Rematch deserved, but Sugar Bowl a travesty

Pat Forde
Rematch deserved, but Sugar Bowl a travesty
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Trent Richardson and Alabama did everything the BCS required of them to earn a rematch with LSU

There is not a single scintilla of doubt that a playoff would be the best way to end this – or any – college football season.

Sixteen teams, eight, four – whatever. Any of the above would beat the fraudulent BCS system we are stuck with in America.

If it were a four-team deal, Alabama and Oklahoma State would settle the squabbling in one semifinal, while LSU throttles someone in the other semi. Then we'd know for certain who most deserves to play the Tigers for the national title.

But we don't have a playoff, as everyone knows. And there probably won't be one anytime soon. It's an insult to our collective intelligence, but it's a fact.

Given the system we have, the LSU-Alabama rematch is the right call – no matter how narrow the margin. The best teams will play in New Orleans for the national title.

Stop the whining about a team that didn't win its conference being able to win the title. Stop the whining about how Alabama had its shot and lost. Stop the whining about how unfair it is for LSU to have to beat the Crimson Tide twice. Stop the whining about the likelihood of another defensive struggle.

Deal with it.

[Wetzel: SEC reaps reward of rejected playoff plan]

People say Alabama had its shot? Well, Oklahoma State had its shot, too. All the Cowboys had to do was win their final two games and they were in the title game. Then they went to Ames and were shocked by 29-point underdog Iowa State.

That invoked a little-known BCS bylaw, rule 10.3.1.14, which reads thusly: Any team that loses to Iowa State is automatically ineligible to win the national title.

Alabama lost by three to the undisputed No. 1 team in the land. Oklahoma State lost to a Cyclones team that finished 6-6. There is no comparison.

But if you insist on using one more yardstick, there's this: Alabama's best win was a 24-point beating of Arkansas, which is ranked No. 6 in the BCS. Oklahoma State's best win was a seven-point escape of No. 8 Kansas State. Advantage, Crimson Tide.

So the championship game — the one that renders the rest of bowl season little more than a sideshow – is appropriately set. But that doesn't mean the BCS got it all right.

[3 vs. 4: Oklahoma State, Stanford meet in Fiesta]

The presence of Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl is an absolute, complete and utter travesty. The Sugar Bowl should be ashamed of itself for taking the Hokies over more deserving candidates Boise State and Kansas State.

What did Virginia Tech do to deserve its bid? It played three games against ranked teams – and lost two of them, by a combined 48 points. The lone victory was against Georgia Tech, a team that was No. 21 at the time but resides well outside all top 25s now.

Aside from the Yellow Jackets, here's who the Hokies beat to earn their bid: Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, Marshall, Miami, Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. They beat nobody ranked higher than 45th in Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings.

Boise State, meanwhile, pounded Georgia (No. 16 in the final BCS standings) by two touchdowns in a de facto road game. The Broncos' lone loss was by a single point to No. 18 TCU.

Kansas State played four ranked teams and split those games, defeating Baylor and Texas and losing to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats' schedule is ranked 10th-toughest in America by Sagarin, while Virginia Tech's is 56th.

But Tech gets the Sugar Bowl reward, while Kansas State goes to the Cotton Bowl to play Arkansas and Boise State is shuffled off to the Las Vegas Bowl to play an Arizona State team that fired its coach. Ridiculous.

[Wetzel: Flawed BCS process must be scrapped]

The messages sent by the Sugar Bowl's decision are as follows:

The BCS: A closer look

Here is the final BCS top 14 of the season, with the school, its spot in the Harris poll, its spot in the coaches' poll and its BCS computer average. We've also included the NCAA's schedule strength, which is not part of the BCS formula.

Team (last week) Harris Coaches Comp. Sked
1. LSU (1st) 1st 1st 1st 1st
2. Alabama (2nd) 2nd 2nd 3rd 25th
3. Oklahoma State (3rd) 3rd 3rd 2nd 10th
4. Stanford (4th) 4th 4th T-5th 61st
5. Oregon (9th) 5th 5th 8th 21st
6. Arkansas (8th) 7th 7th T-5th 41st
7. Boise State (7th) 6th 6th 9th 40th
8. Kansas State (11th) 10th 10th 4th 23rd
9. South Carolina (12th) 9th 9th 10th 30th
10. Wisconsin (15th) 8th 8th 14th 45th
11. Virginia Tech (5th) 11th 11th 13th T-17th
12. Baylor (17th) 16th 16th 11th 8th
13. Michigan (16th) 12th 12th 15th T-17th
14. Oklahoma (10th) 19th 19th 7th 5th

More: Final BCS rankings

1. The BCS still caters to the schools from the power conferences and is only interested in the "outsider" schools when forced to be interested. If you thought Boise winning the Fiesta Bowl and TCU winning the Rose Bowl were going to change anything, you're wrong.

2. Schedule soft. You'll be rewarded. Virginia Tech long has been among the most fearless scheduling schools in the country, regularly taking on worthy non-conference opponents. (Including Boise State in 2010. You might remember who won that game.) But this season, the Hokies went with a diet of soft foods in September, did not lose and wound up with a padded record. It worked splendidly.

It certainly could be argued that Virginia Tech's Sugar Bowl opponent, Michigan, is not the most worthy selection, either. The Wolverines lost head-up to rival Michigan State, and the Spartans barely lost in the Big Ten championship game to Wisconsin on Saturday. Still, the smart money says the glory-starved Michigan fan base will flock to New Orleans in big numbers and Michigan still carries its big-name cachet.

That's the way decisions are made come bowl time. That's why a team such as Penn State can end up in the TicketCity Bowl, an off-brand game played at noon Jan. 2 in Dallas. The Penn State name has become toxic amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal, damaging the program's marketability. That's why the Nittany Lions slid down the Big Ten pecking order.

Bowls have to make business decisions, not necessarily football decisions. That's why Virginia Tech gets rewarded and Boise State gets shafted. That's why a playoff would be a far better way.

But we don't have a playoff. And in the absence of one, at least the championship game pitting LSU against Alabama is the best possible matchup.

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