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Oklahoma St. has a window. A tiny one
There’s only one possible curveball that can be thrown. There’s only one wild card that could be played. There’s only one potential X factor to account for.
And any other cliche you’d like to go with when it comes to anything else that might happen in the race for the BCS championship.
The matchup is almost set in stone, with LSU and Alabama the clear Nos. 1 and 2 in the latest standings. But there’s still a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy chance that the Cowboys could make it a wild 24 hours of debate after facing OU on Saturday night.
LSU is in, no matter what happens against Georgia in the SEC championship.
The general mood and prevailing attitude is that Alabama catches a break by not having to play an extra game. And because the Tigers beat the Tide on Nov. 5, and because they also beat Oregon and Arkansas — two other teams ranked in the top three at the time — they’ve earned their stripes.
Even if LSU gets blown away, it’s not going to fall lower than No. 2. But if that happens, Alabama probably would move up to No. 1, and the rematch would still be on.
Remember, to get into the title game, it doesn’t matter who’s No. 1 or who’s No. 2; all that matters is that you’re not No. 3.
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However, if LSU obliterates Georgia and is a firm No. 1, there could be a groundswell of support — at least outside of the network that’s obligated to sell the idea of a rematch being something special — for someone else to get a shot.
LSU already beat Alabama at Alabama, and a rematch would come across as unfulfilling no matter how it might turn out.
If the Tide win, then the series will be tied at 1-1, with LSU having pulled off its earlier victory on the road. If LSU wins, then nothing is discovered; we already knew that the Tigers were better.
Virginia Tech doesn’t have a chance to break into the top two if it blows away Clemson in the ACC championship; the schedule is too soft, and Clemson has hit the skids. And Stanford is in the clubhouse at 11-1 and likely off to the Fiesta Bowl.
That leaves Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys suffered one loss at Iowa State the same day the school and the athletic department were rocked by the tragic news that two women’s basketball coaches died in a plane crash. The loss came in double overtime after Quinn Sharp barely missed a 37-yard field goal late in regulation that looked like it might have been good.
Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions, but he also bombed away for 476 yards and three scores. Even so, a loss to Iowa State isn’t like a loss to LSU, and it’ll take something special from the Cowboys to have any argument for or any claim to the No. 2 spot.
OSU has to beat Oklahoma in a blowout of blowouts.
A win won’t be enough, and a convincing 14-point victory might not do it. If the Cowboys win by 20 or more, it’ll be the last shot fired in the regular season, and there’s a chance some in the human polls — the coaches’ and Harris, not the AP — will decide they want to see someone other than Alabama play for it all (and would vote accordingly).
After all, the Tide weren’t good enough to win their own division, much less their own conference, and OSU will be the champion of the best conference in the country this year — at least according to the BCS computers.
If the Cowboys win, they’ll have beaten six teams that finished the regular season with winning records and will have played nine bowl-bound teams.
Alabama passes the eyeball test in every way, and it might really be the best team in America, but that’s not really the point when it comes to who deserves to play for the national title.
The Tide beat just three FBS teams that finished with a winning record — Penn State, Arkansas and Auburn — and came up with wins over just five bowl-bound teams.
And no, it wasn’t a case of parity in the SEC this season. Florida, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Mississippi State were awful, and the Tide didn’t play the two best teams from the East, Georgia and South Carolina.
According to the NCAA, Oklahoma State played the 11th-toughest schedule in college football, and Alabama’s schedule is ranked 27th.
The offensive ranks of Alabama’s FBS opponents (out of 120): Kent State 120, Penn State 94, North Texas 103, Arkansas 28, Florida 101, Vanderbilt 96, Ole Miss 115, Tennessee 102, LSU 62, Mississippi State 87, Auburn 104. Average: 92.
In other words, Alabama’s D faced just one offense this year ranked in the top 60. Isn’t it just possible that the Tide D looks next-level good because it faced just one offense with a pulse?
Of course, the question becomes moot if Oklahoma wins in Stillwater, and the bias toward all things SEC — partially justified by five straight national titles — will be tough to overcome. But for those who consider themselves keepers of the "regular season means everything'' flame, the Cowboys are your only hope.
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