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CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

Blame voters -- not SEC -- for having LSU, 'Bama in BCS title game


Despite having a better r?sum? than Alabama, Mike Gundy's Cowboys are going to the Fiesta. (US Presswire)  
Despite having a better r?sum? than Alabama, Mike Gundy's Cowboys are going to the Fiesta. (US Presswire)  

Fans of I Love Lucy and penalty kicks have to be pleased at how the national championship game has turned out. Everyone else? Take your BCS shots. We have almost six weeks to fill.

The 14th year of the BCS will end in a rerun, a rematch, the SEC Invitational or whatever you want to call it. Aesthetically, the first LSU-Alabama meeting was more Phyllis Diller than Erin Burnett. Only Tiger Nation and soccer hooligans celebrated when low-scoring Tigers-Tide I was decided by a field goal in overtime.

Everyone else? Take your shots. The SEC monopoly continues and if there is blame to go around this time, it starts with the voters. Given hard evidence to push Oklahoma State over Alabama, they stuck to mostly groupthink, staying with Alabama at No.2 over Oklahoma State. The margin between No. 2 and No. 3 -- .0086 -- was the closest since the BCS formula was reconfigured in 2004.

It might as well have been 40.0086.

There's nothing wrong with that if you're a fan of Southern-friend football which the voters have been for at least six years now. The Harris Poll is a poor man's AP. But the coaches' poll has long been borderline unethical. It is a wholly legal system that gives its participants the ability to award themselves multi-million paydays with minimum oversight.

It's been a long time since January 2005. That's when Auburn's Tommy Tuberville was seen working the press box at the national championship game begging for votes for his undefeated Tigers. Auburn was left out of the 2004 BCS title game.

Can you even comprehend of such an occurrence these days for an unbeaten SEC champion? Not when the conference tweeted Sunday night that the conference had both clinched its sixth consecutive national championship as well as its first title game loss. For the rest of the country, is there a football equivalent of tapping out?

The SEC has this thing wired to the point that it could have been Alabama winning the first meeting and the only difference would have been in the ranking. Tide, No. 1. Tigers, No. 2.

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The SEC is not only the best at football but best at football culture. There's a reason that CBS has been affiliated with the league for two decades. You are compelled to watch. The conference makes you feel welcome in everything from its press releases to Gary and Verne. The SEC media days in July are a must -– for the coaches as well who fear they will lose recruiting traction if they miss it. Oh, yeah, and the football is good too.

It's the little things that have added up in favor of the nation's best conference on Sunday. For only the second time in BCS history a team that didn't so much as win its conference division will play for the national championship. Fair? Doesn't matter after Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy tried to unring the bell late Saturday.

This is what he said last week in regards to moving up to No. 2: "Alabama lost to what would be the number one team in the country and Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. If I was doing it fair, I don't know how I could put us in front of [Alabama] right now."

Following Saturday's win over Oklahoma he offered this scathing review: "People have to decide whether they want to see a 9-6 game or a 39-36 game. This is the opportunity for people to find out how good the defense is in the SEC. We'd love to have that challenge. I think our defense is better than what people say. Last week, I said Alabama should be there. There's no question Oklahoma State should be No. 2 right now. No question."

Except that there was a question, planted in the minds of voters by the coach himself. Too little rhetoric, too late it turned out. Oklahoma State billionaire sugar daddy T. Boone Pickens promised an investigation if his Cowboys were left out. Better yet, T. Boone, how about a first-thing-Monday-morning meeting with your coach. Subject: What the hell were you thinking?

LSU-Alabama II isn't bad. It's just that LSU-Oklahoma State may have been more entertaining. Admit it, you'd love to see how Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and company would do against LSU's defense. Just like you'd have to be fascinated with how LSU's at-times stumbling offense would do against a defense that has 42 takeaways this season.

Les Miles' words from Nov. 5 still linger today.

"With all due respect I'm not ready to say it was the greatest game of all," Miles said after beating the Tide 9-6 in the (snicker) Game of the Century.

Asked again Friday about a rematch, Miles practically flinched.

"I have a very strong opinion [on a rematch]," he said. "It will be something I will share with you some other time in my life."

So here we are with a giant argument that will be smoothed over by kickoff on Jan. 9. Folks will forget that Oklahoma State had a better resume than Alabama or that Gundy handed Bob Stoops the second-worst loss of his career. The discussion over what affect Oklahoma State’s tragic plane crash had the night before the Cowboys' only loss will fade.

They'll accept Alabama's brand name over Oklahoma State's little brother status within its own state. In his fifth season, Nick Saban already has his own nine-foot statue outside Bryant-Denny. Gundy, no doubt, has a real, slick courtesy car from some local dealer.

By that night in New Orleans everyone will be OK with it because everyone had their chance. That's kind of the theme of the season after the 10 BCS bowl slots were filled Sunday night. Oklahoma State could have beaten Iowa State, a four-touchdown underdog. Oklahoma could have won an eighth Big 12 title in 16 years but failed to show up. Wisconsin got sweet revenge on Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.

Surprises: The Sugar Bowl inexplicably took Virginia Tech over Boise State or Kansas State. Might as well rename it Clemson's B---- vs. Michigan. The Hokies have been outscored by the Tigers 61-13 in two meetings. Virginia Tech shows up in New Orleans fresh off a four-touchdown beatdown in the ACC title game.

The Hokies beat one team in the top 20 (Georgia Tech). At least Frank Beamer challenged his players by playing East Carolina, Appalachian State, Marshall and Arkansas State in the non-conference.

Someone is going to have to tell me that Kansas State -- or even Boise -- would match Virginia Tech in ticket sales.

  • It's possible that both the Heisman winner (Baylor's Robert Griffin III in the Alamo) and a national coach of the year (Kansas State's Bill Snyder in the Cotton) won't appear in BCS bowls.

  • Southern Miss cost Conference USA $17 million in BCS money by upsetting Houston. Eagles' coach Larry Fedora frankly doesn't give a damn.

Back up at the top, it's the birthright thing that rankles a lot of us. Twitter followers were shocked that I wouldn't consider Alabama's Trent Richardson higher on my Heisman ballot. (I'll reveal it on Monday.) Let's see, 'Bammers, your admittedly talented tailback should win it after rushing for 89 yards in the biggest game of the year?

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Montee Ball had more touchdowns (38) than 52 teams. Oh, and his team actually won its conference.

Leaking through the social, digital and televised networking is a troubling sense of entitlement. Isn't a shot at a second national championship in three years enough, Alabama?

Let's say Boise State had made that field goal against TCU and eased past a one-loss Alabama on Saturday. Torches and pitchforks would have been optional for the disturbed villagers in T-Town.

Between now and the second week of January, also don't forget the Tide will have to find a kicking game. If Jeremy Shelley or Cade Foster make even one more kick on Nov. 5 during a horrid two-for-six night Alabama wins the first meeting. Alabama is 91st in field-goal percentage. LSU, by the way, is tied for first.

The Tigers will have to find an offense. The nation's 75th-ranked unit was held without a first down and piled up all of 12 yards in the first half against Georgia.

"Some people who didn't like that [first] game don't really understand football to me ...," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "It was a heck of a ballgame."

It better be, this rerun, rematch, SEC Invitational or whatever you want to call it. That, or the Strength Everywhere Conference has a whole lot of 'splainin' to do.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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