Around Thanksgiving, I wrote a few blogs about the difference between certain playoffs systems and how the better system will reflect the type of competition in the sport. I used college football as an example of why a playoff system is essential. No one outside of Jim Delaney’s residence supports the BCS system, while most want some sort of playoff.
Not many would advocate reverting back to the old system of playing the bowls and crowning a national champion based on the AP poll. This would not have been the season to make that argument, as LSU was expected by most to beat Alabama and win a clean title.
For most, Alabama dominated enough in the national championship to dub themselves crystal clean — but that is just not the case.
1. The NCAA FBS season already plays out like a playoff format. Every year there are a handful of teams that are realistically competing for the title. First, you either have to go undefeated or have one-loss (at the perfect time in the season to the right team) and get help from the other elite teams around you — and all the teams know it going in. Second, you have to play in the right conference and have a strong strength of schedule to compete for a title, just ask Boise State.
LSU beat a #2, #3, #3, #12, #16, #17, #19, #25 during a 13-game season. That is 8 ranked opponents. Most other teams play half of their games against ranked opponents, while going 11-1 or 12-1, to be in the national title hunt. The schedule is a season-long playoff system. So, at the end of a four-month playoff, allow the voters to intelligently crown the champion. We do it with MVP awards and the Hall of Fame.
2. Like most seasons, most fans disputed the BCS computer system that even put Alabama in the title game. This is evident by the AP poll when bowl matchups were announced and the point spread between the top teams: LSU (1500), Alabama (1418), Oklahoma State (1400), and Stanford (1283). Alabama and Oklahoma State were essentially tied with LSU the undisputed #1 (all 60 first-place votes). Alabama had already lost to LSU. So, the national championship should be LSU and Oklahoma State.
3. Or, further evidence of #2, is that both teams play in the SEC. There is no doubt that the SEC is the best conference in college football and really, it isn’t even close. However, to put a team in the national championship that did not even win their conference…that did not even win their division within their own conference, screams of incestuous unfairness. It would be like the NFL changing the rules and allowing the Green Bay Packers to play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.
The one argument people are using to crown Alabama is just how badly they dominated on Monday, as opposed to their in-season matchup that went into OT on a game with just field goals. This is true. Unfortunately, as the NCAA tries to bleed every dollar out of the bowl season and the BCS, (4) the most important bowl game and the teams that played in it waited well over a month between games. This is a ridiculous way to play of championship. How about we play the Super Bowl on March 13th this year? Or start the World Series on November 11th? It should surprise no one that one team shows up rusty and another shows up well-rested.
So, in reality, where do we sit? If we count the bowl games in the record, it is quite fuzzy. No one has beaten more quality teams than LSU, their season was historic and they laid a 2007 Patriots on the field — by losing to Alabama. Alabama lost to LSU. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Stanford had one loss until Oklahoma State beat them in the Fiesta Bowl. In a playoff system, Alabama would play Oklahoma State (expect LSU would have played Stanford while Alabama would have played Oklahoma State) for the national title. If Oklahoma State were to beat Alabama, then they win the title with the least impressive season schedule?
It’s a complicated system, with conferences that are not equal like we see in professional sports, schedules that are far from equal — and these are amateur athletes. The best way to crown a champion is to judge them based on their entire seasons’ portfolio of work.
If we do that for the 2011 college football season, even when taking into account the epic choke job, LSU was the best team in college football.