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Dr. Saturday

The Alabama-LSU rematch isn’t the first BCS debacle, but it may be the worst

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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"Once again, I think the BCS has delivered. We've got the best two teams in this game and obviously, the media who votes in the AP poll, agrees with it. … I think if you talk to all the observers of college football, they're saying that this is the best two teams." — BCS spokesman Bill Hancock, on this year's BCS Championship rematch between Alabama and LSU.

The Bowl Championship Series catches a lot of vitriol, along with the people who defend it. Some of it comes from me. But even I have to admit: It's hard to get angry at Bill Hancock. He didn't build the most ridiculous system in sports. He's not responsible for its ridiculousness. He can't change it.

In fact, I like to think he fully recognizes it, and one day, after it ceases to exist, he'll admit that this thing with the voting for No. 1 and No. 2, it was pretty dumb. Right now, he's paid to be the guy who recites the lines and takes the punches. It's a living.

So when the executive director of the BCS says, "Once again, the BCS has delivered," well, what's he supposed to say? By the BCS's standards, the BCS has delivered: For the 14th consecutive season, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final BCS standings are scheduled to play in the BCS Championship Game. Once again. When the question is rigged, the answer is never wrong.

I also feel a little sorry for Alabama, which has to hear repeatedly that it doesn't deserve its ticket to redemption against LSU — that LSU is so obviously superior — just because it missed a couple field goals the first time around. The Crimson Tide don't make the rules, either. You may think Nick Saban comes across as kind of a jerk, but he doesn't make the rules. They just play the games, crush everything in their path and hope for the best like everyone else.

But when the question is, "Did the BCS get it right?" the answer is always "No." The BCS always gets it wrong. Always. When you keep asking the wrong question, the answer is always wrong. For 14 consecutive seasons, the BCS has been wrong almost every time.{YSP:MORE}

In 1998, it was one-loss Florida State over five other one-loss teams, most notably Ohio State. In 2000, it was one-loss Florida State over one-loss Miami — which beat Florida State and took the No. 2 position in both mainstream human polls — and one-loss Washington, which beat Miami. In 2001, it was one-loss Nebraska over one-loss Oregon, which also held the No. 2 spot in both mainstream human polls.

In 2003, it was one-loss LSU and one-loss Oklahoma — fresh from being demolished in the Big 12 Championship Game — over one-loss USC, which took the No. 1 spot in both mainstream human polls. In 2004, it was undefeated USC and Oklahoma over undefeated Auburn and Utah, at which point the "observers of college football" in the Associated Press poll decided they had had enough of this crap.

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In 2006, it was one-loss Florida over one-loss Michigan. In 2007, LSU got in with two losses, both to unranked teams. In 2008, it was one-loss Florida and one-loss Oklahoma over five other one-loss outfits from major conferences — including Texas, which beat Oklahoma head-to-head — and undefeated Utah, which vanquished three ranked teams in the regular season. In 2009, it was undefeated Alabama and Texas over undefeated Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. Last year, it was undefeated Auburn and Oregon over undefeated TCU.

This year, it's one-loss Alabama, runner-up in its own division, over one-loss Oklahoma State, outright champion of the most relentless conference schedule in the nation.* If you talk to "all the observers in college football," they don't agree on anything. In the AP poll, Alabama finished ahead of Oklahoma State by 18 points, 1.2 percent of the total points possible for either team. In the Coaches' poll, the margin was 32 points. Bloggers who write about the sport on a daily basis picked Oklahoma State over Alabama. So did four of the six BCS computer polls.

In every case, the BCS has been wrong. Not because it picked the wrong two teams to play for its mythical championship, but because it was forced to pick only two teams. The answer to the question, "Who are the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation?" is not the problem. The question is the problem.

A rematch between two teams from the same conference who have already played happens to be an especially egregious example — the most egregious, actually, so much so that it already looks like a possible catalyst for reform — but it's one that continues to prove the rule. As long as "all the observers in college football" are tasked with the answer, they'll always get it wrong. When a strong contender that effectively earned 50 percent of the vote is rewarded with zero percent of the opportunity, the system has failed. (In this case, it would have failed equally if that team had been Alabama.) When you ask observers in any competition that keeps score to pick the winners, rather than asking worthy teams to play for the honor, there is no chance to get it right. That system cannot deliver.

In the BCS' case, it never has. As long as it exists in its current form, it never will.

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* That's not an argument that the Big 12 is "better" than the SEC. But Oklahoma State played every other team in the Big 12, whereas Alabama missed both of the best teams in the SEC East (Georgia and South Carolina). Stack the Cowboys' nine conference games against the Crimson Tide's eight, and there's no reasonable doubt which gauntlet was tougher. The day after OSU lost to Iowa State in its eighth consecutive Big 12 game, Alabama faced Georgia Southern.

Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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