Two words – Iowa State — are Item No. 1 in our list of talking points regarding Alabama’s spot at No. 2 in the final BCS standings, just ahead of Oklahoma State, earning the Tide a rematch with No. 1 LSU in the national title game Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
Item No. 1 – The losses:
Alabama’s only loss was at home in overtime to LSU, the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country. You could argue the Tide outplayed the LSU. During regulation time, Alabama outgained LSU 305-222 and had the better scoring opportunities.
Oklahoma State’s only loss was on the road in overtime to Iowa State, a team that was 2-6 in its other conference games. It wasn’t as though the Cyclones lucked out. They outgained Oklahoma State 568-536 and had 33 first downs to the Cowboys’ 24.
Item No. 2 – The wins:
Alabama beat just two teams that finished in the top 25 of the final BCS standings – No. 6 Arkansas and No. 22 Penn State.
Oklahoma State beat four such teams – No, 8 Kansas State, No. 12 Baylor, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 24 Texas.
Item No. 3 – Apples and oranges:
The teams had no common opponents, and they are polar opposites.
Oklahoma State averages 49.3 points a game, and only six teams in history have finished a season averaging 50.0 points or better. However, the Cowboys rank only 107th of 120 FBS teams in total defense.
Alabama is not great offensively, but has one of the best defenses in history. It ranks first in total defense, rushing defense, pass defense and scoring defense. The Tide’s 8.8 points allowed per game would be the lowest by any FBS team in 23 years and the 191.25 yards yielded per game would be the lowest in 25 years. And offenses are a lot more explosive now than they were 25 years ago.
Item No. 4 – The polls:
Alabama finished No. 2 in all three human polls of note – the Associated Press poll, the USA Today coaches poll and then Harris poll. Humans presumably can weigh the intangibles better than computers.
The AP poll is no longer part of the BCS formula, but Alabama still would have been No. 2 if it was.
But the human polls are fraught with regional biases, preconceptions and differing opinions on how teams should be ranked. The computers have no subjective shortcomings, and they ranked Oklahoma State No. 2.
Item No. 5 – The rematch:
Alabama already had its chance against LSU and blew it. The Cowboys have not had that opportunity yet, so why should Alabama get two shots at it?
The 2007 New England Patriots might feel the same way. They beat the New York Giants in their final scheduled game to finish the regular season 16-0, only to lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title, but Alabama did not win any conference championship, so why should the Tide be allowed to play in the ultimate game?
Item No. 6 – The fans:
The fans’ argument – that is, fans outside the Southeastern part of the country – is that Oklahoma State would provide a more entertaining game. Who wants to see a national championship game in which not a single touchdown is scored, which is what happened in LSU’s 9-6 victory over the Tide and could be the case again? This is a TV-driven industry after all.
BCS losers: Arkansas, Boise State, TCU and Orange Bowl.
No. 6 Arkansas didn’t get in because only two teams from a conference can receive BCS berths.
No. 7 Boise State was not guaranteed a BCS berth because it did not win its conference title, and though it was eligible for a BCS berth, two teams behind Boise State in standings – No. 13 Michigan and No. 11 Virginia Tech — were picked to play in the Sugar Bowl instead. Michigan had to move up from No. 16 last week to the top 14 to get a BCS bid and losses by Houston, Georgia, Michigan State and Oklahoma made it possible.
TCU needed to finish in the top 16 to earn an automatic BCS berth, and even though the Horned Frogs were 15th in the Harris poll, 15th in USA Today poll and 17th according to the BCS computers in the three equally-weighted components in the BCS formula, that somehow added up to a No. 18 spot in the BCS standings. Folks in Fort Worth have to be scratching their heads about that math.
The Heisman Trophy race is a three-player battle that will be close, with no one sure how the 870 voters will lean. The announcement on Dec. 10 will be a tense one.
Here’s our projection of the order of finish:
1. Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB – The only outstanding offensive player in the national championship game. But the Tide would be a top-five team without him.
2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB – The nation’s leader in pass efficiency and the reason Baylor is 9-3 instead of 3-9. But players on teams ranked outside the top five almost never win the Heisman.
3. Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB – The best pro prospect, and the No. 4 Cardinal might not even be in the top 25 without him. But he was less than spectacular over the final four games, when Heisman voters pay the most attention.