- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Picture this: A nail-biter of a Bowl Championship Series title game next Monday night comes down to a long field goal attempt by Alabama’s Cade Foster. The snap is down, the kick is away and it’s … good!

Confetti guns spray the Superdome as the Crimson Tide beats LSU by a point to win college football’s national championship.

Right? Well, sort of.

But then again, maybe not.

Despite its 120 schools, its corporate sponsors, its rabid fans and monster TV contracts worth billions of dollars, one thing that major college football does not have is a clean way of crowning a champion. Because the bowl system is so lucrative and popular _ in a made-for-TV sense _ the schools at the highest level of the sport have eschewed a season-ending tournament in favor of a single game between the two teams generally believed to be the best in the country.

Many of the 14 years the BCS system has been in place, it has produced a winner most in the college football world could live with. But there’s always a chance for a bug in the system and a split national title _ like this year, when many voters for the AP Top 25 say they are not absolutely committed to picking the winner of the BCS finale.

A big part of the reason is Monday’s game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama will be the first BCS championship featuring a rematch of a regular-season meeting. That Nov. 5 game ended with a 9-6 overtime victory for the Tigers on the Crimson Tide’s home field.

The winner in New Orleans gets the BCS’ crystal ball trophy and will be No. 1 in the final USA Today coaches’ poll, which is contractually bound to have the winner of the BCS in the top spot of its rankings.

But the media members who vote in The Associated Press’ college football rankings are under no such obligations. And for many of them, the choice is not so clear.

What if this time around, Alabama wins 10-9? If this were soccer _ and considering how tough it was to score in the first touchdown-less game that seems to be an appropriate comparison _ LSU would win the title on aggregate score.

Could there be two No. 1s at the end of the college football season? The last time it happened was 2003. That year LSU beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game, but Southern California, which was left out of the championship game, was voted No. 1 by the AP after it thumped Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

“Awarding a championship to a team that loses its final game is beyond counterintuitive and may be un-American,” said David Teel of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va. “But if LSU loses narrowly, I will absolutely consider (voting the Tigers No. 1). That’s how good the Tigers’ regular season _ five wins over the top 25, four away from Death Valley, including at Alabama _ was.”

The AP asked voters who cast ballots for its Top 25 a few questions before the BCS game.

_ Do you expect to vote the winner of the Alabama-LSU game No. 1?

_ Would you consider voting LSU No. 1 even if it lost?

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