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Morning Tailgate Mailbag: Alabama Vs. Oklahoma State, Advanced Stats, And Iron Chef

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks on in frustration against the Iowa State Cyclones  at Jack Trice Stadium November 18, 2011 in Ames, Iowa.  (Photo by Reese Strickland/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 18: Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks on in frustration against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium November 18, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by Reese Strickland/Getty Images)
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Time for the final mailbag of the regular season, in which we delve further into the "Alabama or Oklahoma State" topic, judge LSU on traditional stats and tell you which Iron Chef is so very underrated. Thanks for participating!

@SBN_BillC If everyone agrees that Ala & LSU are the two best teams & they're going to meet for the MNC, why is everyone bitching?
Dec 01 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

@SBN_BillC how can #Bama with a weak schedule be above #okstate ? Do losses count more then top25wins?
Dec 01 via Twitter for iPhoneFavoriteRetweetReply

So ... not everyone agrees then?

I was really happy with my "Alabama should be in the title game because every game matters" column, but there are two points that I want to reassert a bit.

1. The rules for selecting the participants in the two-team playoff known as the BCS Championship are, basically, as follows: Voters in the Coaches and Harris Polls rank the teams they think are the 25 best in the country, and then their votes are combined with those of a select number of computer ranking systems. Based on the formula and the guidelines in place, the top two teams are selected. There is no "No rematches" clause, and there is no "Conference champions only" clause. If we want those clauses to exist, there should be pressure placed on decision makers in that regard.

What I hate is when the humans attempt to manipulate the system because they don't like the assumed result. That's not their job. If they think that Alabama is more deserving of the No. 2 ranking, they should rank Alabama No. 2. Same with Oklahoma State. Instead, people start manipulating their votes to artificially impact the formulas -- just like some did for Texas over Oklahoma in 2008, and for Colorado over Nebraska in 2001 -- and that's unacceptable. Granted, the manipulation really hasn't worked yet (both Oklahoma and Nebraska still made the title game), but if voters are doing anything other than ranking their top 25 teams means, then they are technically not doing the jobs given to them. If we want to change the way two (or, eventually, more than two) teams are selected, do it in the offseason. But trying to change results you don't like in real time is unacceptable. It makes me wonder if either human votes should count less in the overall equation, or if we should avoid actually showing any BCS formula results at all until the regular season is over (since voters then wouldn't be able to react to what they perceive as injustices).

I saw an article the other day that said something to the effect of "Voters must then decide who they want to face LSU in the national title game" (in regard to what happens if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma), and I got angry. They are not supposed to decide that. They are only part of the BCS formula, whether they like it or not. I am all for an open debate about changing the selection process in the offseason, but it isn't the offseason yet.

2. I should make something very clear: I think Alabama is the No. 2 team in the country, and that's why I think it is very fair that they are in line to make the national title game. If you want to make the case that Oklahoma State has the better resume, fine; they do indeed have more wins over Top 25 teams. But here's where I blow my own mind and defend Alabama by the same logic I usually use to defend Boise State: a team's true "resume" is built by how they perform on the field, not who they've had the opportunity to play. We can talk about how Oklahoma State has better wins, and we can talk about how Oklahoma State has by far the worse loss, but that's not how I care to evaluate teams.

At Football Outsiders, we evaluate teams based on every play and every drive. Simply assigning value based on a sample size of 12 results limits us severely. By comparing a team's performance on every play to how they should have been expected to perform, we get a much better read for which teams are truly the best. However, if you look at the current F/+ rankings, you see that the teams who play at the highest level aren't always the teams that win the most games. Wins and losses do matter, after all. If we had some playoff system in place, I wouldn't be arguing that a four-loss Florida State team deserves a spot over, say, 10-2 Kansas State just because their F/+ rating is higher. That said ... Oklahoma State and Alabama share the same record, and the Tide outpace the Cowboys by 5.2 percent in the F/+ ratings. That is a lot. And if you have performed better overall and can boast the same record, you get my (nonexistent) vote.

Yes, Oklahoma State has beaten more ranked teams. But they have also played more ranked teams. Every year I end up talking about how Boise State can still prove a tremendous amount by whipping bad teams worse than anybody whips those bad teams; the same rough argument goes for Alabama this year. They have proven more to me in running roughshod over some mediocre SEC teams than Oklahoma State did. I love Oklahoma State, but I think Alabama is both better and more deserving. And if you don't want a rematch, I understand. I really don't either. But again, the rules are to pick the two teams most deserving of a national title slot, rematch or no rematch. To me, those two teams are (as it currently stands) LSU and Alabama.

@SBN_BillC Why can't we just have a FG kicking competition between OSU/Bama in some neutral location between the two to decide who goes?
Dec 01 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Creative, at least.

@SBN_BillC Can LSU's O ranking in traditional stats help push advanced and rate stats forward?
Dec 01 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

I love this question. Right now, LSU ranks 62nd in total offense and 100th in passing offense. But their advanced stats tell a completely different story. They are second overall in Off. F/+, seventh in Rushing S&P+, second in Passing S&P+, fifth in Standard Downs S&P+ and third in Passing Downs S&P+. Because they play at a leisurely, run-heavy pace, they do not rack up the gaudy numbers other teams and conferences produce. But ask Arkansas how effective they can be.

LSU ranks second in your standard "total defense" statistic, but a team with the second-best defense and the 62nd-best offense would not have coasted through the regular season like LSU did. And by eschewing any sort of advanced stats for the basics (the same "basics" that rank Kansas State's pass defense 108th in the nation), we are doing ourselves a disservice. There has to be an adjustment for both pace and opponent to get an accurate read of quality, and we haven't reached that point on a national level yet.

@SBN_BillC This season's + last 3 winners of #NextIronChef on an episode of #Chopped? Please? #WhoYouGot
Dec 01 via Twitter for iPhoneFavoriteRetweetReply

Garces. That dude is a total badass. Does he ever get worse than about a 55 on Iron Chef? Very, very underrated.