In the final installment plus-one lookback (2008-2011), the Big 12 and SEC rule. The assumption is that playing extra games would loosen the SEC’s grip on the sport. It just makes sense. In any playoff, dark horses and underdogs are going to emerge. Teams spend all season getting to the top, then in one game it can all go pfft against an inferior opponent.
In this plus-one there was a huge pfft in 2011.
BCS champion: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
The setup: Put this one on the Big 12 which never foresaw a three-way tie broken by the BCS standings. Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas all went 7-1 in the Big 12 South. Texas beat OU, Texas Tech beat Texas, OU beat Texas Tech. They were all 1-1 against other. Texas felt slighted because it won the Red River Shootout, but Oklahoma won the South by a mere .0128 of a point. That basically greased the path for OU to get to the national championship game.
Another Oklahoma powerhouse, another disappointment. For the third time in four tries during the BCS era, the Sooners were stopped in that championship game. This Oklahoma team was the highest scoring of all time averaging 51 points per game. In his last season, Sam Bradford threw 50 touchdown passes.
All that was no match for an SEC defense. A top 10 defense featured Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden and Jermaine Cunningham. Florida’s D held the Sooners to their lowest point total in more than two years.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Alabama, No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Texas. A plus-one couldn’t come fast enough for the Horns whose only blemish was a loss to Texas Tech with a second to go. It’s easy to project that Gators D devouring the Horns too. Florida 33, Texas 21.
Alabama stayed in the top two of the BCS until losing an SEC championship game showdown to Florida. In year before Bama won two out of the next three titles, the defense tied for third overall. It would have been the difference against OU. Alabama 26, Oklahoma 24.
Championship game: Same script as Atlanta. A close game is blown open in the fourth quarter by that guy named Tebow. Before anyone cared about his throwing motion, completion percentage or virginity, Florida’s quarterback proved himself one of the best of all time. Florida 20, Alabama 17.
Fantasy quote: “They got lucky. The state of Alabama is going to rule college football the next three years.” – Nick Saban.
Who got screwed: Utah. It beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It beat Alabama bad. It deserved something after finishing as the only undefeated team in the country.
BCS champion: Alabama 38, Texas 21
The setup: The game was decided when Alabama’s Marcel Dareus took out Colt McCoy on the contest’s fifth play. The question to this day, remains: Would a healthy McCoy have made any difference? Mack Brown answered that night, “It wouldn’t even have been close.”
Texas was forced to play an untested quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, against a carnivorous defense. All that was left was for stadium personnel to clean up the remains. It was perhaps the most disappointing BCS title game. Ninety-five thousand fans in the Rose Bowl and millions across the country expected to see a symphony. They ended up watching the Wiggles.
Yes, yes, Mark Ingram won the Heisman and that Alabama D could have played in the NFL, but it still feels like there is something missing from that night – a frisky Colt.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU, No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Cincinnati. All four were undefeated. All four would have had a fair chance to state their cases in a playoff. TCU would have scared the spit out of Bama. I know because I saw it a year later against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. I know because TCU was playing an NFL quarterback (Andy Dalton). I know because Gary Patterson is Nick Jr. as a defensive mastermind. Alabama 23, TCU 20 OT.
The toughest decision in the other semifinal was Brian Kelly’s. Does he stay at Cincinnati for a national title run or go to Notre Dame? Would it have made a difference? Texas 47, Cincinnati 27.
Championship: At the risk of being frisked for hallucinogens next time I go to T-town, McCoy would have made a huge difference. In a classic Big 12 offense vs. SEC defense, the Large Dozen was due to take one sooner or later. Texas 29, Alabama 27.
Fantasy quote: “We regret Coach Kelly’s decision to stay at Cincinnati to coach in the playoff. That said, Notre Dame has had to move on and act swiftly. Please welcome to the Irish family as Notre Dame’s next coach, Urban Meyer.” – ND AD Jack Swarbrick.
Who got screwed: Boise State, which went 14-0 while beating the Pac-10 (Oregon) and Mountain West (TCU) champions. Only one team in the regular season came within 11 points of the Broncos.
BCS champion: Auburn 22, Oregon 19
The setup: Cam Newton’s daddy went trolling for the six-figure handshake. Then he and his son were bailed out by a loophole the size of the Lincoln Tunnel. That, basically, is a summary of the 2010 season. Newton was so good, that no team could stop Auburn. Cecil Newton was that sleazy that sometimes it was hard to sift through the wrongdoing to see a talented, personable kid who established himself as one of the best ever.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 4 Stanford. No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU. TCU would have gotten the chance it deserved. The nation’s No. 1 defense could have matched up with anyone. The hunch here is that Patterson would have bottled up Oregon at least as much as Auburn did. TCU 24, Oregon 21.
How about a matchup of the top two Heisman vote getters? Stanford’s Andrew Luck would have done what Oregon’s Darron Thomas couldn’t – make a vulnerable Auburn secondary pay. Cammy Cam Cam, though, would have been the difference against the tough Cardinal. Auburn 28, Stanford 21.
Championship game: Andy Dalton meet Nick Fairley. Tank Carder meet Cam Newton. Auburn-TCU would have gone a lot like Auburn-Oregon. Down to the wire with the underdog hanging surprisingly tough. In the end, the Tigers had too many playmakers. Auburn 22, TCU 19.
Fantasy quote: “Define ‘solicit.’ “ – Cecil Newton
Who got screwed: The Heisman Trust. What was supposed to be a celebration turned into a solemn event. The takeaway from his press conference is Newton's answer to the question: In a year when Reggie Bush had to give back is trophy, do you have any concerns you'll have to give yours back as well?
“Two letters for you, my friend,” Newton said. “No.”
All righty, then.
BCS champion: Alabama 21, LSU 0
The setup: Funny how penthouses and outhouses occupy the same block in the SEC. One moment, they’re calling Les Miles’ team one of the best ever. The next he’s been outcoached so badly by Nick Saban that he has to turn in his trucker’s hat.
Such was the fallout from a season that kept the national championship down in the Sweet Home for the third consecutive season. The Rematch of the Century was almost as big a disappointment as the Game of the Century. Except this time, there was some finality to it. Saban DID outcoach Miles. AJ McCarron DID play like Tom Brady. The rest of the country IS still drafting in the SEC’s excellence.
While the rest of the nation continued to set offensive records, LSU and Bama combined for 36 points, 10 field goals and one touchdown in two games. Is this what you want out of a national champion? Read on.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: Plenty. No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State would have added some texture, clarity, fairness and, well, offense to the proceedings.
Step back, Slive. Back off, Saban. Move away, Miles. College football would have gotten even, broken the SEC death grip.
"We'd have thrown it 50 times," Mike Gundy told USA Today. "You like to think Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon could have put together some touchdowns. Get the ball thrown down the field and open some things up. Try to make it exciting, and see what happens."
The key word being “exciting”. Who wouldn’t have loved to see Andrew Luck and Weeden go against those defenses? LSU played with a quarterback who would have had a hard time starting in the Big 12. Alabama played one offense all season ranked in the top 30 (Arkansas, 29th) and 10 ranked 84th or lower.
Defense wins championships? Not necessarily in this case if it plays a championship offense.
Let’s assume that Oklahoma State gave up its average of 27 points. Let’s assume Alabama gave up more than its average of eight points against the nation’s No. 2 offense. Let’s assume that it matters that the Cowboys were fifth in field-goal accuracy and Alabama was 85th.
Let’s also assume that Oklahoma State’s 44 turnovers gained – the most in the sport in eight years – matter. The Cowboys had an average defense, not a bad one. LSU 22, Stanford 17; Oklahoma State 36, Alabama 34.
Championship game: It suddenly gets a lot easier for the Cowboys. With Miles keeping an actual passing quarterback (Jarrett Lee) on the bench, that makes things less difficult for Oklahoma State. Yes, LSU’s running depth would have pounded the Pokes. But an underrated offensive line would have worn down the Tigers. Oklahoma State 27, LSU 21.
Fantasy quote: “How do you like us now, OU?” – Boone Pickens
Who got screwed: In the real world, it was Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished third in the BCS by closest margin since the formula was refigured in 2004. They played a stronger schedule than Alabama and won what some thought was the strongest conference in the country in ’11. Bammers were successful, though, in reducing the national conversation about two one-loss teams to one game. It was determined Alabama’s one loss (to LSU) was less bad than Oklahoma State’s (Iowa State). It’s a full season, folks. The Fightin’ Gundys had a fine one.
As far as props, there was a time when the idea of Mike Gundy as the national coach of the year would have been a Saturday Night Live skit. Now it’s reality.
Cowboys as champs outrageous? At least you can’t blame the BCS.
Plus-one champions, 2008-2011: Florida, Texas, Auburn, Oklahoma State.
Plus-one team summary: Miami (3), USC (3) Florida (2), LSU, Texas, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Tennessee (each one).
Conferences: SEC (5), Pac-10 (3), Big East (3), Big 12 (2), ACC (1)