When LSU narrowly defeated Alabama, I said that regardless of what my computer ratings said, I would vote Alabama #2 if I were a voter. That continued to be true through last week.
Unlike some, I don’t place a high premium on margin of victory. For example, the Georgia Bulldogs played a hell of a game today, and that was not reflected in the final score.
I do understand the system is set up to allow for some subjectivity though. That subjectivity has favored Alabama thus far. Alabama did not have the borderline victories like Oklahoma St. The Tide’s narrowest win was over Penn St. by 16, and the game wasn’t even that close. The Cowboys appeared lucky that Kansas St. ran out of time (allowing Okie St. to win by 7), and they only beat a mediocre Texas A&M team by a single point.
For Oklahoma St. to lose a game to Iowa St. in similar fashion to the way Alabama lost to LSU was crippling for its BCS-championship-game argument. Obviously, Iowa St. is in a different galaxy from LSU and Alabama as far as depth and talent.
On the other hand, the Cyclones are not much different from Mississippi St., and that was the second-toughest game on the scoreboard for both LSU and Alabama. There wasn’t any late-game drama in either MSU game, and obviously the better teams won, but I question letting approximately one quarter in such a game decide who makes the national-championship game.
I don’t think there should be a uniform rule against a re-match. If the Pokes had lost to Texas A&M or Kansas St., I would be vigorously arguing for Alabama right now over Stanford or Boise St., even though that would be against my interests as an LSU fan.
Back to the resume, looking at the loss gives Alabama a head start once we compare the wins. I’ll put relative wins in major and minor categories. So it’s starts out Alabama 1 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 0, because Alabama has a major win for the better loss.
First win: Alabama beats Kent St., Oklahoma St. beats ULL. Neither was a likely threat for a loss, although ULL is a bowl team that has won 8 games. Slight edge to Oklahoma St. here. Alabama 1 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 1.
Second win: Alabama beats Penn St., Oklahoma St. beats Arizona. Alabama 2 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 1.
Third win: Oklahoma St. beats Tulsa, Alabama beats North Texas. Tulsa has only three more wins than North Texas does, but North Texas lost to much worse teams than Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Boise St., and Houston. If Tulsa played Hawaii’s 2007 schedule, they could very well be undefeated and in a BCS bowl. Alabama 2 and 0, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.
Fourth win: Alabama beat Arkansas, Oklahoma St. beats Texas A&M. I said I’m not impressed by margin of victory, and even if you do look at that, Texas A&M and Arkansas had a close game when they played one another. Strange to say at this point, but I don’t know how good Arkansas really is either. The Hogs played no one out of conference apart from the Aggies, they lost going away against both LSU and Alabama, and they didn’t play Georgia. Plus, their young quarterback was even younger earlier in the season. I can’t give Alabama a major victory over Oklahoma St. here. Alabama 2 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.
Fifth win: Alabama beat Florida, Oklahoma St. beat Kansas. The game was at Florida before all their injury issues, Kansas is really bad. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.
Sixth win: Oklahoma St. beats Texas, Alabama beats Vandy. The Okie St. game was in Austin, and I have the Horns about 30 spots ahead of the ’Dores, so minor win for the Cowboys. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 2.
Seventh win: Oklahoma St. beats Missouri, Alabama beats Ole Miss. I rate this Okie St. win as decisively better. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 2 and 2.
Eight win: Oklahoma St. beats Baylor, Alabama beats Tennessee. Same thing here.
Oklahoma St. 3 and 2, Alabama 3 and 1.
Ninth win: Oklahoma St. beats Kansas St., Alabama beats Mississippi St. Despite my having K-State 35 spots ahead of the Bulldogs, I’ll count this one as a minor win, only to make up for resolving a couple of the doubts above in favor of Oklahoma St. Oklahoma St. 3 and 3, Alabama 3 and 1.
Tenth win: Oklahoma St. beats Texas Tech, Alabama beats Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern is still alive in the FCS playoffs and could very well win, they only have one other loss. This might seem to cut against Oklahoma St.’s loss, but if Texas Tech can lose to Iowa St. 41-7, they could have easily lost to Georgia Southern. So I’ll just put this down as a minor win for the Pokes. Oklahoma St. 3 and 4, Alabama 3 and 1.
Eleventh win: Oklahoma St. beats Oklahoma, Alabama beats Auburn. This is borderline between major and minor, but I’ll go with minor given that Auburn played Clemson, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia. Oklahoma St. 3 and 5, Alabama 3 and 1.
So Oklahoma St. has three clear weekly wins, and so does Alabama. But the 5 to 1 in the minor-win category I believe should put Oklahoma St. on top. The SEC supporters (in which I would generally include myself) argue all the time that SEC teams should receive some consideration due to the week-in, week-out play. In this case, that consideration goes in the Cowboys’ favor moreso than it does in the Tide’s favor. Even though there are some second-tier teams, they’re still teams you can’t fall asleep against.
According to ESPN’s numbers, Oklahoma St. has 7 wins against winning teams (this includes ULL and Tulsa to ba fair), and 5 wins against ranked teams. Alabama has 3 wins against winning teams (Arkansas, Auburn, and Penn St….6-6 isn’t “winning”) and 2 wins against ranked teams.
I’m not saying the Big XII is better than the SEC, but because Alabama did not make the SEC championship game, Oklahoma St. played 9 conference games to 8. If LSU loses to Alabama in OT and the Tigers are the ones who don’t make the championship game, and we’re comparing LSU to Oklahoma St., LSU (with wins over the Pac-12’s automatic bid and the Big East’s automatic bid) would win this hands down. So any shortfall between the Big XII and SEC is resolved due to the extra game and the deeper (if not better) non-conference schedule by Oklahoma St. A team putting itself at greater risk of a loss more often should matter more than margin of victory.
The close games could in some weird way be an argument for Oklahoma St. Three games came down to the wire and they won two of them. Alabama is 0-1 in such games.
I also heard Gary Danielson bring up the argument about what type of team is a better match for LSU. He basically argued that the offensive teams were shut down too much by the LSU defense and counteracted too much by the LSU special teams, so it needs to be a defensive team to beat LSU. He might be right, but I don’t think that has any place in the consideratiion of this.
In 2004, USC beat Oklahoma 55-19. Now, I think Auburn should have been in that game, but regardless, if you really wanted to scare USC that year, they should have been forced to play Cal again. The Trojans had only won by 6 at home, and Aaron Rodgers had a first and goal with under 2 minutes left in the game, and the Golden Bears just could not find the end zone. Cal may well have won on a neutral field on that day, not to mention with the benefits a losing team can have in a rematch. That was Cal’s only regular-season loss.
I have another example of a similar argument that was not followed, and the more I looked into it, the more analagous it was to this situation. It’s ironic because the conferences are reversed, but I think the right decision was made that year.
In 2008, Florida lost to an Ole Miss team which would finish with 4 losses. Still, Florida made the championship game over a Texas team who had beaten then-#1 (at the time of choosing) Oklahoma and had lost to one-loss (to Oklahoma) Texas Tech. That Texas team did not win its division. And although Florida would beat Oklahoma, I certainly think a reasoned argument could have been made that Texas was more likely to do so. After all, they had already beaten Oklahoma by 10 on a neutral field. But Florida had better wins overall than Texas did. Florida played 9 conference games to Texas’s 8, and they also faced the better nonconference schedule. Texas’s best nonconference opponent had been Arkansas, who would finish 5-7 (although one could argue Rice, who finished #35 with 8 points in the final AP poll, was better), while Florida’s best nonconference opponent was Florida St., who would finish ranked #21 in the final AP poll.
So my message to the voters would be: don’t pick Oklahoma St. because they finished the year with more of an exclamation point, don’t pick them because you don’t want to see a rematch (or because, as Mike Gundy argued, you want to see a 39-36 game), don’t pick them because you think they’re more likely to beat LSU (if anyone thinks that), pick them because overall they beat better teams and they deserve a shot at LSU.