For a team with sky-high hopes, the Alabama football team’s loss to LSU this past weekend was a devastating one indeed.
Not only have the chances dimmed for the Crimson Tide to win the SEC West and, subsequently, the SEC itself, but now its hold on a BCS Championship Game invitation has slipped as well.
But it did not slip far – and justifiably so.
Following then-No. 2 Alabama’s baseball-esque 9-6 loss to No. 1 LSU last Saturday, many people thought – or at least hoped – Stanford would be able to leapfrog the Crimson Tide into the third position of the BCS rankings.
Alabama merely slipped one place, denying Stanford the chance of bettering its position to contend for a national title. Naturally, Cardinal fans felt ousted by this move from the admittedly nefarious BCS system. This time, however, that fiendish system actually got it right.
Stanford does not have any business being above Alabama any more than the Florida Panhandle does, and the reason is obvious.
Through nine games and victories this season, the Cardinal has played two ranked teams. Its highest ranked opponent – USC, which came in at No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll – tested Stanford to the brink in a 56-48 triple overtime game.
Its other contest against a ranked opponent, Washington, featured a convincing 65-21 victory. However, the Huskies rested on the fringe of the rankings – at No. 25 – and had to visit the Cardinal in their own stadium.
That is not exactly a simmering resume, especially when teams in the lower fifth of the national polls prove to be a hell of a test. Until Stanford plays No. 7 Oregon this upcoming Saturday, the proposition that the Cardinal could compete with Alabama, Oklahoma State or LSU is foolish.
The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, has proven itself week after week in the toughest conference in the college landscape. Alabama, which has played teams ranked No. 1, 12 and 14, has not allowed any opponents to score more than 14 points and has only allowed 10 points or more three times in nine games.
Stanford has succeeded in preventing less than 10 points or more just twice this season – against the likes of San Jose State and Colorado. So kudos to the Cardinal, I guess.
LSU is a team that averages 35.9 points per game and against Alabama, was reduced to nine points and zero touchdowns.
If just one of Alabama’s two kickers, Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster hadn’t caved in the biggest game of the year (hitting a combined two of six field goal attempts) the Crimson Tide would’ve won the “Game of the Century.” Quite simply, Alabama’s offense put itself in position to win more often than LSU did, and its two kickers failed to do their job.
It would be criminal to see Stanford, which plays in the milquetoast Pac-12 conference, leapfrog a proven squad after it loses to the No. 1 team in the country by three points.
As great of a game Alabama played against LSU Saturday and as great of a storyline LSU vs. Alabama II would be for a BCS title, these are five reasons why the Stanford Cardinal should be ranked No. 3 in the BCS ahead of Alabama right now.
The simplest reason Stanford deserves to be ranked ahead of Alabama right now is that the Cardinal is 9-0. It has long been the common rule that if only two BCS automatic qualifying schools remain undefeated for the entire season, those two teams should face off in the national title game. Temporarily forgetting No. 2 Oklahoma State, if the season ended today, Stanford would be robbed of that standard. If the BCS wants to avoid one more reason for a playoff in college football, rank Stanford ahead of Alabama.
Alabama lost at home, so it seems quite understandable why the polls reflect Alabama as more deserving of the No. 3 spot. Alabama and LSU played a close game; it was entertaining and it went into overtime. How could any other team play LSU, clearly the best team in the country, any closer? But do not forget Bama and LSU played in Tuscaloosa. Had the Tide lost on the road by three points in overtime, it would be a better argument, but the Tide lost at home. Why does Alabama deserve to be ranked No. 3 when it can’t even defend its home turf?
The Alabama defense is the biggest reason why the Tide is still regarded as one of the best teams in college football, and rightly so. But surprisingly, Stanford is no slouch on that side of the ball either. The Cardinal defense may simply be overshadowed by a phenomenal offense. Stanford falls in at No. 11 in scoring defense at 16.6 points allowed per game and third in rush defense just behind Alabama and LSU, allowing 78.9 rushing yards per game. But perhaps more impressively, the Cardinal defense stands above Alabama in one notable defensive category: sacks. Stanford ranks ninth, averaging 3.11 sacks per game, while Alabama falls to the middle of the FBS pack at No. 49 with just two sacks per game.
To complement the previous point, Stanford also ranks No. 1 in the country in sacks given up. At just 0.44 sacks allowed per game, Andrew Luck has been able to sit in the pocket long enough to shred defenses all season long. With such great pass protection, Stanford may prove able to move the ball even against a potential SEC foe like LSU.
It is interesting how this debate ties the Heisman Trophy and better positioning to win a national championship together. It is often argued that to win a Heisman you must be on a great – not just good – team to win. As of now, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is far and away the frontrunner for this year’s most prestigious award in college football. By not moving Stanford ahead of Alabama, the BCS is diminishing the brand of the Heisman Trophy, especially if Luck wins the trophy and Oklahoma State falls. The BCS would be stripping a great team, with arguably the best player in college football, of a chance to win a national title.
Alabama is very good, but it already blew its shot at greatness. Give Stanford’s lethal offense and surprisingly good defense the chance it deserves.