NEW ORLEANS -- Either way, it was going to be the biggest play of the college football season.
And it didn't matter one bit.
Either Alabama tight end Michael Williams or LSU safety Eric Reid were going to come down with the ball that night two months ago. Early in the fourth quarter of the Game of the Century, Tide receiver Marquis Maze -- a former high school quarterback -- lined up in the Wildcat formation and launched a 28-yard pass down to the goal line.
At that moment, Nick Saban was all in. Trick play. Game on the line. You either make it or you don't. A touchdown would have been like landing a date with a supermodel. Either way, you're golden. Desperate times, though, make people do desperate things.
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"I wasn't healthy," Maze said this week. "I sprained my ankle. The play was open. I got pressure on the edge. I couldn't get away from the [rusher] so I just threw it up."
With the game tied 6-6, Williams caught it. On the way to the ground, Reid wrestled it from him in mid-air for what was ruled an interception. It would have been the biggest play of the year if it mattered. It didn't.
"I guess you could say that," Alabama's contemplative left tackle Barrett Jones said.
That's what's wrong with a rematch. The SEC has become so dominant and the BCS so inflexible that one of the best teams of the modern era -- LSU -- is being asked to beat the same team -- Alabama -- twice. Only one of those games would count.
"The way we set up this system, this," Jones said, "is the national championship."
Anyone else bothered by that? Let's not diminish how we got here. To the fans who screamed themselves hoarse on Nov. 5, it was a big deal. There may have no greater theater in the history of the sport that night. Players spent everything physically and mentally. All of them experienced what was called the most significant regular-season game in SEC history. You saw it. They played it. LSU 9, Alabama 6.
That's what's wrong with a rematch. It could have been Alabama 9-6. We'd still be here writing about the same two teams, attacking the same angles, just from the perspective of a different jersey color.
That's what's wrong with a rematch. The entitlement. Alabama finished second in its division and is only in this game by .0086 of a point over No. 3 Oklahoma State. Somehow the argument has been hijacked, corrupted by the groupthink that posits Alabama deserves to be in this game. What, for being upset at home -- yep, the Tide were favored just like they are Monday -- then finishing second in the SEC West?
This is not a fine whine on behalf of the Cowboys. We're way past that. In fact, Mike Gundy has been nothing but class throughout this process. Oklahoma State's coach has every right to be upset. His team accomplished more (winning the Big 12) and played a tougher schedule than Alabama. Ask CBSSports.com blogger Tom Fornelli, who found compelling evidence.
There are a lot of us who would have loved to see how Oklahoma State's pinball offense would match up against LSU's defense. It would have been fun to see Les Miles vs. his former team. Two 2011 national coaches of the year going against each other.
There is even a way to "fix" this. SEC commissioner Mike Slive hinted this week the BCS may be headed to a Plus-One. That would suggest a playoff between the top four teams beginning in 2014. This season that would have been Stanford vs. LSU and Oklahoma State vs. Alabama in the semis. Most everyone could live with a rematch in the championship game. The teams would have had to win a playoff game to get there.
LSU vs. Alabama isn't bad, it's just incongruous and has become ungracious. The difference between these teams remains the width a flea's eyelash. When, exactly, does entitlement turn to gratitude for just being able to get here?
"Am I OK with it? No," Jones said of a possible split title. "I understand what everybody is saying about, 'They've already played once.' ... The winner of this game should be national champion."
That's what's wrong with a rematch. It is conceivable, though not likely, that LSU could lose Monday night and still stay No. 1 in the AP poll. Thank goodness for that possibility. The football facists who control the coaches' poll automatically give their final No. 1 ranking to the BCS title game winner.
That's right, the No. 1-ranked SEC champion could come out of Monday having split a pair of games with No. 2 and lose a consensus national championship because of it.
If there was ever a year to crown split national championship this is it. And what is wrong with that? USC and LSU shared a title in 2003. Has the value in that accomplishment decreased for either school over the last eight years?
That's what's wrong with a rematch. It's just not a one-game season. It can't be in this situation. LSU has beaten the champions of the Pac-12 and Big East as well as six other ranked teams, three in the top five. Let's say Bama wins by a field goal -- here we go again -- at the gun. What, exactly, does that prove?
LSU defensive tackle Michael watched West Virginia hang 70 on Clemson in the Orange and it came to him.
"We beat West Virginia in the regular season," Brockers said. "You just look back and say, 'Where's the defense?' They couldn't do that against us.
"When you beat all these ranked teams in one season and keep it going, I feel we're one of the top teams in the BCS."
Make that BCS history, which takes in the last 14 years.
"When did we ever get respect as a team?" Brockers said. "Every team I look at we're going to 'upset' or we're going to lose. We like teams thinking we're going to lose."
"We took something from them. That's what you hear about it [first game] most: Alabama left some points on the field. I feel like we got a little lucky in the Tuscaloosa game and we came out with a victory. I feel like Monday we'll show who the No. 1 team really is."
That's what's wrong with a rematch. The Tigers have to do it against Alabama. Again.