B.C.S. Top Ten: 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma State, 4. Stanford, 5. Oregon, 6. Arkansas, 7. Boise State, 8. Kansas State, 9. South Carolina, 10. Wisconsin
A.P. Top Ten: 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma State, 4. Stanford, 5. USC, 6. Oregon, 7. Arkansas, 8. Boise State, 9. Wisconsin, 10. South Carolina
Andrew: Here we go with another Game of the Century! This time it occurred in the regular season between two SEC West rivals: Les Miles’ LSU Tigers and Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Both teams had high scoring averages (more than 35 PPG for each of them), but punishing, mistake-free defense is what both teams hung their hats on. LSU gave up only 11.3 PPG on defense and that was only second in the country because Alabama was first at an unreal 8.2 PPG! Trent Richardson was their go-to running back along with their overload of NFL guys on the defensive end. LSU’s leader was the “Honey Badger,” safety Tyrann Mathieu. Both men were finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which was won by Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. LSU and Alabama’s battle at Tuscaloosa was a nasty, excruciatingly close slugfest, with LSU taking a 9-6 overtime win, but Alabama only dropped to 4th after the loss. Oregon (who had already lost 40-27 in the season kickoff to LSU in Arlington) won the Pac-12 and took out Andrew Luck and Stanford once more, but then they lost at home to USC. Oklahoma State with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon was one of the best Big XII teams in quite a while (including a very rare win over rival Oklahoma), but a road overtime loss to Iowa State in November ruined their chances. As LSU stayed undefeated, beat up Arkansas, and dominated Georgia in the second half of the SEC Championship Game, there sat idle Alabama once again at #2 to give us what fans in 2006 begged not have between Michigan and Ohio State: A rematch. Unfortunately, the rematch was a one-sided affair as Alabama methodically beat down LSU for a 21-0 win in the Superdome. Wisconsin won the first ever Big Ten Championship Game over Michigan State thanks to Russell Wilson and Montae Ball, but two Hail Mary touchdowns against the Spartans and Ohio State did them in. Boise State had one of its best teams ever, but they lost late in the season at home to TCU. The ACC Champion was Clemson, and then they got gave up 70 points to Geno Smith and Big East champ West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. USC was not eligible due to a two-year bowl ban, hence their absence in the B.C.S. poll.
THE COMMITTEE SAYS…
Nick: Ok, this is a year where if there were a four-team playoff, three of the four spots wouldn’t even really be in question. LSU takes No. 1. I’ll throw Oklahoma State a bone at No. 2 since they won the Big 12, with Alabama at No. 3. The two teams would play at a neutral site anyway, so the seedings are somewhat irrelevant here. The No. 4 spot comes down to a debate between Oregon and Stanford. Oregon, despite winning the Pac-12, had already lost to LSU on a neutral field, so I feel like a committee would have been hesitant to book a rematch. I’ll go with Stanford for the No. 4 spot. (1. LSU 2. Oklahoma State 3. Alabama 4. Stanford)
Andrew: At this point, we were not just talking about LSU at #1 but whether or not they were one of the most dominant teams in the history of college football! That one is easy. Alabama at #2 made a lot of non-SEC fans want to spit on their televisions and computer screens, but their case was pretty strong and their defense was just as good as LSU’s, if not better. Oklahoma State missed out on #2, but #3 is all theirs, for sure. They were a game challenger for the title had they not had a hiccup against Iowa State. The fourth spot would draw a lot of hatred if Stanford, a team that did not play in the inaugural Pac-12 title game, got ahead of conference champ Oregon, but hey, 1 loss beats 2 losses, so Andrew Luck is in! (#1 LSU, #2 Alabama, #3 Oklahoma State, #4 Stanford)
Greg: I echo nearly all of Mr. Riche’s sentiments again. LSU was a clear and obvious #1 – a perfect record and dominant defense will do that for you. I am admittedly a Bama fan, but I feel the Tide was clearly 1A at that point, narrowly losing a game at home after missing four field goals. Oklahoma State fans should’ve been happy with being #3 after a terrible loss to mediocre Iowa State. And for the last spot, Stanford simply did more over the course of the season than did Oregon. (1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma State, 4. Stanford)
The Decision: Nearly unanimous outside of a switching of 2 and 3 by Nick. Despite Okie State getting 1 vote in for second place, Alabama still gets the #2 spot while LSU firmly stays at #1. Oklahoma State and Stanford, who played each other in an incredible Fiesta Bowl that postseason, round out the top four.
THE FINAL FOUR
#1 LSU vs. #4 Stanford in the Orange Bowl, #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl
Nick: LSU vs Stanford probably would have been a lot closer than LSU fans would want it to be. Andrew Luck was a great quarterback, but he just didn’t have enough weapons around him to consistently put up points against an SEC defense. LSU’s offense, meanwhile, would also probably struggle against the stout Stanford defense. I’ll take LSU, but only in a nailbiter. Let’s say 23-20. Alabama, meanwhile, would have wiped the floor with Oklahoma State. To be honest, their one loss that year came to LSU in a game that Alabama seemed to outplay the Tigers for the most part. Alabama rolls over the Cowboys, 31-10.
Andrew: Leading up to the bowl games, LSU was one of the most purely dominant teams in the last 10 or 20 years of college football. The one team that actually had success with getting yards on them (not as much points due to sloppy turnovers) was Geno Smith and West Virginia. Andrew Luck was well on his way to being a top NFL draft pick, and was the one antidote to beating a great defense like LSU’s. Let us remember, though, that this Stanford defense under David Shaw’s first season was very weak and routinely gave up points. Could they handle LSU scoring 24 or 30 points while Luck had to do all the work and eat a lot of pressure? I say no, LSU wins. Oklahoma State wanted their SEC matchup when Mike Gundy pined to the media that fans did not want another 9-6 game for national title. Okay, Magic Mike, then how about a 28-6 game against the Tide? I liked that Oklahoma State team a lot, but Bama’s defense and running game were way too good.
Greg: Luck was on fire this season, lighting up Pac-12 defenses all year. This, however, wasn’t a Pac-12 defense. On the flipside, LSU’s offense had a lot of smoke and mirrors going on, with the questionable Jordan Jefferson running the ship at quarterback. Ultimately, Stanford had one weapon while LSU brought a dominant defense, unbelievable special teams and physical running game. I like LSU comfortably, probably by three touchdowns. On the other hand, Oklahoma State was absolute dynamite on offense. However, and I know I’m a homer, but this Alabama team had the best defense I’ve ever seen in college football (yes, even greater than the ’92 team, for my money). I just can’t be convinced that Okie State scores more than 13 against the Tide after Saban and Smart had weeks to prepare. Plus Weeden wasn’t the kind of mobile, elusive quarterback that causes Smart fits.
THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama
Nick: Once again, a playoff likely would have produced the same result. LSU’s 2011 team probably could have won a national title in most other years, but there’s no denying just how good Alabama was that year. The two teams would have gotten their well-deserved rematch, and LSU would have struggled once again to get much of anything going against the Tide defense. Alabama 24, LSU 3.
Andrew: Greg Phillips is a class act, and he and I go way back. But as a LSU fan talking to an Alabama fan, about this rematch, this is all I have to say. Dammit.
Greg: This was a revenge game for the Tide for a game it lost due to an inability to convert numerous field goal tries in regulation. As played out in real life, I think my boys get the job done in convincing fashion, 21-3.