LSU has a ticket to the title game. Everyone else has a pretty good gripe.
The latest chapter in this crazy, unpredictable college football season was written Sunday when LSU won the sport’s version of the lottery, being picked to play Ohio State for the championship and leaving about a half-dozen other candidates with plenty to complain about.
The Tigers (11-2), ranked second in the latest Associated Press poll, will be the first team to play in the BCS title game with two losses.
No. 1 Ohio State goes into the game, Jan. 7 at the Superdome in New Orleans, at 11-1.
“We always talk to our guys about the fact you better win all your games,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “We didn’t do that but we still have an opportunity in a crazy football season.”
Missouri and West Virginia, which came into the weekend ranked 1 and 2, lost Saturday to blow their title chances. Missouri was left out of the BCS championship altogether.
Why did LSU, which was seventh in the BCS standings heading into the final weekend, make the jump to No. 2 and into the big game, while Oklahoma, Southern California, Georgia and a number of others were left behind?
The 174 poll voters and handful of computer nerds whose calculations make up the BCS rankings probably all have their own reasons. Among the best is that LSU was rewarded for winning the Southeastern Conference, which is traditionally viewed as one of the toughest leagues in the nation.
“I don’t think in this year being such a different kind of year, so many teams with one or two losses, I don’t think it’s so much the system as it is the year,” SEC commissioner and BCS coordinator Mike Slive said during a conference call Sunday night.
The rest of the BCS games are filled with teams that had every bit as good an argument as LSU for a spot in the title game.
In the Sugar Bowl, Georgia will play Hawaii. The Bulldogs (10-2) were fourth and idle coming into the final weekend — behind Missouri, West Virginia and Ohio State — but didn’t automatically rise two spots the way coach Mark Richt thought they should. Richt felt even though the BCS rules state a team doesn’t have to win its conference to play in the national title game, the fact that the Bulldogs didn’t play for the SEC championship was held against them by poll voters and pundits in the media.
“At least we shouldn’t have gotten disqualified before we got started,” he said.
Hawaii (12-0) is the nation’s only undefeated team, but is penalized for playing a weak schedule in the Western Athletic Conference.
“It doesn’t feel real right now,” Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan said. “It’s been a great ride and to get a BCS bowl berth is a true and great accomplishment.
“Sugar is definitely sweet. We’re rolling in and we’re excited and we’re going to do it Hawaiian style.”
Hawaii qualified automatically by finishing 10th in the final BCS standings. The Warriors needed to be in the top 12.
The Fiesta Bowl will pit West Virginia (10-2) against Oklahoma (11-2). The Sooners beat top-ranked Missouri twice this season, including 38-17 on Saturday in the Big 12 title game.
The Rose Bowl stuck with its traditional Big Ten-vs.-Pac-10 matchup, going with Southern California (10-2) against Illinois (9-3). USC, thought to be playing as well as anyone in the nation right now, was one of the two-loss teams that had a legitimate claim at the title game. A loss to 41-point underdog Stanford in October, however, probably doomed the Trojans.
The Orange Bowl chose Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech (11-2), also a two-loss team. Hurting the Hokies was that one of their losses was 48-7 to LSU back in September. Virginia Tech’s opponent will be Kansas (11-1), which leapfrogged Missouri for a BCS spot even though the Jayhawks lost to Mizzou 36-28 only a week ago.
Of course not, though even in the most uneventful of years, the controversial practice of voting on bowl bids inspires debate among pundits, outrage among fans and outright indignation among coaches whose teams get spurned.
Need it be said this would have been a perfect year for a playoff?