Ryan Blackwell was a true freshman in 2007, so he remembers first-hand the near miracle string of dominoes that had to fall for the LSU Tigers to reach that season’s BCS National Championship game.
Seventh in the BCS standings after a regular season-ending loss to Arkansas, LSU needed a win over Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship game and losses by BCS No. 1 Missouri and BCS No. 2 West Virginia to even have a shot of reaching the final top two. Then, the Tigers also had to leapfrog No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Kansas and No. 6 Virginia Tech.
All of that played out in LSU’s favor, as the Tigers vaulted to No. 2 in the final BCS standings and beat No. 1 Ohio State for the national title in New Orleans.
With four weeks to go, LSU doesn’t need help from anyone.
No. 1 in the BCS standings all four weeks they have been released, the Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SEC) know they just need to win four more games and they will be in the BCS National Championship game, which again is in New Orleans, this time on Jan. 9.
“It’s always a big thing,” Blackwell said. “Doesn’t matter what sport you’re in. You always want to control your own destiny. It takes stress off, not having to worry about someone else losing or winning.”
While the Tigers don’t need any favors, they may also not have any margin for error.
Right behind LSU are two strong unbeaten teams — 9-0 Oklahoma State at No. 2 and 9-0 Stanford at No. 4 — both sandwiched around 8-1 Alabama, a 9-6 overtime loser to LSU on Saturday.
Assuming LSU and Oklahoma State win out, the Tigers and Cowboys would play for the national title. But little is ever certain in the BCS standings, where drama has been the watchword virtually each and every season.
“I love what (Oklahoma State coach) Mike Gundy said after his game Saturday,” said BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. “He said every week in college football is like March Madness.
“It’s true. It’s the most meaningful and compelling regular season in sports.”
If the regular season were truly a playoff, then LSU’s victory over Alabama may have been an actual elimination game.
Instead, the Crimson Tide is quite alive in the BCS picture, even if it is a tiebreaker down to LSU in the race to represent the SEC West in the conference’s championship game Dec. 3 in Atlanta.
Just like in 2003, when Oklahoma lost the Big 12 Championship game to Kansas State and still played LSU for the BCS title in the Sugar Bowl, there are no stipulations that say a team must win its conference to play in the BCS championship game.
“The BCS is designed to match the top two teams in the country. Period,” Hancock said. “Once you add conditions onto that you reduce the chance of having the top two teams meet.”
No teams from the same conference have played for the national title in the 13-year history of the BCS. Florida State and Virginia Tech met in January 2000, but Virginia Tech was in the Big East then.
If Alabama wins Saturday at Mississippi State, ESPN BCS analyst Brad Edwards said it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Crimson Tide back at No. 2 as early as this week.
Stanford hosts BCS No. 7 Oregon (8-1), while Oklahoma State is at Texas Tech (5-4), which upset preseason No. 1 Oklahoma 41-38 on Oct. 22.
“It very well could happen,” Edwards said. “There’s a chance we could be sitting here Sunday looking at Alabama back at No. 2 again.”
LSU’s players are mixed in their reaction to the possibility of a rematch with Alabama should the Tigers make it to the championship game.
“That’s a good quality team,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said of the Crimson Tide. “Being a player, you like to play against top-notch talent. If the chips happened to fall that way, I wouldn’t mind.”
Defensive tackle Michael Brockers would.
“I don’t think I want to play Alabama gain,” he said. “I’d rather play somebody else. But if we have to play Alabama gain, we’d play Alabama again.”
“Me personally, I’m more on the side of they’ve had their shot,” Blackwell said. “It’s always hard to beat a team twice in one season. But we’re up to the challenge.”