LSU earns spot opposite Ohio State in BCS title game

LSU earns spot opposite Ohio State in BCS title game

LSU earns spot opposite Ohio State in BCS title game
ASSOCIATED PRESS

LSU has a ticket to the title game. Everyone else has a pretty good gripe.

The latest chapter in this crazy, unpredictable college football season was written Sunday when LSU won the sport's version of the lottery, being picked to play Ohio State for the championship and leaving about a half-dozen other candidates with plenty to complain about.

The Tigers (11-2), ranked second in the latest Associated Press poll, will be the first team to play in the BCS title game with two losses.

No. 1 Ohio State goes into the game, Jan. 7 at the Superdome in New Orleans, at 11-1.

Missouri and West Virginia, the teams that came into the weekend ranked 1 and 2, lost Saturday to blow their title chances, were left out of the BCS altogether.

Why did LSU, which was seventh in the BCS standings heading into the final weekend, make the jump to No. 2 and into the big game, while Oklahoma, Southern California, Georgia and a number of others were left behind?

The 174 poll voters and handful of computer nerds whose calculations make up the BCS rankings probably all have their own reasons. Among the best is that LSU was rewarded for winning the Southeastern Conference, which is traditionally viewed as one of the toughest leagues in the nation.

There's also the argument coach Les Miles and athletic director Skip Bertman offered up Saturday night: The Tigers went undefeated in regulation this season - their two losses both coming in triple overtime.

Paper-thin as that line of reasoning may sound, it's as good as any in this topsy turvy season during which the top-ranked team lost four times, the second-ranked team lost six times since October and Nos. 1 and 2 lost on the same week three times in the last two months.

The rest of the BCS games are filled with teams that had every bit as good an argument as LSU for a spot in the title game.

In the Sugar Bowl, Georgia will play Hawaii. The Bulldogs (10-2) were fourth and idle coming into the final weekend - behind Missouri, West Virginia and Ohio State - but didn't automatically rise two spots the way coach Mark Richt thought they should. Hawaii (12-0), meanwhile, is the nation's only undefeated team, but is penalized for playing a weak schedule in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Fiesta Bowl will pit West Virginia (10-2) against Oklahoma (11-2). The Sooners beat top-ranked Missouri twice this season, including 38-17 on Saturday in the Big 12 title game.

The Rose Bowl stuck with its traditional Big Ten-vs.-Pac-10 matchup, going with Southern California (10-2) against Illinois (9-3). USC, thought to be playing as well as anyone in the nation right now, was one of the two-loss teams that had a legitimate claim at the title game. A loss to 41-point underdog Stanford in October, however, probably doomed the Trojans.

The Orange Bowl chose Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech (11-2), also a two-loss team. Hurting the Hokies was that one of their losses was 48-7 to LSU back in September. Virginia Tech's opponent will be Kansas (11-1), which leapfrogged Missouri for a BCS spot even though the Jayhawks lost to Mizzou 36-28 only a week ago.

Logical?

Of course not, though even in the most uneventful of years, the controversial practice of voting on bowl bids inspires debate among pundits, outrage among fans and outright indignation among coaches whose teams get spurned.

Need it be said this would have been a perfect year for a playoff?

There would have been no clear favorite.

Ohio State has been roundly criticized since the beginning of the season, after losing players from a team that was heavily favored in last year's title game but flopped mightily in a 41-14 loss to Florida.

The Buckeyes were ranked first in November, but quickly surrendered that with a 28-21 loss to Illinois that only added fuel to those who said they weren't deserving. But they backed into the BCS game without even playing, beneficiaries of the fact the Big Ten doesn't play a title game while many other conferences do.

Their opponents will be LSU, a program that appeared on the verge of losing its coach as late as a few hours before kickoff Saturday.

That's when Miles held an angry news conference and said reports he would be leaving the Bayou for Michigan were false. In fact, he said, he had agreed to a new contract to stay in Baton Rouge.

Then, the Tigers went out and won. Later, they sat calmly and watched chaos reign for the rest of the day. On Sunday, they learned they were in the championship game for the second time in five years.

Weird. Wacky. A roller coaster. Yes, it was all of that.

Or, maybe it was the only fitting way to close out a very imperfect 2007 in college football.

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Re: LSU earns spot opposite Ohio State in BCS title game

Man did Missouri get screwed or what.  :-","xx

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Chaos doesn't legitimize ignorance or stupidity of flawed system
ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- There's no disputing it: The just deceased college football regular season was crazier than ordering a chocolate martini at a biker bar.

No. 1 Missouri lost the Big 12 bakeoff to favored Oklahoma, and No. 2 West Virginia absolutely shanked its national championship chances to four-touchdown mutt Pittsburgh. And that's just part of what happened this past Saturday. How about the previous 14 weeks?

Appalachian State over Michigan. USC, Boston College, Cal, Kansas, South Florida, Oregon and West Virginia all yakking away their No. 2 rankings. Oregon's DayGlos. Mike "I'm a man!" Gundy. Notre Dame and its bungee jump into oblivion. I could go on.

But, sorry, crazy isn't good enough. College football deserves better than simple bedlam. Chaos doesn't legitimize ignorance or stupidity.

By sheer accident, nothing more, Ohio State and LSU will play Jan. 7 in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. A few days ago it was supposed to be Mizzou vs. West Virginia. And before that, Kansas vs. LSU.

If there were a congressman to write concerning the forever flawed Bowl Championship Series (Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C.?), I'd give you his address. But there isn't. Instead, we get SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who doubles as the Bowl Championships Series coordinator. It's a crummy part-time job because you're forced to explain the unexplainable, defend the indefensible.

Slive is a smart, well-intentioned administrator, but when he says, "I don't see what I would call an NFL-style playoff in the offing," someone needs to remind him that it isn't an "NFL-style playoff" we're talking about. It's an NCAA-style playoff, the kind of elimination tournament seen in nearly every NCAA sport and every NCAA football division except Division I-A. SEC schools won two of those "NFL-style" playoffs last season. They're called Final Fours.

And when he says he's looking "very, very hard [at] drilling down into that concept" of a Plus-One format (sort of a seeded, one-game playoff game after the bowls), he's admitting the BCS has major imperfections. Otherwise, why bother?

Think about what just happened this past weekend. The short list:

One-loss Ohio State reached a national championship game by doing nothing more strenuous than clicking the TV remote. Congrats. The Buckeyes will go 50 days between their last game and their next.

The 10-2 Mountaineers were eliminated partly because of an injured thumb.

An 11-2 OU team beat Missouri for a second time this season -- including Saturday's 21-point win against the No. 1 Tigers on a neutral field -- and got aced out.

LSU, also 11-2, squeezed in.

Poor Mizzou went from No. 1 to a non-BCS bowl (the Cotton) in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, Kansas, which lost to Missouri late in the season and failed to reach the Big 12 title game, was invited to a BCS bowl, the Orange.

Georgia, which is 10-2, was in the BCS title game discussion despite not winning its division or conference championship.

USC, playing as well as anyone these days, finished 10-2, but still gets no soup.

And don't even get me started on why the only undefeated team in the country, 12-0 Hawaii, is completely ignored in the Jan. 7 equation.

Is this any way to determine a national champion? And if the bowl results shake out a certain bizarre way, we could even have a split championship. How fitting.

College football's madness arrived late Saturday night when the absurd BCS "system" forced coaches to campaign for their teams like they were trying to win the Iowa caucus. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops delivered his hard sell after the 38-17 victory in the Big 12 Conference championship. Georgia's Mark Richt and USC's Pete Carroll also issued spins on behalf of their respective teams. The BCS didn't give them any other choice.

When someone questioned Stoops about the Sooners' chances to reach the BCS title game, the OU coach could barely contain himself. "Well, I'm glad you asked," he said, before making his impassioned pitch.

Stoops is anti-playoff. Too many moving parts, he said. His reasons: the regular season would become less important … fans would have difficulty traveling from playoff site to playoff site … regular-season attendance might suffer … the bowls might be adversely affected. Anyway, he said, the status quo is "sort of a like a playoff."

"Sort of like a playoff" isn't working. "Sort of like a playoff" gave us at least six teams that could each make valid arguments for a BCS Championship spot. But instead of a playoff, the finalists were determined by 176 voters (some of whom actually pay attention), six computer polls and politicking.

But even Stoops acknowledged that this season, especially with so many legitimate BCS contenders at the end, lent itself to a playoff. "It's a decent argument," he said.

Standing just outside the Oklahoma locker room at the Alamodome was Tostitos Fiesta Bowl president John Junker. The well-respected Junker was waiting for clearance to go inside and officially invite the Sooners for a repeat appearance to his bowl.

"We got the most dominant team in the country coming to our game," said Junker, moments before being waved in.

Not dominant enough to convince enough computers or voters. And that's the shame of all this. Nobody is playing better than OU, Georgia or USC right now. But it's Ohio State, with its puppy fur-soft nonconference schedule and so-so Big Ten quality, that was chosen for New Orleans. Interesting, since the Buckeyes didn't register a win against a top 20 team at the time they played. At least inconsistent LSU mostly survived a killer conference and won its league championship game.

This isn't meant as a total rip job on the Buckeyes and Tigers. They finished atop the BCS standings because they won and lost at the "right" times against the "right" teams. They are the beneficiaries of the perfect BCS storm.

There will be those who say the unpredictability of this season and of the BCS is what made college football so compelling in 2007. I'd say the BCS is what made this season so embarrassing. How can you have these delicious scenarios without having a playoff to resolve them on the field?

We're back where we started pre-BCS. Chaos reigns. And all because too many people in the business of college football are willing to settle, willing to pretend there isn't a better solution. Makes you want to chug that martini.

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