Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 3, 2012

Good fortune has Alabama back in title tilt


---- — BCS officials should send out Thank You cards to Stanford and Baylor today.

Those two teams took the BCS off the hook a couple weeks ago and made for a drama-free Sunday night announcement that Notre Dame and Alabama will play for the national title.

Can you imagine the uproar that would have erupted in South Bend and Tuscaloosa had Oregon and Kansas State finished 12-0 and atop the BCS standings? And who could have blamed them?

You almost have to be perfect to get a shot at the title. Defending champion Alabama appeared dead in the water after a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 10. But a week later — after Stanford's 17-14 comeback win over Oregon and Baylor's 52-24 thumping of Kansas State — the Crimson Tide were unexpectedly back in play for a BCS berth.

Some coaches don't like to use the word "luck" in describing wins. They prefer to say "they put themselves in position to win."

But luck had something to do with this Notre Dame-Alabama pairing.

How else do you explain Notre Dame's 26-23 triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh? The Panthers missed a 33-yard field goal that could have won it. If Pitt converts, it's Florida playing Alabama in another all-SEC finale.

And, speaking of luck, the same day Texas A&M stunned the Crimson Tide, Florida escaped an upset by blocking a game-winning field goal attempt and returning it for a touchdown with two seconds left to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20.

If there's a team muttering "what if" it has to be Oregon. The Ducks had Stanford down at home with under two minutes to play. It took a replay and an overturned call on a TD catch to tie the game, then the Ducks missed a field goal on their possession in overtime and that was the opening Stanford needed.

Traverse City West's Jake Fisher, Oregon's starting right tackle, was that close to playing for the national title.

About the only controversy Sunday night was the selection of Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl. But you know what? Good for the Huskies, good for the MAC. Rules were set in place — finishing in the top 16 and ahead of the champion of a qualifying conference — to give mid-majors a shot at a BCS bowl.

Some will argue a team like Oklahoma is better and more BCS worthy than Northern Illinois. It's hard to dispute that. But the Sooners had their chance. They played two BCS teams at home — Notre Dame and Kansas State — and lost them both.

I think it's only right to give teams that play outside the major conferences a shot — slim as it seems — at the BCS.

Northern Illinois met all the criteria. The Huskies deserve to be Miami bound.

One thing I don't like is that teams that lose in conference championship games are all but shunned by the BCS, regardless if they're the second best team in that league. Suddenly, the second best team is no more than the third or fourth best in the bowl scenario. Just ask Georgia. The Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC final, then lost out to Florida for a Sugar Bowl berth, even though Georgia beat Florida during the season.

It happened to Michigan State last season.