Mea culpa. I confess that I’ve gone a little overboard with the sports blogging lately. The excess induced one of my fellow elders to entreat me to go back to writing about theology. After that reproof, I took the first of twelve steps, and I admitted to myself that I had a problem. I committed to reign it in and save all my sports-pontification for one post on Saturdays. Well, my restraint was good while it lasted because I’m reneging right now with this post. It’s not every year that one’s team is on the verge of playing in the national championship. So if you all would bear with me for just a little bit, I would be much obliged. We will be back to regular programming soon enough.
Which brings me to the point of this post: I’ve spoken against an LSU-Alabama rematch several times over the last couple of weeks, but it has very much felt like being a lone voice of one crying in the wilderness. I don’t think I’ve convinced many people. The last few weeks have proved to most fans that LSU and Alabama are the best two teams in the country, and that fact alone settles the question of a rematch. The rationale is clear. The two best teams must play against each other in the final.
I agree that these are the two best teams, but I’m still a little down on the rematch. There is just some fundamental unfairness about a system that takes two evenly matched teams and keeps giving advantages to one but not the other. What do I mean by that? You would think that LSU’s victory in the Tuscaloosa last month would give them some advantage, but it hasn’t. Because LSU won the regular season meeting, Alabama gets several advantages that LSU does not:
1. Because Alabama lost to LSU, Alabama only has to go 1-1 with LSU to win the whole thing, but LSU has to go 2-0.
2. Because Alabama lost to LSU, Alabama gets the week off while LSU must risk injuries in a tough game against Georgia in the SEC championship.
3. Alabama had home field advantage against LSU in the first meeting, but few seem to give proper credit to LSU for winning in Tuscaloosa in the first game.
4. Alabama has a weaker schedule than LSU, but that is rarely taken into account either.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Reasons 1 and 2 are compelling enough by themselves.
Again, I do believe that these are the two best teams in the country. Having said that, there’s something wrong with a system that rewards a team that lost in a head-to-head match-up in the regular season. It’s like Alabama gets a mulligan on its way to the championship, but LSU has to be perfect. That just doesn’t make any sense. If LSU wins out, there’s a clear champion. But what if Alabama wins out? Does anybody really think that gives us a clear champion? A team that won one and lost one to LSU but didn’t even win its own conference championship? If Alabama wins, that makes them 12-1 while LSU would be 13-1. Alabama would be national champion with a worse record than the runner-up!
Which brings me to a column today by ESPN’s Rick Reilly. I don’t agree with everything Reilly says here, but he understands the fundamental unfairness of the system as it is. He writes:
But imagine how idiotic this system is through LSU’s binoculars. While the Bayou Bengals are beating their brains out against Georgia in the conference title game this Saturday at the Georgia Dome — aka, the crime scene — Alabama will be enjoying chicken wings and “Tosh.0” reruns and resting up.
“I won’t lie to you,” Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower told The Associated Press. “It’s going to be good to get a week off. A lot of guys are banged up.”
Welcome to BCS logic.
Of course, if Alabama wins Walking Dead II, the Tide will be … what? National champions? How? They’ll have one loss, same as all the other contenders. They’ll have split the home-and-home series with LSU. They won’t even have won their SEC division, much less their conference. Yet they could wind up petting the crystal football.
Wouldn’t that be special?
And that’s all I have to say about that… for now!