Split National Championship? Don’t Bet on it.
The Associated Press does not care about this Bowl Championship mumbo jumbo. They vote on their own national champion at the end of the year. Thus, as odd as this sounds to non-college football fans, the possibility of two title winners exists each and every year.
The last time it happened was in 2003 when LSU won the BCS title and USC won the AP’s. People were…not pleased.
The possibility has come around again as we head towards the BCS Championship on January 9. Skeptics say that if Alabama takes down LSU, Oklahoma State should be prepared for a share of the 2011 season crown. After all, their resume would be just as good, if not better than the BCS-winning Crimson Tide. This is sound reasoning built upon shaky logic (as is that sentence). Can Oklahoma State hope to squeak out a split national championship if LSU goes down? The long answer is No with an Unless; the short answer is just plain No.
With the Cowboys finishing oh so close to Alabama in the final BCS rankings, the stage was set for this scenario. The first step was Oklahoma State winning handily and convincingly in their Fiesta Bowl tilt against Stanford. This did not happen. Not only did Oklahoma State not win impressively; they did not deserve to win at all. Hiding this fact will be the excitement of an overtime victory and the exhilaration behind a shootout. LSU’s 9-6 overtime win in their first match with Alabama did not have the same cache as this 41-38 barnburner. So Oklahoma State did not fulfill their half of the bargain towards a split decision. Then why are people clambering for it the day after?
Can Ok State split the title vote? No, unless…people are disgusted by the LSU-Alabama rematch. If Alabama were to win by a similar score as the November 5 meeting, in a game played in similar fashion, people, AP voters included, will be upset. Why should the title be such a grind when the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl were so much fun to watch? Throw in the fact that an Alabama victory would mean they had just gone 1 for 2 against LSU and the desire to vote someone else, anyone else, as National Champion grows. This is where Oklahoma State comes in. They were so close to Bama at season’s end, it would not be ridiculous to think they could be considered a step better after taking down Stanford.
But here is why we have a problem, why a split title seems unlikely. Is a low-scoring, defensive battle reason enough to vote a different team national champ? Style of play shouldn’t factor into the AP’s decision. Unless they actually think Oklahoma State is better (and not simply more fun), then voting them ahead of Alabama would be silly, if not criminal.
There is something to be said for having an entertaining team but there is more to be said about having a better team. We all wanted to see one of these SEC defensive stalwarts face one of the offensive powers that played each other January 2. Yet lest we forget, this matchup has already taken place. LSU played Oregon way back when and wiped the floor with them. Would a hypothetical Alabama-Ok State or LSU-Ok State game turn out differently? Perhaps, but what makes the AP so special to decide the fate of that game without it ever being played? Alabama is preparing to take the field to play for the National Championship. A win should mean just that whether the Associated Press voters enjoyed watching it or not.