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.
The strength of schedule argument can be dicey, though. The RPI rankings have Alabama with the 14th toughest schedule and Oklahoma State with the 27th best.
Resumes aside, many simply feel Alabama had its chance and it's time for another team to take a shot at beating LSU.
"If the regular-season is the playoff as BCS defenders insist, didn't LSU already eliminate the Tide?" said Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa.
LSU and Alabama was billed as the Game of the Century, but barring a massive voter uprising in the Harris and coaches' polls Dec. 4, when the final BCS standings are released and the bowl matchups are announced, all that game determined was which jerseys the Tigers and Tide will wear at the Superdome.
And how fair _ there is that word again _ is that to LSU? As it is the Tide appears to have benefited from losing at home to LSU. Now Alabama can get some rest, split with the Tigers and win a national championship.
It's also possible neither LSU nor Alabama will be a conference champion, but both will be playing for the national championship _ and that doesn't sit well with plenty of people.
Ultimately, it's not about fairness. It's about a system that really isn't capable of producing a satisfying result in this situation and _ as has been proved time and again _ many others.
"The whole system is unfair," said Phil Miller of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, "and whether Alabama deserves another shot at LSU (a game many fans will dread) doesn't change that."
This non-voter's ballot is unchanged from last week, even though Baylor's Robert Griffin III played only half a game against Texas Tech because of an apparent concussion.
Top three: Griffin, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Houston quarterback Case Keenum. USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Alabama running back Trent Richardson would be next up.
It's harsh, but the race is so close that if Griffin misses the Bears' final game against Texas, that might be enough to push him off many ballots and cost him an invite to New York city as a Heisman finalist. Just as one bad game turned Brandon Weeden from front-runner to middle-of-the-pack contender.
As for Stanford's Andrew Luck, he closed with another excellent performance, tossing four touchdown passes against Notre Dame. Luck has been the presumptive front-runner most of the season. He has had a great season, though so much was expected it seems a bit disappointing. Still, Luck's decision to pass up a chance to become the first pick in the NFL draft and return to Stanford to finish his architecture degree might have won over enough voters before he even played a game this season.
Illinois, Kansas, UAB and Memphis got rid of their coaches on Sunday.
In addition, Arizona State was working on a deal to let go of Dennis Erickson and it was also reported that Washington State was going oust Paul Wulff and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel would be fired after the Bruins play in Pac-12 championship game.
The first name that comes up for almost every job these days is former Texas Tech coach turned author, Mike Leach. He has been keeping busy with a satellite radio show and pushing his book, "Swing Your Sword," but he wants to coach again as soon as possible.
It's just a question of which athletic director will look past his messy departure from Texas Tech and the pending lawsuit he has filed against the school.
With an 84-43 record in 10 years at Texas Tech, there's no questioning his credentials.
If you're in the anti-rematch crowd here's the results you should root for on championship Saturday:
No. 3 Oklahoma State pummels No. 13 Oklahoma in Stillwater and Georgia does the same to LSU.
Then maybe the Cowboys would jump past LSU and into the national championship game.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP