Pretenders Fall By The Wayside

Prior to the Alabama-LSU game on Nov. 5 the only ones who would have considered a re-match of those teams for the BCS National Championship to be desireable would be the loser.

A funny thing happened in that game, though. Alabama lost in overtime to LSU, 9-6, in a game that actually lived up to, and maybe even surpassed its considerable -- incessant, even -- pre-game hype. That started some re-match conversation, mostly derided by the national media.

Thoughtful Alabama followers realized it was an unlikely scenario that could get Bama re-matched with the Bayou Bengals in New Orleans on Jan. 9. But it wasn't impossible.

Today it appears likely.

It started a little over a week ago when big-time-wannabe Boise State lost to TCU in Boise. Then Stanford and Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck (it seems there is some sort of media rule that Stanford cannot be mentioned without including Luck in order to validate the Cardinal as viable) lost to Oregon.

On Friday night, the one team between Alabama and LSU in the BCS rankings, Oklahoma State, lost to unranked Iowa State.

All of a sudden the national media was okay with a re-match. Not Alabama, which had played LSU to overtime and lost in part on the strength of a controversial decision regarding reception or interception. No, not that re-match.

But Oregon, which lost by a bunch to LSU at the start of the season, looked like a good re-match. "Oregon is the most improved team in the nation," was the mantra.

I'm sorry, but deliver me from teams that can't beat Lane Kiffin. On Saturday the Oregon Ninja Ducks lost to USC.

One last hope for the national commentators and columnists. Oklahoma. Yes, Oklahoma, the loser at home to Texas Tech, which has since been the nation's punching bag.

But in a tie game with Baylor and the Bears deep in their own territory with less than a minute to play, Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops decided to use a time out and force Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin II to have to go offensive. He did, driving his team downfield and completing a 34-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds. The Sooners had gone down.

You can's spell "OUT" without an "O" -- as in "O" for Oklahoma State, "O" for Oregon, and "O" for Oklahoma.

In addition to those three top ten BCS teams, Clemson also went down, but the Tigers weren't really relevant.

So we're left with the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship race being the same thing as the national championship race for the moment. And this is a surprise? Has everyone forgotten that the SEC has provided the past five BCS champions?

So what's left to happen?

If LSU beats Arkansas in Baton Rouge Friday, the Fighting Tigers stay number one and go to Atlanta the following Saturday, Nov. 3, to play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. If Arkansas beats LSU and Alabama defeats Auburn in Auburn Saturday, there is a three-way tie for the West and the berth in the SEC Championship Game will be decided by the seventh tie-breaker -- BCS standings. The third team in the BCS standings would be eliminated and the head-to-head outcome of the game between one and two would determine the West representative. That probably, though not assuredly, would be Alabama.

If LSU and Alabama win this weekend, and then LSU wins the SEC game, it would almost certainly re-match the Crimson Tide and Fighting Tigers.

In that case, Alabama would have a rare opportunity -- the chance to win the national championship without having won the SEC championship. In 1961, Bama and LSU tied for the league title (they didn't meet in regular season play) and Alabama won the national championship.

(Almost all, including the vast majority of Alabama followers, discount the 1941 national championship, awarded on specious evidence in a year when Mississippi State won its lone SEC title, defeating Alabama.)

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