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Rematch: LSU, ’Bama in title game

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Ralph D. Russo
December 5, 2011

Play it again, LSU and Alabama.


The Crimson Tide edged out Oklahoma State in the final round of voting Sunday and will play the top-ranked Tigers in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.


Undefeated LSU is the only team to beat Alabama all year, and the top BCS official sees a do-over as a perfectly good title game.


“Absolutely, if they’re 1 and 2, and they are in all the polls released today,” executive director Bill Hancock said.


Still, it’s not exactly a game the public was clamoring for—at least outside of Southeastern Conference territory. And it will do nothing to quiet the critics of the Bowl Championship Series or the calls for a college football playoff.


But like it or not, the BCS has ensured that the SEC—home to both schools—will run its streak of national championships to six in a row.


The Cowboys made a late surge by beating Oklahoma, 44-10, on Saturday night, and closed the gap between themselves and Alabama in the polls. But it was not enough to avoid the first title game rematch in the 14-year history of the BCS.


The Tigers (13-0) beat the Tide, 9-6, in overtime on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.


“This could be a totally different type of game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “There’s so many good players on both sides of the ball for both teams.


“There’s so much opportunity for this game to play out completely different and have a completely different flavor than the first game.”


Alabama (11-1) finished second in both the Harris and coaches’ polls by a wide enough margin to make up for the fact that Oklahoma State was ahead in the computer ratings.


The Cowboys (11-1), champions of the Big 12, will play in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford from the Pac-12.


The other BCS matchups are:


-- Michigan vs. Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl


-- Clemson vs. West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.


-- Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.


No BCS busters made it into the big money games this year, teams such as Boise State, TCU or Houston, which had a chance but lost in the Conference USA championship on Saturday to Southern Mississippi. The Cougars will now play Penn State, which dropped to the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that has overshadowed the Nittany Lions’ season.


As the power-brokers in college football begin to plot how top-tier bowls will be set up in the future, the 2011 season is once more exposing the flaws in the current system.


Oklahoma State and Alabama, two teams with perfectly good arguments to play for a national championship, wound up fighting over one spot, with subjective voters and mysterious computer ratings—the formulas of which are not even publicly known—doing the choosing.


Alabama, with the nation’s No. 1 defense, won out and will play for its second BCS crown in three years.


Oklahoma State, with one of the most potent offenses in the country, gets its first BCS appearance as a consolation prize.


“We wanted the opportunity to settle the debate that has gone all year about the offense in the Big 12 and the defense in the SEC,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on ESPN. “It didn’t work out that way.”


With Alabama idle, Oklahoma State made one last, dramatic statement against the Sooners on Saturday night in Stillwater. And the Cowboys had an impressive resume, beating three teams ranked in the final BCS top 15. Alabama had only one such victory.


So instead of Sunday being a coronation there was drama, and another BCS controversy.


Working in Alabama’s favor was its dominance throughout the season—all of the Tide’s victories have been by at least 16 points—and the fact that no other team has challenged LSU this season.


Oklahoma State was in position to prevent the LSU-Alabama rematch from happening. The Cowboys were undefeated and second in the BCS standings heading into a Friday night game at Iowa State.


The Cowboys lost, 37-31, in double OT to the Cyclones


(6-6), missing a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation by inches.


With no other undefeated teams left from the major conferences, Alabama returned to No. 2.


Now, it’s Tigers-Tide II.


Alabama claims 13 national championships overall and is one of the most decorated programs in the land.


LSU will be seeking its third BCS championship since 2003 at the Superdome—the site of its first two.


The last time a national title was decided by a rematch of a regular-season game was 1996, when Florida State beat Florida in its final regular-season game then drew the Gators in the Sugar Bowl.


Steve Spurrier’s Gators beat Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles, 52-20, to win the national championship.



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