Alabama vs. Oregon: What if, Part II?

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
9:32
AM ET
My Pac-12 colleague, Ted Miller, has an excellent piece on what should have happened and what probably would have happened had a playoff been in effect last season and the final spot came down to Alabama and Oregon.

Ted's assertion is that Oregon's resume would have been more impressive and that the Ducks would have deserved to go over Alabama, which ended up winning the 2011 title with a dominating 21-0 victory over previously unbeaten LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.

That said, Ted concedes that there would have been massive second-guessing around the country as to whether Oregon was really the "best" team when you start comparing the Ducks and Crimson Tide from a year ago.

In fact, Ted said he would have picked Alabama.

Why?

In his own words, it would have been "more a case of the Tide's freak zone talent on defense, the inexorable Trent Richardson and a coach in Nick Saban who can match wits with Chip Kelly."

I can honestly see how some would say that Oregon's overall resume was better than Alabama's going into the postseason. As Ted points out, Oregon beat both Stanford and USC, which would have trumped Alabama's two best regular-season wins over Arkansas and Penn State.

The fact that LSU had to go to overtime (and didn't even score a touchdown) in beating Alabama during the regular season certainly weighs in the Tide's corner when you consider that LSU beat Oregon 40-27 in the season opener in Arlington, Texas. Ted mentions how big turnovers were in that game (and they were), but that's what LSU did to everybody last season.

The reality is that this debate is exactly what we're going to get annually when a four-team playoff goes into effect in 2014. The "best" four teams may not always be the same as the "most deserving" four teams, especially if we have a committee of athletic directors and conference commissioners doing the picking.

Winning a conference championship should matter, but it shouldn't matter to the extent that a team as strong and dominant as Alabama last season is left out of the national championship equation.

My belief is that a selection committee last season would have included both Alabama and LSU along with Oklahoma State and Oregon in a four-team playoff. Stanford would have been the odd team out.

Even so, we can all hope that the human element involved with a selection committee will apply common sense in these scenarios and pick the "best" team. Yes, that's mighty subjective, and I would guess that we're going to see a set list of criteria (conference championships, key road wins, strength of schedule and success against common opponents) that the committee considers in making these selections.

But the whole concept of a selection committee is subjective, not to mention uncharted waters for college football.

It's not going to be perfect, and there will be years when the "best" team is left out, and there will be years when the "most deserving" team is left out.

Nonetheless, give me a four-team playoff any day over what we've had in the past.

Now, if we could only get it up to an eight-team playoff.

Chris Low | email

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