|Brandon Weeden and OSU lit up the Sooners, but it wasn't enough to change voters' minds. (US Presswire)|
Oklahoma State isn't playing LSU for the national championship because Oklahoma State isn't in the SEC. We can parse any number of lesser facts -- computer rankings and human polls, strength of schedules and margins of victory -- but the only fact you need is that one:
Oklahoma State isn't in the SEC.
And so Oklahoma State got screwed.
The Cowboys got screwed by a system that I'm not willing to call deceitful, because "deceitful" would imply intent -- and I don't think there was any conscious intent to screw Oklahoma State. No, Oklahoma State got screwed inadvertently by people and companies that don't have any idea how unfair they're being.
Oklahoma State got screwed by voters, who are influenced by the two biggest television networks in college football. I work for one of those networks, CBS, and I'm telling you, I don't believe for a second that my network intentionally, consciously conspired to keep Oklahoma State out of the national championship game, just as I don't believe ESPN consciously conspired to keep Oklahoma State out of the national championship game.
That's just the way it worked out.
It's an SEC thing. The SEC has been the best conference in football for years, a statement that is beyond dispute. As such, the SEC was assumed to be the best conference in football this year as well, when that is very much in dispute. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that is very much incorrect.
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The Big Picture: Program-changer Griffin my Heisman pick
Blasphemous as it sounds, the Big 12 was at least as good as the SEC. And probably better. According to a wide range of computer rankings, the Big 12 was the best league in the country, followed closely -- but nonetheless followed -- by the SEC. That appears to be strengthened by what actually happened on the field, when the Big 12's Oklahoma State defeated seven teams with a winning record and five teams that were ranked in last week's BCS Top 25 ... compared to Alabama, which has beaten just three winning teams and two in last week's Top 25.
At the top of the league, the SEC is better. That seems obvious. LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are all in the Top 10, and deservedly so. The Big 12 has just one team in the Top 10, that being Oklahoma State. But the season is a three-month marathon, not a three-week sprint, and Oklahoma State survived a more strenuous workout than Alabama. That, too, seems obvious.
So why will LSU play Alabama, not Oklahoma State, in the BCS title game?
Because Alabama is in the SEC, and the networks love the SEC. They have reason to, given the top-dollar TV contracts given to the SEC, but it's more subtle than that. Familiarity breeds appreciation, which explains the unfathomably bad songs that make it into the Top 40. Why are they there? Because the radio plays them. Why does the radio play them? Because they're in the Top 40. It's a vicious cycle that has resulted in Katy Perry in your eardrums, and Alabama in your favorite bowl game.
Look, I was watching the same stuff you were watching Saturday. In the afternoon I saw one network show LSU's demolition of Georgia while its announcers lobbied for a BCS rematch of LSU and Alabama. And then in the evening I saw another network show Oklahoma State's demolition of Oklahoma while its ticker scrolled across the bottom of the screen with information about next month's BCS rematch between LSU and Alabama.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State just scored again. And again. But no matter, because Oklahoma State was scoring against Oklahoma, and how good can Oklahoma be? After all, the Sooners aren't in the SEC. Georgia is, and Georgia went into the SEC title game on Saturday ranked ahead of Oklahoma in the Top 25 despite the fact Georgia hadn't beaten anybody in the Top 25 (while Oklahoma had defeated No. 16 Kansas State and No. 25 Florida State). Georgia had 10 victories, and that's a nice feat, but those 10 victories were against one Division I-AA team and nine unranked Division I-A teams with a combined record of 49-60. Sounds a lot like the resume of Southern Mississippi, but Southern Miss is in Conference USA. Which is why Southern Miss was ranked No. 24 on Saturday.
But Georgia is in the SEC, so Georgia went into Saturday ranked No. 12.
It's a cycle of stupid, and other than eliminating the BCS, I don't know how to get out of it. But this isn't right, giving Alabama the chance to do something it already failed at once, and failed at home no less. The Crimson Tide played LSU in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 and lost 9-6. I'm not saying Alabama can't beat LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9 -- but Alabama already had its shot, at home, and lost.
Why doesn't Oklahoma State get a shot at all?
Because it's in the wrong conference.
There are people -- Alabama fans, SEC fans, maybe even non-affiliated fans around the country -- who would argue that Alabama's lone loss (to No. 1 LSU) is less destructive than Oklahoma State's lone loss (at unranked Iowa State), but I'd counter with two facts:
1. Oklahoma State's 11 victories (with wins against seven winning teams, five of them ranked) are more impressive than Alabama's 11 victories (three winning teams, two ranked).
2. Oklahoma State's loss, in overtime, came hours after a plane crash killed two OSU women's basketball coaches. I'm not trying to pull on anyone's heartstrings or confuse the issue, but that fact does seem relevant. The Cowboys have demolished almost everybody this season, and they've lost just once -- and that's the timing of it. It's not the end-all factor, no. But it has to be a factor, doesn't it?
No, probably not. Oklahoma State isn't in the SEC, and that's the only factor we need. And so Alabama will get a second shot at LSU while Oklahoma State won't get a first shot at LSU. That's your BCS title game: LSU-Alabama II.
Katy Perry should sing the national anthem.