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November 18, 2011
The conference powerhouses were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 when they played. Their game was settled by three points. Afterward, there were cries for a rematch in the national championship game.
The day after the game, they retained the all-important first and second positions in the BCS standings. But the Big Ten had ended its season, and most teams still were playing.
The next week, USC moved into second place in the BCS standings and Michigan fell to third.
But on the final day of the regular season, USC was upset by UCLA and Michigan appeared set to climb back to No. 2. But pollsters seemed less-than-thrilled by the idea of a Big Ten rematch for the national title, and SEC champion Florida, which had lost to Auburn and needed a blocked field goal to escape with a victory over South Carolina, leaped from fourth into second in the BCS standings.
Florida was a seven-point underdog in the national championship game, but the Gators rolled to a 41-14 victory and showed without a doubt they were the best team in the country.
The Gators wouldn't have had the chance to prove their superiority had BCS voters opted for a rematch.
Now, five years later, there have been calls for another rematch in the national championship game.
Should BCS voters resist again?
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Learn from history
Everybody is talking about whether LSU and Alabama should play a rematch in the national championship game. I think everyone has forgotten that the point of the game is to determine the best team. Is LSU better than Alabama? Yes. We've seen the game. Is LSU better than Oklahoma State? I think so, but the point is we don't know. I think the 2006 season should be a cautionary tale of how, until we see them play each other, we don't "know" anything.
I couldn't agree more. I'm completely against an Alabama-LSU rematch in the national championship game.
I know that opinion won't necessarily be popular in SEC country (except perhaps in Louisiana). I also know there are national analysts who think otherwise. And I am aware a strong argument could be made for a rematch if Oklahoma State stumbles in one of its final two games.
But that won't change my opinion that a rematch should not happen.
First, I don't think a team that doesn't win its conference championship should be playing for the national title. It has happened twice- Nebraska in '01 and Oklahoma in '03 - but I disagreed with it then and I disagree with it now.
Second, I don't think it's fair to LSU or the rest of the country to have two SEC teams in the national championship game. Again, we've seen LSU and Alabama play - and LSU won on Alabama's home field. LSU has proven it is better than Alabama by defeating the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Frankly, if there has to be a rematch I'd rather see LSU-Oregon again. First, Oregon likely will be the Pac-12 champion. In addition, the Ducks lost to LSU at a neutral site (Dallas), which was much more favorable to LSU. And Oregon lost to LSU in the first game of the season, while Alabama lost in November. Oregon may have improved significantly over the course of three months. How much better would Alabama have gotten as a team in a few weeks?
Besides, in college football, losing later in the season typically is more costly than losing early. Should that change just because the team that lost in November is in the SEC?
The rematch debate will be a hot and emotional topic - well, unless Oklahoma State is unbeaten. Then, there would be no doubt what teams should play for the national championship. That is, unless LSU loses. That's not out of the question with Arkansas and the SEC championship game still to be played.That would open up a whole new debate about what one-loss team should be playing Oklahoma State.
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Who is the best team in the nation, based solely on talent?
That's a tough call, but I'd say Alabama has the most talent.
Assuming everyone eligible enters the draft, it would come as no surprise if as many as five Crimson Tide players were selected in the first round of next year's NFL draft - RB Trent Richardson, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Courtney Upshaw and SS Mark Barron.
There are other guys on the Tide's roster who will be high picks when their times come, too.
Unfortunately for Alabama, that glut of talent doesn't extend to the kicking game.
LSU is also loaded with talent, especially on defense. I haven't seen a better cornerback this season than Morris Claiborne, and fellow corner Tyrann Mathieu is a big-time playmaker. The Tigers are absolutely loaded on the defensive line, too.
Still, if I had to pick one team as most talented, I'd say Alabama.
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Can't find a game
In the discussions about teams such as Boise State and TCU, it is never brought up that these teams have been trying to play "tougher opponents." But those "tougher opponents" would rather play Appalachian State or James Madison. In my opinion, MAC teams had tougher schedule than those in the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. I do give LSU credit for playing Oregon, but the big schools always demand to be at home.
MAC teams play stronger opponents than teams in the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC? While MAC teams frequently play "Big Six" opponents in non-conference games, they also play opponents from the WAC, Sun Belt an FCS. And then they have eight conference games against other MAC teams.
And big-name schools do play big-name schools. You mentioned LSU-Oregon, but there's also Alabama-Penn State, Florida-Florida State, Arkansas-Texas A&M, Florida State-Oklahoma, LSU-West Virginia, Auburn-Clemson, Clemson-South Carolina ... it goes on and on.
I agree the "big schools" often demand to play at home. They do that for two reasons:
Those schools typically sell out stadiums of 80,000 or more. Selling out, say, a 90,000-seat stadium at $50 a ticket (being conservative, for argument's sake) nets $4.5 million. Why sacrifice that revenue to play in a 33,500-seat stadium elsewhere? That doesn't make economic sense.
They make demands because they can. The teams in automatic qualifying conferences will play in BCS games, and perhaps the national championship, if they win.
Look at Oklahoma State. For years, it was viewed as a second- or third-tier program. Yet the Cowboys will play for the national championship if they win two more games.
By the way, the Cowboys played Arizona in a non-conference game. True, Arizona stinks this season, but the Wildcats had gone to bowls in each of the past three seasons.
Anyway, teams outside the AQ conferences aren't in position to make demands. Therefore, they often have to agree to play "big schools" on the road.
Is that fair? No. But college football isn't fair. If it was fair, we'd have a playoff.
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Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.