Why An Alabama-LSU Rematch? Because Every Game Matters

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 42-14 win over the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It isn't the BCS' fault that it must select more than one team for the BCS title game this year, and it isn't the BCS' fault that the second-best team is from the same conference. Alabama and LSU have been by far the two best teams in the country in 2011, and they deserve to play for the national title whether we like it or not.

It's nice, in a way. No matter what the circumstances, we always have something to blame for our displeasure: the BCS. Too many bowls? Blame the BCS! Displeasing national title game? BCS! No playoff? BCS! Unemployment? BCS! Weight gain over the holidays? BCS! Those horrifying Target Christmas commercials? Et cetera.

I've always said the reason people hate the BCS is that it cannot figure out how to get three teams on the same football field. This year, however, its biggest problem is that it must select more than one. If LSU defeats Georgia this weekend, the Bayou Bengals will have established an airtight resume and will be as much of a slam-dunk title game selection as has ever existed. It isn't the BCS' fault that it cannot select LSU twice.

We are dying for a playoff, but adding more teams to the national title picture would not change the fact that only one has completely earned it. 

  • Alabama already lost to LSU, and at home, no less.
  • Oklahoma State gave up almost 600 yards in a loss to 6-5 Iowa State (the same team that lost to Oklahoma by 20, Texas and Baylor by 23, and Missouri by 35).
  • Stanford lost its biggest game at home by 23 points.
  • Virginia Tech got its doors blown off at home by Clemson.
  • The only BCS conference team Houston has played was UCLA. They beat the Bruins by four points; Arizona, meanwhile, beat UCLA by 36.
  • Boise State had its chance and lost to TCU at home.

Every other really good team has lost at least twice.

Not a single other team in the field has an airtight title case. You could certainly suggest that Oklahoma State's overall resume is better than Alabama's, but the Tide didn't go and lose to Iowa State. You can suggest that the country doesn't want to see a rematch, but the country probably didn't want to see a UConn-Butler finale in last year's NCAA basketball tournament. The country doesn't get to decide who plays for the title based on aesthetics or personal preferences.

The bottom line is this: two teams have stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the country this year and as it currently stands, those two teams will almost certainly play for the national title. Even if LSU loses to Georgia this weekend, the Tigers and Tide will probably still have the best two statistical resumes in the country. It almost never works out this way, but it has in 2011.

Consider the following:

  • As of last week (because this week's ratings are not yet ready, not that they will change much), LSU was No. 1 in the F/+ rankings with an overall rating of plus-36.1 percent. Alabama was second at plus-31.3 percent. No other team rated higher than plus-26.5 percent. No. 2 Alabama is further ahead of No. 3 Boise State than Boise State is of No. 6 Wisconsin.
    Alabama is a couple of steps ahead of everybody else, and LSU is a couple of steps ahead of Alabama.
  • If we prefer using Adj. Score as our guide, only two teams have managed an Adj. Scoring Margin better than 20.5: LSU (plus-27.3) and Alabama (plus-30.6). Alabama's margin is as far ahead of No. 3 Wisconsin's as Wisconsin's is ahead of No. 20 Missouri. (For more on Adj. Score, go here.)
  • As of last week, only four teams ranked in the Top Ten of both Off. F/+ and Def. F/+: LSU (third and first), Alabama (eighth and second), Boise State (fifth and seventh) and Oregon (sixth and eighth). Alabama has fewer losses than Oregon and a better loss than Boise State.

The more we dive into the statistics, the more separation we give Alabama from everybody else.

We can complain that it's boring. We can complain that we have stumbled into a situation where no games in this upcoming championship week will have a direct impact on the national title race (I love Chris Fowler to death, but again, it isn't the BCS' fault that everybody else failed to take care of their business). We can complain that Alabama-LSU is too SEC-centric (especially in a season when the SEC really isn't a great conference).

But the job of the BCS is to pit the two best, most deserving teams in a two-team playoff. That is exactly what it is doing. Oklahoma State had its chance and suffered the worst loss of any one-loss team. Stanford and Virginia Tech had their chances and got blown out. Boise State got its chance and watched it sail wide right. Unless you want to advocate for Houston (I'm all ears), you just cannot get very far with any sort of "Someone else is more deserving" argument, and if you want to advocate for a playoff, you are just diluting a field that is still inferior to LSU (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Alabama) in every way.

As I said not very long ago, if a playoff ever comes our way, I will throw myself into it happily. But pro-playoff arguments do not float very well this year. There are plenty of holes in the "Every game counts with the current college football system" argument, but in the case of the 2011 season, every game does count, and that is exactly why an LSU-Alabama matchup is the right one, whether we like it or not.

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