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LSU Vs. Alabama: A Rematch Makes No Sense. Arguing Against One Does

While I think the chances of a rematch are remote at this point, I still think it's worth addressing. Even in the face of well-reasoned arguments (which I disagree with) that the rematch debate is pointless at this point.

And the reason that the rematch debate -- or the argument between "best" and "most deserving," if you prefer -- generally shouldn't be decided on a case-by-case basis. In other words, I don't think that a rematch is defensible in 99 cases out of 100.

I agree with Year2 on one thing: The best team does not always win a given game. In fact, it's part of my argument against a rematch -- more on that in a moment -- but I also think that we have to be careful when we go about trying to decide who the "best team" is.

The example of Florida vs. Michigan in 2006 is a perfect example of why. On one hand, I understand entirely the argument that Michigan looked like the better football team throughout the season -- the Wolverines didn't need the fingertips of Jarvis Moss to get past an average South Carolina team at home, for example. That said, I'm not sure that Michigan was the better (or worse) team in 2006.

It's very hard to compare teams from a variety of conferences in college football. There aren't enough games with common opponents to do that, and some of those teams would create a form of false results if we tried to compare them -- is it more impressive to clock Troy by 30 if you take your starters out after the first drive of the second half or by 40 if you take them out 10 minutes into the third quarter? Can we tell? And do we care?

Go back to Florida-Michigan. The two common opponents were Vanderbilt and Ohio State. Florida defeated Vanderbilt 25-19 in Nashville; Michigan won 27-7 in Ann Arbor in a typical Vanderbilt game-was-closer-than-score loss. Michigan lost by three (in a game that wasn't quite that close) at Ohio State. This being an SEC blog, we all know what happened when Florida played Ohio State for the national championship.

We can possibly guess from those results that Florida was the better team. But that might not be precisely true. Some might argue to this day that Michigan was the better team, and while I would love to hear the argument for that, I also don't rule out that you could potentially make a credible case.

To an extent, that's why I vote based on resume when it comes to the BlogPoll. Attempting to compare teams that  play vastly different styles of football in vastly different conditions and conferences is an errand in subjectivity that I'm not willing to undertake. Is judging the "most deserving" team also more than a little subjective? Sure. But you're buffering your assumptions to an extent by dealing with results instead of impressions, by what the teams did instead of what you thought while watching what the teams did.

Which brings us back to the rematch argument. After Saturday, we will have a result in a game played between Alabama and LSU. Whatever you think about whether that result is a false positive, it will be the only data point we will have from an objective comparison between the two teams. So the result matters, but what happens after that might matter even more.

Because, barring an almost epic collapse in the final stages of the season or an astounding upset against Georgia or South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, the team that wins Saturday is almost certainly going to be the SEC West champion and is likely going to hold the SEC title.

The other team will have won precisely nothing. Not the head-to-head game between the two teams, not the division, not the conference. In fact, if assume the winner is undefeated in conference play, the loser would end up being the only team in the history of the BCS to play in the championship game without winning at least a share of its division title. The only situation that even comes close is Nebraska in 2001, which went to the national championship game ahead of Colorado after losing the division on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

That matters. Not in an abstract, you can't be the best team in the country if you're not the best team in your conference sense. It matters because being a champion of a conference or a division matters. The only way it doesn't matter is if you want to destroy the value of the SEC Championship altogether.

If you've never heard me or an Arkansas fan on this site bring it up (gentle needling), my NFL team is the Atlanta Falcons. Would I rather have the Falcons win the NFC South or win a wild-card berth and then the Super Bowl? That's not even a question. Division championships long ago became purely symbolic distinctions for playoff seeding in the NFL. Conference championships only have value because they grant the winner entry into the Super Bowl.

A rematch in the national title game would open us up to the same absurd situation in a sport where things like conference championships matter a lot more. As an example only, Alabama would be the SEC Champion, but LSU would be the national champion. Never mind the fact that LSU couldn't even win its division. Never mind "best" -- how can the "most deserving" team at the end of the year be the one that fell short of every other goal it presumably had as a football team? The one that didn't go through as many tests as Alabama did to get to the BCS Championship Game in the first place?

In that way, the comparison to Florida vs. Florida State in 1996 is off-base. Florida still won the SEC Championship, in fact did so by winning another game after its loss to Florida State. And the Seminoles claimed the ACC title that year.

But using that game as an example also falls into the mistake of learning from history as it happened instead of learning from history as it could have happened. Remember that these were the Bowl Alliance days -- when an early version of the BCS still had not secured the cooperation of the Big Ten, the Pac-10 or the Rose Bowl. What if Florida had blown out Florida State in the first game and the Seminoles had gotten into the Sugar Bowl, because the No. 2 and No. 3 teams were both playing in the Rose Bowl, only to have the Seminoles beat Florida by three then?

Florida State, for your reference, only fell to No. 3 when Florida clubbed it in the Sugar Bowl. So the idea that they might have ended up ranked at least No. 4 had that happened in the regular season game is not laughable. And it could have even weathered a move to No. 5 in the interim, given that No. 3 Nebraska went on to lose its final game, one of the things that allowed Florida to move back into the Sugar Bowl.

There's also an issue of fundamental fairness here. How many times should LSU, to use the opposite example, have to beat Alabama to win the national championship? Given that games are fluky and the "best" or "most deserving" team doesn't always win, why should a team that's already beaten another team once have to run the risk of having the outcome of its national championship game be decided on a bad call or bizarre bounce of the ball against the same team? In the absence of another head-to-head game, you can at least say there's no way to know for certain what would have happened without the fluke. In this case, we might very well know what would have happened -- and it might make a mockery of the national championship (or a bigger mockery, for those who aren't fans of the BCS to begin with).

And, finally, it's not fair to the fans of either team or the sport in general. This game is getting too much hype, but it's still one of the most important regular-season games in the last five years. Everyone knows that it's going to be a special game, the kind of collision we literally get only once or twice a decade.

Part of that hype and importance comes from the knowledge that the next play could cost a team a chance at the national championship or propel it onto the sport's biggest stage. Part of what makes this game so great is that the stakes are so high.

A rematch takes all of that away. Is it really worth it?