Saban Looks At The Big Picture
So before Alabama's rooting fan base retaliates with thoughts of stomping a coonskin cap, skinning a gator, kicking a bulldog duo, jerking the tails of a tiger tandem, roasting a razorback, ruffling a gamecock's feathers, pulling a wildcat's whiskers or demoting a commodore and Rebel colonel, pause to remember the cumulative league consequences for losing non-conference games. Do you really think LSU's selection to the BCS Championship Game would have occurred if one of their two setbacks was against an Alabama team that suffered the embarrassing loss against Louisiana-Monroe? Ask the two loss USC Trojans, a perennial pollster favorite who suffered a deflating 23-24 defeat at home in the LA Coliseum to the forty-point underdog Stanford Cardinals. They couldn't even overcome an intra-conference collapse to a PAC-10 member never mind a Sun Belt foe.
Last spring at the 14th annual L'Arche Football Preview in Mobile, Saban espoused a symbiotic philosophy foreign to the one thousand Alabama and Auburn partisans in attendance.
"I look at the ratings (television) at the SEC meetings just so everyone in this room understands. One team doesn't have to be good for the other one to be bad," Saban said, referring to the Tigers. "This is what I believe for this state. I think we should be one, they should be one, and the other one should be two and let's have a great game. Because our game is not rated that highly anymore and it should be rated very highly.
"It should be the game that everybody looks forward to at the end of the season to watch because it's a great rivalry. There's great tradition and passion and our game against Auburn should be the greatest game in college football," Saban preached as the audience applauded. "To do that, you have to have two great teams. We have two great schools. And that's what I believe and that's how I feel. We need to have two great teams."
Implicit in his strategic remarks is the concept of conference pride which is also echoed by a Big Ten coach noted for consistently praising his rival and league members.
Last year when 1-AA Appalachian State stunned the college football world by upsetting fifth-ranked Michigan in "The Big House", Ohio State's Jim Tressel voiced his conference allegiance for the maze and blue.
"Am I glad? No, I'm never glad when a conference opponent loses. You always -- outside of your game with them, you're always rooting for your brethren in the Big Ten." He comprehends not only the collateral numerical damage to every school in the conference when the BCS standings are computed but also the diminishing glory of winning the league title.
The idea of a rival's loss adversely affecting a team's bowl championship scenario has not registered with the majority of fans. Evidence the disconnect by clicking on You Tube to witness stadium public address announcers enthusiastically proclaiming a rival's loss followed by a rousing boisterous approval by the home crowd.
A reflective Buckeye faithful initially thrilled with the Wolverines agonizing defeat realized the error of their ways according to football writer Ken Gordon of The Columbus Dispatch.
"As the season went on and the Big Ten was getting a lot of criticism, people wish that hadn't happened. It became kind of a weapon against the Big Ten. The Big Ten was getting hammered nationally."
The premiere power conference opinion pendulum rests securely with the SEC. Results from the last two years have served noticed to the college football world that if the SEC champion is even in losses they are leaving the competition behind as they will be awarded the second qualifying spot in the BCS rankings to play the higher ranked opponent. The SEC's cannibalistic regular season results remains acceptable to the pollsters due to success outside the conference and has been strengthened with recent dominant BCS Championship Game performances by Florida and LSU. Reflecting the lowest intra-conference average scoring margin per game and significant wins against non-conference foes has been the winning components equating to appearances in the BCS Championship Game for the SEC title holder the past two years.
Two of three components for the BCS standings are compiled using the human element of panelists' opinions provided by the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Interactive College Football Poll. An elephant's memory has nothing on a voting member's recall as they incorporate historical bowl outcomes, strength of non-league opponents and tradition as a possible trump card as a 12-0 undefeated Auburn learned in 2004 when Oklahoma was the sacrificial choice to face USC.
No one is proposing you have to stand and cheer exuberantly every time you hear the score of an SEC team crushing a non-league opponent over the loud speaker but just remember someday in the very near future Alabama may require the power points from a conference member as they are on the verge of sizing up a crown.
Will you be a Saban disciple praising the victorious outcomes of conference members representing the league's BCS interests or a repentant rankings sinner who shunned the poll winning sermon advocated by your leader in command of the throne restoration process? Your first test will be this Saturday night as Auburn plays a team from the Bayou state, Monroe, Louisiana matter of fact. The temptation will be great. Will you be faithful to the process?
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