Paul Finebaum: Winner of title game should be No. 1, no question about it - Sports Illustrated

Winner of BCS title game should be No. 1 team, no question about it

Publish date:

College football has gone from the silly season before BCS Selection Sunday to the ridiculous season in the aftermath.

It started a few weeks ago and has continued to gain momentum. Gary Danielson, the highly respected analyst for CBS Sports, has used his large pulpit to propose the idea which might as well be known as the "Occupy the AP National Championship Trophy for LSU Movement."

It has been suggested that LSU should be awarded the AP national championship prize regardless of the outcome of the title game against Alabama. The theory is that LSU has played so well during the regular season, being the only 13-0 team in the country. The Tigers beat the champions of the Pac-12 (Oregon), the Big East (West Virginia), two top 10 teams in the SEC West (Alabama, Arkansas), the SEC East champion (Georgia), and everyone else.

"It would be fair since they had both won one game,'' Danielson said. "This would be a good year to do a split national championship. Under the current system, we're going to (possibly) have each team win one game. Alabama is playing by the rules. Those kids played hard. It cries out for more.''

Danielson, sounding discouraged by the BCS process, added, "I'm not happy or sad. I don't really care who wins these games.''

The worst kept secret in college sports is that the BCS is a flawed system for determining who the national champion is and who goes to the BCS bowl games. How can you explain or defend the shameful Sugar Bowl matchup between Virginia Tech (coming off a 28-point loss in the ACC title game) against two-loss Michigan?

But since when did college football steal a page from the Oscars and start giving out the equivalent of the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg lifetime achievement award for best performance during the regular season?

If Alabama beats LSU on Jan. 9 at the Superdome, can you imagine the scene at the trophy presentation the following morning? Can you imagine Les Miles having to stand in the back of the room while Nick Saban is smiling for the cameras with all of the hardware lined up? After Saban is given the BCS crystal and several other less important trophies, the fellow from the AP asks Miles to step up for his 15 seconds in the spotlight to accept the trophy. We already know Miles likes to eat grass with his victories. On this morning, he would likely be spitting nails.

The AP trophy used to be prestigious. The AP was part of the BCS until it waved the white flag seven years ago, recusing itself from the convoluted system of picking a national champion. Yet, it continues to have a media poll which is published every week and closely followed. After its final poll following the BCS title game, the AP awards its national champion.

It is not unprecedented to have a split decision between the BCS champion and the AP poll winner. In fact, in 2003, Southern Cal, ranked No. 1 in the human polls at the end of the regular season, was left out of the BCS title game, which was played by Oklahoma and LSU, despite the Sooners losing the Big 12 Championship game 35-7. No. 2 LSU, coached by Saban, beat No. 3 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS title. USC defeated No. 4 Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl. So it was not at all surprising that Southern Cal would still be voted No. 1 in the final AP poll.

But that was an entirely different situation from this year's possible scenario. If Alabama beats LSU, and the Tigers were to still receive the AP trophy, this award would be going to a team that had just lost on the biggest stage to the team winning the BCS title.

Four years ago, did the New England Patriots get invited to The White House after completing the first undefeated regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, only to lose the ultimate game, the Super Bowl.

Because of LSU's extraordinary season -- and it may rank among the best ever -- and beating Alabama 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5, in the Game of the Century (which century, we're still not sure) some argue the Tigers have already earned their way to hardware.

"I think each team has won one game,'' Danielson said. "Since they can't have a third game, that would be a nice compromise. I get it. I understand the rules. I just think in this circumstance, it might be an opportunity for both sides to get something.''

Is this touch football out in the front yard?

"This is the National Championship,'' ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told me Wednesday. "Whoever wins this game is the champion. There's no debate or question.''

As Herbstreit said, sports are about winning and losing games, which reminds me of that scene from the movie, Meet the Fockers. Dustin Hoffman is talking to Robert DeNiro, whose daughter is married to his son, about saving a ninth-place swimming ribbon from his youth.

"They even give them for 10th place," Hoffman said.

The BCS is designed to match No. 1 vs. No. 2. Pretty simple. It has achieved that objective, thank goodness. To the victor go the spoils, and all of the trophies as well.