Let’s make this clear right off the bat: LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in college football this season.
There really is no question about it. Just look at the talent on their rosters, the well-rounded nature of their play and the way they dealt with expectations that were sky-high right from the outset.
If you have to pick any two to play for a championship, those are the ones you want.
And spare me the talk about Oklahoma State’s record against Top 25 teams versus Alabama’s. Pretty much every Big 12 team was overrated at the start, and many remained that way until their results finally spoke loudly enough (we’re looking at you, Oklahoma and Texas).
All in all, there’s no reason to think the BCS title game a week from now won’t be a classic.
The fact that the teams played during the regular season does not diminish the appeal or the impact of this contest. If anything, the first meeting did not settle the matter in any sort of definitive manner, which makes the rematch all the more worthwhile.
All of that being said, there’s no way that teams from the same conference — let alone the same division — should play for the championship under the current format.
This year’s “championship game” is just the latest piece of evidence that makes clear the framers and caretakers of the BCS have no vision, no perspective and no basis for their argument that the system works.
We’re supposed to believe that the BCS honors and upholds one of the grand traditions of college football. The Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl, after all, have been around since 1935. The Rose Bowl, “The grandaddy of them all,” dates back to 1902.
But is a system that gives us LSU against Alabama consistent with the tenets that led to the creation of bowl games more than a century ago? Really?
The primary idea behind bowls was to create contests that would not (and often could not) happen during the regular season in order to provide a little competitive perspective and a whole lot of bragging rights.
Think about it. The Big 10 and Pac 10 — basically a continent apart — send their best each year to Southern California just to find out what happens. The SEC’s best invites an uncommon opponent to New Orleans just for kicks. The Southwest Conference champion arrives in Dallas and sizes up an opponent from outside Texas. The Big 8 winner heads to Florida for some sort of memorable showdown.
Nothing about LSU playing Alabama meshes with that line of thinking.
These schools play each other every year. Heck, we already know when their next meeting will take place. It’s Nov. 3, 2012, in Baton Rouge — go ahead and mark it on your calendar, if you have not done so already.
Next Monday’s showdown offers none of the mystique of a bowl game. Neither team is bound for some exotic location where it otherwise would not go. There is no contrast in styles that begs for a showdown.
In short, it’s not a bowl game. In that regard the system failed.
It is a championship game, though, and that is the good news.
College football — Division I college football, at least — refuses to give us a playoff as a means to determine the best team. Instead, it relies on an approach that defies its core principles to generate a worthy champion.
It’s a joke. And a bad one, at that.