BCS Discussion: LSU vs. Alabama Rematch Looms, but Would a Playoff Be Better?

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BCS Discussion: LSU vs. Alabama Rematch Looms, but Would a Playoff Be Better?
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Assuming that nothing changes between now and when the final BCS standings are released, the BCS title game will most likely be a rematch between LSU and Alabama.  I have heard fans complain that they don’t want to see a rematch and that a rematch is further proof that college football needs a playoff. 

As a supporter of the BCS system, I could not disagree more. 

While I must confess that I am not 100 percent crazy about seeing Alabama and LSU play for a second time, I also cannot think of any other team in the country that is more deserving of the No. 1 or 2 spots in the BCS poll.

However, I am always interested in what playoff advocates have to say in response to my Pro-BCS arguments.  So, as I ponder the questions that surround this upcoming rematch, I was curious as to what others would have to say about it.  Maybe someone can help shed some light on why Alabama and LSU should not play again, or better yet, maybe someone can simply get me to understand why a playoff is a better system. 

I doubt it, but we’ll see. 

My first question, or thought, is a simple one—If not Alabama and LSU, then who?

Next, I keep hearing that some don’t think Alabama should be allowed to play in the BCS title game because they did not win their SEC division.  However, anyone who has followed the NFL (or just about any other sport/league that has a playoff system) knows that the champions of the Super Bowl don’t necessarily win their division or conference either.  Remember the 2010 Green Bay Packers who won Super Bowl XLV after entering the playoffs as a wild card?  The Packers played four postseason games, three of which were rematches, en route to winning the Super Bowl.  They replayed the Eagles, Falcons and Bears—having lost to both the Falcons and Bears, and only defeated the Eagles in their first meeting.  Their fourth game was against the Steelers and it was their only non-rematch of the NFL postseason.  While they did get an “original” match-up for the Super Bowl, the playoff games that preceded it did not produce a single original match-up.

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An even better example of how a playoff can result in multiple rematches would be the 2007 New York Giants

The Giants entered the playoffs as a wild card and went on to win Super Bowl XLII by defeating the 18-0 New England Patriots in a rematch game that the Giants lost earlier in the season.  Despite winning the Super Bowl, the 2007 Giants finished the entire season with a 14-6 record. 

Isn’t there something inherently wrong with crowning a 14-6 team as “the best,” especially when you have an 18-1 team playing in the same league?  This would be like crowning the 2011 Arkansas team as National Champion after a four game playoff run, and a 14-2 record, despite losing games to both Alabama and LSU. 

Actually, when arguing over whether a playoff would be “better” than the current system, I usually point to the 2007 New York Giants as my primary evidence that it is not.  The Giants finished the regular season at 10-6.  Under the BCS system, we would stop there and congratulate the Giants on a decent season but we would hand the crown to the 16-0 Patriots.  After all, under the BCS system, we look at a team’s overall season (or body of work) in order to determine who the better team is.

In 2007, the Giants and Patriots faced six common opponents, not including each other.  The Patriots played these common opponents nine times and won all nine match-ups.  However, the Giants played these same opponents 10 times, but only won seven of the match-ups.

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The Patriots and Giants also played each other during the regular season, with the Patriots winning the game 38-35 at the Giants home field.   This seems oddly familiar to this year’s LSU and Alabama squads who have played many common opponents and faced each other during the regular season.  The main difference here being that unlike the Giants of 2007, LSU and Alabama have defeated all of their opponents (common or not) like the 2007 Patriots did.

The Patriots played a total of three postseason games.  The first came against Jacksonville, who the Pats had not faced during the regular season.  Next, the Pats faced the Chargers in a rematch game from earlier in the year.  The Pats won the regular season meeting and then defeated the Chargers again in the rematch.   Finally, in their final postseason game, the Pats faced the 13-6 Giants, whom they had already defeated during the regular season.  Unfortunately for the undefeated Patriots, they would have to defeat the 13-6 Giants AGAIN before anyone would consider them the best team in the NFL.

The Giants had four postseason games en route to the Super Bowl.  Their first matchup was against Tampa Bay, a team the Giants did not face during the 2007 season.   That would be the final non-rematch of the postseason for the Giants as they went on to play Dallas for a third time and Green Bay and New England for a second time each.  The odd thing about these rematches is that they were essentially “second chances” for the Giants; something the BCS system does not often give to anyone.  The Giants had already lost to Dallas twice before this third rematch and they had also lost to both Green Bay and New England earlier in the season.    

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While I admit that I don’t find a rematch in the BCS title game extremely exciting, it is clear that a rematch will happen with or without a playoff system.

What I don’t particularly care for under either system is making a team prove itself twice against the same team.  In this case, LSU has already shown that they are “better” than Alabama and LSU should not have to prove this fact again.  In fact, if Alabama does win the game, will it not seem odd that they are the BCS National Champions despite losing to LSU earlier in the season and not winning the SEC Championship? 

While I am not so sure that LSU will win the rematch with Alabama, I can at least agree that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country.   Taking that as truth, I don’t see the need to run four to eight teams through a playoff system in order to determine who will come out on top.  In fact, at this point, I don’t know if it matters who comes out on top.  Imagine for a second that Stanford gets included into a four or eight team playoff system.  By allowing Stanford to participate in the playoff, we are at least acknowledging that they are deserving of a shot (however remote) at the BCS Title.  After the dust settles, if Stanford is the last team standing, would you really feel like they were deserving of the title National Champion?  Are they really the best team?  What about Oregon, LSU, Alabama or Arkansas?

Would it make a difference if Stanford was lucky enough to navigate through a playoff without facing LSU or Alabama?

As much as I like Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal, they did lose to Oregon at home by 23 points.  This is the same Oregon team that lost 40-27 to LSU.  In other words, even if Stanford could run through a postseason playoff system and emerge victorious, I would have a hard time considering them the best team in college football.

Regardless, this season’s title game appears to be a rematch between LSU and Alabama.  However, for those of you using the rematch as your reasoning behind switching to a playoff system, I would urge you to think again.

 

 

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