Published December 02, 2007
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.
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.