By Jim Weber
Ever since USC lost to Stanford on Saturday night and LSU replaced the Trojans at No. 2 in the AP poll, people have done the equivalent of screaming “Fire!” in a movie theater by raising the possibility that Alabama and LSU could face each other in the BCS title game for the second year in a row (i.e. here, here and here).
The general reaction to this has been, “Everybody panic!”
Or, as someone on Reddit put it while linking to the aforementioned ESPN article: “This sh** needs to stop right now.” (That got 141 likes and generated 614 comments.)
Yes, LSU and Alabama clearly look like the two best teams in college football right now. And I don’t think either will lose a game aside from the showdown between each other on Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge.
But I’m here to tell you to take deep breaths into your barf bags and calm down because there’s two big reasons why an Alabama-LSU rematch won’t take place next January in Miami.
Since the BCS started in 1998, six of the 14 title games have been between undefeated teams. Keep in mind, it would have been seven if not for Oklahoma State’s shocking loss to Iowa State last November that set up the Alabama-LSU rematch.
I think the chances at least one other team aside Alabama or LSU goes undefeated is very likely this fall.
Let’s start with Florida State, who I believe is the likeliest to run the table. The ‘Noles have looked absolutely dominant through three games, get No. 10 Clemson at home this weekend and don’t have another ranked team on their schedule until No. 14 Florida comes to Tallahassee on Nov. 24. As for the ACC Championship Game, the ‘Noles would likely play Miami (FL), Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech – none of which appear in the same class as FSU.
And if the Tigers win, they’ve got a chance to go undefeated playing a soft ACC slate as well (although the idea of Clemson playing for a national title would send people into a panic that the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy was true).
There’s no easy road to an undefeated regular season, but running the table in the ACC is about as easy as it gets.
In the Big 12, there’s a chance No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 8 West Virginia or No. 12 Texas could go undefeated – if they don’t all knock each other out of the national title hunt. And remember there is no Big 12 Championship Game to worry about ruining a perfect regular season.
And in the Pac-12, Oregon or Stanford could hypothetically win out. Granted, the winner of the Ducks-Cardinal game will likely have to beat USC twice in one season due to the Pac-12 Championship Game, but Stanford’s already beaten Troy four straight times.
(Unfortunately, even if Louisville is the only other FBS team to go undefeated aside Alabama or LSU, the Cards still probably won’t play for a national title).
Overall, I’d say the chances are very small that either Alabama or LSU is the only undefeated team at the end of the regular season among the current Top 12 in the AP Poll. If I’m the BCS, I’d be much more worried about three teams going undefeated instead of an Alabama-LSU rematch.
And if by chance no one else does go undefeated….
Remember when No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan in the 2006 “Game of the Century” and some voters took it upon themselves to block a national title rematch by voting Michigan several sports down the polls to hurt their BCS ranking? That ended up looking like a genius move after Florida waxed OSU in the title game, 41-14, and Michigan was handled easily in the Rose Bowl by USC, 32-18.
You better believe that would be on the mind of Harris Poll voters and coaches with a vote in the USA Today poll if they are faced with a similar decision in a couple months.
The only reason we didn’t see it happen last season is that no one could justify voting Oklahoma State above Alabama after the Pokes lost to a very average Iowa State squad. But if Florida State has one loss to Florida or Oregon has one loss to USC, you better believe they would vote that team over a one-loss LSU squad even if they thought the Tigers would win head-to-head.
Is that fair? Maybe not. But with the memories of the Florida-Ohio State 2006 national title game and 2011 rematch between LSU and Alabama, there’s no question in my mind voters would vote against a one-loss Alabama or LSU to get a second chance.
And if that alone didn’t convince them to stop an Alabama-LSU rematch, the best interests of college football in general would. The hype around last year’s title game was clearly down after the boring 9-6 “Game of the Century” we witnessed the first time around. The BCS title game’s 13.8 overnight rating was the lowest ever for a BCS title game. No one affiliated with college football wants to see that again and a second LSU-Alabama title rematch would likely draw even less viewers.
Between the high likelihood of another team aside LSU or Alabama going undefeated or voters intentionally blocking an LSU-Alabama rematch, I’m not worried at all about a sequel to last January’s “Lame of the Century.”
And neither should you.