Mark May). Second, don’t lose sight of how historically fantastic this year is. Your first outright Big XII title and first BCS appearance and Gundy’s first victory over OU all make this a spectacular year, and the matchup with Stanford could be the best bowl game. Celebrate these kids.