Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
It was a dizzying 24 hours. Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oklahoma and Clemson were upset and the college football world rejoiced. Only after the carnage was totaled did somebody realize that a cruel joke had been played on everybody outside the Southeastern Conference.
There, sitting atop the Bowl Championship Series standings, was Louisiana State, Alabama and Arkansas, all members of the dreaded SEC.
It already has been quite a run for the SEC, whose teams have won the last five BCS title games. And like it or not, a miracle will to have to occur for any team outside the SEC’s big three to garner a spot in the Jan. 9 BCS title game. This season, in effect, has come to a grinding halt for those who dislike everything SEC.
But seriously, is this any way to run a railroad, let alone college football?
Perception is everything, and the SEC for years has drummed the notion into everyone’s head that the only legitimate football played in the galaxy takes place on the sacred turfs of its league members.
LSU and Alabama — the experts say — are the best teams in the land, but exactly what is that opinion based on? Nonetheless, this belief helped lift Arkansas — a 24-point loser at Alabama on Sept. 24 — all the way to No. 3. The Razorbacks, it seemed, had pulled a Jed Clampett by striking BCS oil on swampland. Swimming pools, movie stars.
It has fooled voters in the Harris and USA Today polls, which along with the rigged BCS computer rankings make up the standings. Bettors, however, are seeing right through it and consider the Razorbacks to be nothing more than squatters in this posh neighborhood. How else can you explain Arkansas being a double-digit underdog to LSU in Friday’s game at Baton Rouge? Is there really that big of chasm between the No. 1 and 3 teams in the BCS, and is Arkansas really the second-best one-loss team in big-time college football?
The point being that the BCS is all about politics and nobody understands it better than the SEC, which had successfully shaped arguments and swayed opinions long before last weekend’s stunning losses by four of the top seven teams in the BCS standings.
But getting Arkansas to No. 3 was child’s play for the SEC. Consider that the drumbeat for a rematch between LSU and Alabama actually started two weeks before the Nov. 5 game between the teams in Tuscaloosa. Remember all the “Game of the Century” talk?
They snapped the ball and LSU won an overtime matchup that featured more penalties and turnovers (17) than points (15).
If LSU’s 9-6 victory truly was the game of the century, naysayers asked which century everyone was talking about? Nonetheless, the seed had been planted and the actual outcome was rendered meaningless. The LSU-Alabama game was deemed an instant classic and the nation had no alternative but to demand “Game of the Century II.”
The resulting damage to Alabama, which was favored and lost on its home field, was minimal. When the BCS standings were announced the next day, the Crimson Tide dropped only one spot, from No. 2 to No. 3.
In retrospect, the LSU-Alabama rematch was all but a done deal on Nov. 6, and the SEC knew it. Pulling up Arkansas was the insurance policy.
Now consider what happened to Stanford, which despite being undefeated was ranked one spot behind Alabama in the Nov. 6 BCS standings. Then the Cardinal ran into Oregon and suffered a 23-point loss on Nov. 12. The next day, Stanford tumbled five spots to No. 9.
Consider the Cardinal’s body of work. It is likely to finish with a two-year record of 24-2, the only losses coming to the Ducks, a team poised to play in its third consecutive BCS game. Not too shabby, and a resume unmatched by any other team.
So what does Stanford have to show for this sustained level of excellence? Absolutely nothing. Last Sunday’s standings had the Cardinal rising to only No. 6.
Nobody said the BCS was fair, and nobody understands it better than the SEC, which does its best lobbying before the games are actually played.
But hey, look at the bright side. Although the SEC is 7-0 is BCS title games, it’s finally going to lose one come Jan. 9 when LSU and Alabama play Game of the Century II.
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