- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Somewhere along the way in major college football, we stopped. We quit being accurate in our description. We dropped the extra syllables and characters. We got lazy and gave in to convention.

But it wasn’t long ago when writers, broadcasters and fans were upfront about reality. Everyone acknowledged that power conferences cut backroom deals with the bowls and the team voted No. 1 in the final media and/or coaches poll would be crowned as the mythical national champion.

Mythical wasn’t surrounded by quotation marks or parentheses. Teams chased mythical titles and became mythical champions, plain and simple, no explanation necessary.

However, as society morphed into the fast-paced, instant-gratification, 800-channel blur that exists today, “mythical” slipped from the discussion and our conscious. We allowed major college football to equate its champions with the legitimate champions crowned at every other level and in every other sport.

But the fact of the matter is Alabama won the mythical title Monday night, like Auburn won the mythical championship the year before, and so on.

This isn’t a slam against Alabama, which presented a thoroughly convincing argument in destroying top-ranked LSU. Les Miles was outcoached by Nick Saban, and the Tigers were outclassed by the Crimson Tide, which rolled to victory in unprecedented fashion. The 21-0 blanking was the first shutout in BCS bowl history.

But it also meant no team finished with an unblemished record. And the only thing worse than three undefeated teams when the BCmesS ends is no undefeated teams.

Those scenarios embolden voters such as Eric Gee, of KNML-AM in Albuquerque, N.M. Gee stated beforehand that he would vote LSU No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll, regardless of Monday’s outcome, and that’s exactly what he did. Gee reasoned that LSU won the first game against Alabama and had a better overall resume, so a “split” means nothing.

Four other AP voters tabbed Oklahoma State as the nation’s top team. Opponents of the Alabama-LSU rematch argued that the Cowboys should have played instead of the Crimson Tide.

OSU coach Mike Gundy seemed to forget that his squad would have faced LSU and not Saban’s stifling defense. “I bet you there’ll be a lot of people wish they’d given us a shot to see a different kind of game,” Gundy told USA Today. “We’d have thrown it 50 times. … I just think we could score.”

We’ll never know. But the next time Oklahoma State has a clear path to the final game, it shouldn’t lose to an Iowa State team that finishes at 6-7.

Like it or not, this B(C)S is the system we’re stuck with, and Alabama deserves to be congratulated. The Tide gave every indication that they were the best or second-best team all season and actually outplayed LSU in the first matchup.

So what if Alabama lost that game and didn’t win the SEC title? That doesn’t mean Oklahoma State or any team besides LSU staked a better claim to being No. 2.

Rematches for a championship happen all the time in college sports (and pro sports, too), just like non-conference and/or non-division winners win championships all the time. It’s not a big deal. That’s why we have a regular season and a postseason and the latter counts the most.

The postseason in major college football is a bad joke, but the powers-that-be do as they please. They want to keep their minor bowls, mid-major bowls, New Year’s Day bowls and BCS bowls.

Don’t be surprised if they try to increase revenues by adding the Soup Bowl, Salad Bowl, Punch Bowl and Cereal Bowl, to be aired on the Food Network.

The current system doesn’t have anything on the old days when it comes to controversy. Back then, Nos. 1 and 5 could square off in Bowl A, while Nos. 2 and 4 could meet in Bowl B. But the BCS still is good for debate as often as not.

Contentious TV analysts huff and puff throughout the season, gesticulating wildly, making heated points and shooting down each other’s arguments.

As if anything more than a mythical title is at stake.

Major college football is scripted like a weekly TV drama. Not so much a “Whodunit?” but rather a “Whogonnabeinit?” The rankings change from week to week, but rationales for determining the participants change from season to season.

Whatever. We’re deprived of a traditional playoff, but we don’t have to play along. We don’t have to drop the once commonplace “mythical” from the discussion. Describing the end result more accurately doesn’t diminish the product.

It’s still an excellent counterfeit.

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