Rick Reilly against the LSU-Bama Rematch

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!


  • Collin Garbarino

    All this could be averted. Les Miles merely needs to do the right thing–throw the SEC championship. Georgia could go to the Sugar Bowl. In spite of the loss, the Tigers would still be ranked high enough for a national championship berth. And Alabama would be cast out of the BCS with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Come on, Les. Do the right thing.

  • Brent H.

    Back in 2006 Ohio State and Michigan were 1 & 2 heading into one of the last couple of weeks and the voters did everything they could to make sure there was no rematch. They put USC at 2 and then Florida after USC lost again if I remember correctly.

    I wish there was the same animosity toward the idea of a rematch this year.

    They are the two best teams on most days. But I think OSU should get a shot at LSU, assuming they win their championship game. Who knows, they might pull a Florida and surprise everyone.

  • Tyler Dobbs

    Having commented previously on some of your posts concerning this issue. I guess I still have one nagging question: What is the alternative?

      • Tyler Dobbs

        i mean i think next year there will be a plus 1 implemented. but either way. a playoff system would most likely give us more rematches. also a playoff would probably give us more championships where the two teams aren’t the considered #1 and #2. there would probably be more situations where a team would go 2-0 against a team to win and the other 1-1. it seems like a playoff provides fans with more games they want to see but only really helps “football” in the sense that now the “championship” is seen as fair.

    • Denny Burk

      That’s what everybody seems to think when I make this argument, but that’s not my view. As we saw in November 5, the teams are pretty evenly matched. But I still think that LSU comes into this game with an edge. Here’s why:

      They will be playing in New Orleans in the Superdome, which is LSU’s backyard. It’s not the same as home field advantage, but it’s close. LSU won its last two championships in the Superdome.

      LSU was having quarterback issues in the last meeting with Alabama. Jarrett Lee started that game and three two interceptions before Miles took him out and put Jefferson in. Jefferson has been starting ever since, and he is much better now than he was then. Alabama’s defense will have their hands full with a quarterback that is a legitimate running and passing threat. I expect LSU to put up more offense in a rematch.

      With these two teams, anything can happen, but LSU has an edge in this one. I think LSU will win.

  • Jacob Vanhorn

    You are not alone. LSU should just be given the trophy. They already beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And if you can’t win your conference you shouldn’t be allowed to play for a national championship.

  • Bobs

    In my context, most people for the re-match are influenced by their disdain for LSU. Therefore, they desire that LSU be shafted by the flawed system so that they can revel in the defeat of this powerhouse. Such people jump to conclusion that Alabama is the second best team thus making them the more qualified opponent, and I wonder by what standards they reach this conclusion. Reilly puts forth adequate reasons for a match-up between OSU and LSU instead of a re-match.

    OSU/Stanford vs. LSU please.

  • cb scott

    Denny Burke,

    I have enjoyed your football posts. Frankly, I enjoy most all of your posts. Your honesty is always refreshing and your insights are thought provoking.

    I have read here often, but have never commented. I will today in an effort to give a brother due solace for his obvious anxiety concerning the coming events of 01-09-2012. It is the least I can do and we Sabanites are always a benevolent FOOTBALL NATION.

    You stated, “It’s not every year that one’s team is on the verge of playing in the national championship.” That statement is understandable. Of course, if you were a member of the SABANATION, your anxiety would not be so extreme, because, after all, your Crimson Clad Football Elite has already won 13 national Championships.

    Please don’t feel too bad, because after the Tide has won number 14, you can take some comfort to knowing the greatest FOOTBALL NATION in the FOOTBALL UNIVERSE was the one who handed you the defeat.

  • Steve Hayes


    Tell your elder that football is theology in the south, and you are merely inviting your blogophiles into a conversation about God’s favorite team (The LSU Tigers!). I know that I’d rather read this post than another 150 comment thread about Biblical manhood and womanhood!!


    Do you remember Bama’s last trip to the Superdome? 2008? Utah? Ringing any bells?

    • Denny Burk

      Why can’t all you other commenters be me more like Steve? He may very well be the most brilliant commenter in the history of commentdom.

      Yes, Steve. I do remember that Alabama laid an egg in their game against Utah, but I had forgotten that it was in the Superdome.

      Steve, put your analyst’s hat on for a minute. Who do you think will win the rematch and why?

    • cb scott

      Yes Steve, I do remember 2008. It was a most painful experience for the SABANATION. But to quote St. Nick as he commented about a loss in 2010, “Never Again.”

  • Steve Hayes

    Denny, I’m so glad you asked. I really do think that LSU’s experience in big games this year has prepared them well for the hype machine that is Alabama. I also think coaching is in LSU’s favor. Let me explain.

    Recently I read a report about Les Miles in the locker room. LSU’s players were playing loud rap music, and coach Miles walked in. The players got quiet and looked a bit nervous as Miles surveyed the room. Suddenly, Miles broke into dance, and the players went nuts with laughter as they all joked and jumped up and down.

    I also heard that Saban recently walked into Bama’s locker room, and the players jumped from the shadows and shouted “Happy Birthday Coach!!”. Saban, the birthday boy, said a curt “Thank you”, and then abruptly shifted into game preparations.

    This is just a small example of the differences between these two coaches. Saban is stiff and business like, while Miles is loose and fun. Saban wins, but he never seems satisfied or happy. Miles also wins, but he actually seems to love life, his players and his family. Saban brought winning back to LSU, but Miles made winning fun.

    Look for LSU to play loose with a ton of swagger, and look for Bama to be tight and worried about making mistakes. My guess is that LSU will have a lot of fun hoisting the crystal football when it’s all said and done!

  • Steve Hayes

    Nick Saban goes to heaven when he dies, and St. Peter takes him to his home. It’s nice and spacious. Saban walks outside and notices a huge mansion on top of a hill. The mansion is adorned with purple and gold LSU flags. Saban questions Peter: “I can’t believe I have to live in this shack while Les Miles gets to live in the tremendous mansion!”

    St. Peter replies, “That’s not Les Miles house… It’s God’s!”

  • Scott

    I appreciate your post but I think you left out some of the best parts of the article.

    “You have to figure, too, that, if Alabama had won, then LSU would only have one loss and the Tigers would get the redo. This is because, apparently, no conference can really play football in this country except the SEC, which invented the sport in 2006.”

    Then you take his case for OSU against LSU and not Alabama:

    “Just to introduce you to OSU. An offense that scores approximately every 11.3 seconds. A strength of schedule ranked 10th, compared with Alabama’s at 38th. A team whose only loss was in double overtime to Iowa State the same week an OSU school plane crashed, killing two women’s basketball coaches. A school that beat five teams with winning records to Alabama’s three. A team with four wins over BCS top 25 teams to Alabama’s two. Hello?”

    THe SEC as the best is a total myth..and the reason why Alabama or LSU (whoever lost in that matchup) would’ve benefited regardless.

    Outside LSU, Alabama and maybe Arkansas I can’t think of a team I wouldn’t want to face. Thats what, a 1/4 of the conference, that is that good?

  • twood

    I don’t think it is unfair- here is why-
    1. they are definitely two best teams in the country
    2. the first game was meaningless- if Bama had won, we would still be talking about a rematch and Bama fans would be saying its unfair we had to beat them twice. So really no, you didn’t have to beat them twice- you just have to make sure you win in the championship game. It would only be unfair if you were disqualified from the NC if you lost the game in tuscaloosa, which, the way things worked out, you wouldn’t have been.

    by the way, for those who say a playoff would fix this- more than likely it would end with more rematches of SEC teams in the NCG!

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