There are many reasons why Alabama is facing off against LSU in New Orleans on January 9th.
Most of the reasons aren't Alabama's wins.
They are other teams' losses.
We all know about the Iowa State upset of Oklahoma State, and the ensuing controversy. We are all aware of the fact that 'Bama beat LSU's common opponents by almost identical margins every single time.
There were hundreds of opportunities throughout the season to lay waste to the Crimson Tide's shot at their 14th title. From those opportunities, I bring you the season's missed field goals.
Some will be familiar to you and some will not. In the end, it's astounding how many lost opportunities there were in this—"The Year of the Kicker."
An undefeated Boise State may have been left out of the title game anyways. But this missed kick removed all doubt as to whether the Broncos should get their shot this year.
This was the Saturday after the "Game of the Century" in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Boise wasn't so far behind Alabama that a berth in the big game was out of the question. Blowout wins in an undefeated season were Boise's only hope, and Dan Goodale missed his opportunity to even win in this instance.
Cade Foster's first miss of the game was from 44 yards out. This would prove to be one of two misses that could have won the game in regulation.
Foster would be called out a short while later to try his luck again, from 50 yards.
Had Foster made this attempt, it could have helped his morale, especially if it ended up the difference at the end of the game.
From a player-development perspective, bringing Foster out onto the field to attempt a 50-yarder two minutes after missing from 44 was a great call.
Since he missed, it's one of the reasons Alabama had to play OT. And they lost.
After Cade Foster missed two in a row, Nick Saban called on the short-range "specialist" Jeremy Shelley to attempt a 49-yarder.
Again, from a player-development perspective, this was a great call. The feeling of nailing his first-ever "long" field goal could very well have turned Shelley into the Tide's kicking headliner.
As it so happened, this was the last miss of three in regulation. This is a large part of the reason that 'Bama is in the rematch on January 9th.
If LSU and 'Bama had scored on every attempt, and the game was won by three points, I'm not convinced that Oklahoma State wouldn't have a shot at the title. As it is, leaving nine points on the field in regulation is, in part, why 'Bama has been given a second shot at LSU.
Of course, I would rather they made any one of them and walked away with the win, but you can't always get what you want.
Everyone has heard about this—Iif Alabama had made even ONE field goal in regulation, the OT would not have even happened.
'Bama would have beaten LSU, and LSU would be cheering for the rematch.
As it turned out, it didn't really matter who won this game. It only mattered by how much. All the other contending teams made sure that was the case.
In the OT period, a vital sack set up the field goal attempt. If Alabama had made this one, the game would not been over with an LSU's field goal.
At this point in the season, 'Bama was out slightly out of the title picture, dropping to No. 3.
At the start of this week, Oregon was No. 4 and Alabama was No. 3.
A rematch with LSU was the talk of the nation, and it was merely a question of who was going to get it—Alabama or Oregon?
Oregon may have lost that argument, as 'Bama lost by fewer points. However, this field goal ended the argument before it could even get a head of steam.
Oregon took themselves out of the picture, and Alabama won every game they had control over.
This was the defining moment of the 2011 season.
All the other contenders had managed to solidify their spot behind Alabama by now, and Oklahoma State remained as the only team standing between 'Bama and a shot at the title.
This left a minute for Iowa State to score with three timeouts left.
Would it have happened? Maybe, but doubtful.
As it was, this sent the game into OT, where Brandon Weeden threw his third interception of the game.
Iowa State was such a bad loss that even a blowout over Oklahoma in the Bedlam Game couldn't put Humpty together again.