Friday, January 8, 2010

The morning after . . .

Not that we smelled a conspiracy -- nobody would accuse Alabama fans of having an us-against-the-world mentality, would they? -- but isn't it interesting how the anti-SEC sentiment began to coagulate in the hours before the Alabama-Texas BCS championship game: For the good of college football, the SEC has to be stopped; the SEC has a built-in advantage in a corrupt and corroded system. This morning, fans who couldn't find Boise State with Mapquest have grabbed the Broncos by the mane and hoisted them into the air as Exhibit I, challenging the legitimacy of another Alabama national title and the concept of last night's one-game showdown between two tradition-bound teams.

To which I now turn to the backside of Bevo to offer my response. Let her rip, Big Boy!

One day we will have a playoff system. Had it been in place this year, it's impossible to know if Alabama would have won it, just as it was impossible to predict that Colt McCoy would be lost from his final college game on the first series of downs.

But we do know this. No team this year ran a gauntlet as fierce as Alabama. In this imperfect system, Bama played the second toughest schedule in the country. When other teams opened with patsies, the Tide risked it all with a big-time, out-of-conference opponent. They played a nearly perfect game against Florida, the team they had been measuring themselves against for two years. Alabama won 13 games to get to Pasadena. What happens when it gets to winner-takes-all always involves some flip of the coin.

Last night against gallant Texas, Alabama took what the game gave them, then took the game back when Texas had fought to the cusp of what would have been perhaps the greatest win in UT's gold-plated history.

Now, there are two undefeated teams. This isn't a movie. Boise and Alabama won't be sneaking out to an open field Sunday afternoon to settle things. And from this perspective, they don't have to. The Broncos had a terrific year, and will likely start the 2010 season ranked in the Top 5. That will put them into the position to finally break through into the Last Game. If they do, they'll put more pressure on the sport's powers to seriously reconsider how they pick their champion.

For now we'll have to settle for what we have. The great thing about our game is that every weekend matters. Every Saturday, some team gets exposed and culled from the list. And as good as Broncos were, they didn't play in the SEC, which every year demands more from its champion than any other conference. Does the SEC have a reserved seat in the title game? Maybe. That's because they've earned it -- they always win. Based on that alone, who can argue that the BCS would be even more of a joke without the SEC taking part.

Odds are an SEC school will be trying to make it five in a row in 2010. Florida, if Urban Meyer's born-again passion holds up, will be back with a new look and just as much talent. The fires burn brighter at Auburn and Tennessee. LSU and Georgia will be back.

But all of them now will be chasing Alabama. The Tide returns almost all its skilled players on both sides of the ball. Even Rolando McClain is said to be seriously considering a return to Tuscaloosa for the pursuit of a second ring. Besides, Alabama made more than enough mistakes last night to give their driven coach plenty to stew about over the summer.

Nick Saban looked miserable through much of the celebration. He was Larry Brown without the Armani, a haunted soul in a ruined shirt on high-def display. So maybe you don't want him as your neighbor. But there are millions of Alabama fans rapturously happy that Saban is their coach.

And it was clear, from his Gatorade bath to the hairline fracture of a smile he managed when handed the crystal trophy, that he has already begun thinking of next year.

Michael Gordon


Anonymous said...

"This morning, fans who couldn't find Boise State with Mapquest have grabbed the Broncos by the mane..."

Well, Mapquest sucks. It's the worst direction-finder on the web. I wouldn't hold that against them.

But seriously... There's nothing illegitimate about 'Bama's crown. There is the "what if" factor with BSU, much as there was for Auburn after the '04 season.

I'm not in that camp of those screaming for BSU, although I would love to see such a game, if for no other reason to see if BSU really is that good. The conference affiliation does count against them; they only played one decent opponent before facing TCU.

Anonymous said...

"the SEC must be stopped" is a bitter niche of fans, not the majority.

Michael said...
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Michael said...

Anon, a couple columnists actually expressed that point of view, and my Ohio State friend said the same thing before kickoff. (He actually views the SEC in a closeted awe, but just despises Alabama).

And check out a couple of the comments in the early Friday morning thread.

Extreme, probably, but not as much as we might think.

Bud said...

I wouldn't take Boise State and 21 points against Bama, Florida or Texas this year. The Broncos would probably have gone 4-4 in the SEC this year and that's giving them the benefit of the doubt. The 3 teams that finished behind them in the WAC were Nevada, Fresno St and Idaho. Anyone who seriously thinks BSU has any kind of claim on the national championship know nothing about college football. The Tide rolled and the SEC has now won the national championship 4 years in a row. Amazing! Correct me if I'm wrong but no conference has done that since the Big Ten in the 1930's.