Hard to define fairness with potential BCS rematch

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A rematch of Alabama-LSU in the BCS championship game is close to being a foregone conclusion.

The top-ranked Tigers have already put together such a strong resume that even if they lose the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday to No. 12 Georgia, there is still a good shot they will play for the BCS title.

The second-ranked Crimson Tide has it even easier than LSU. Alabama is in the clubhouse with an 11-1 record, in good position to keep its spot in the BCS standings no matter how championship Saturday plays out _ while it rests.

So is it fair for Alabama to get a second chance against LSU, having already lost to the Tigers 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa this month? Well, depends on how you define fair.

According to the BCS media guide, the Bowl Championship Series is “designed to match the two top-rated teams in the national championship game.”

Not the two best teams. Not the teams from the best conferences. Not the teams that have played the toughest schedule or had the most impressive victories _ or losses for that matter. Not the top-rated teams that have not already met in the regular season or won a conference championship.

Nope, simply the “top-rated teams” according to a formula based on two subjective polls and six computer ratings.

That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Those who support a rematch (this includes pretty much every Alabama fan, of course) say the Crimson Tide pass the eye test. Alabama looks to be better than the other one-loss teams, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Stanford, and has been dominant in every game it has played other than against LSU.

“Honestly I don’t get all of the venom toward a rematch,” said AP poll voter Jeremy Sampson from WILX-TV in Lansing, Mich. “Isn’t the whole idea to have the two best teams play for the title? Clearly these (LSU and Alabama) are the two best teams in the country. I just hope we see a touchdown scored in the National title game.”

And clearly none of the other one-loss contenders has a more impressive loss than Alabama. Oklahoma State lost to unranked Iowa State, Virginia Tech was routed by Clemson and Stanford was roughed up by Oregon.

“Just look around the top 10 at their losses, doesn’t impress the same way,” said voter Garland Gillen, from WWL-TV in New Orleans.

The other side of the rematch debate has more varied arguments.

Some have attacked Alabama’s schedule strength, an odd approach considering the SEC is generally regarded as the best conference in the country. There is some merit, though. The bottom half of the SEC was particularly weak this season and Alabama did not play the best two teams from the SEC East (South Carolina and Georgia).

The Sagarin computer ratings that do include margin of victory and rate not only a team’s opponents but also the opponents of the opponents, rates Alabama’s schedule 23rd toughest in the country. Oklahoma State’s is eighth. Stanford’s is 35th and Virginia Tech’s is 60th. That’s why Oklahoma State _ if the Cowboys can beat Oklahoma on Saturday and win the Big 12 _ have become the most popular alternative pick for those against a rematch.

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