By Dan Frasier
One undeniable fact about one-and-done tournaments is that they do not ensure the best team all season wins. We see it repeatedly in the NCAA tourney, in the NFL playoffs and even in baseball. (I know, I know – that’s not one and done. But still.) Upsets, matchups, hot teams and pure luck guarantee that teams like the 2007 Giants and nondescript b-ball programs will sometimes prevail. Whether they get hot and win the whole thing or just get hot one night and eliminate the best team in the tourney, we know that the complete body of work from the season will not be reflected in the later rounds of the tournament. I mean, for Tebow’s sake, does anyone believe that the Broncos are a better reflection of a season of work than the Steelers? OK, now I’m just getting worked up.
Back to the point. Until this year, the BCS was the best method in all of sports to ensure that the best team all season emerged as the national champion. The totality of a team’s body of work is what counts in getting to the title game and, until this year, that totality has most often played out in the result of the game. This year, that didn’t happen. So, now that we have sufficiently lauded ‘Bama for its wonderful performance and astounding defense in the national championship, let’s pay a little homage to what is possibly the best team to not win a title in college football history. (For our purposes, college football history will go back to 1987, which is the first year I remember watching it.)
In the 2011 season, LSU faced eight teams ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game. For this exercise, only those games will be looked at (lest one thinks the stats are padded by games against Middle Eastern Tennessee State for Blind Nuns). Alright, 8 of 13 games this season against ranked opponents? Wow. And the rankings at the time? Second, third, 12th, 16th, 17th, 19th and 25th. Six of those teams also finished the season ranked. (First, fifth, sixth, 16th, 23rd and 25th.) LSU beat the winners of the national championship game, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl plus the loser (barely) of the Outback Bowl. Five of these 8 games were on the road in front of a total of 383,027 hostile (and probably lubricated) onlookers. The combined scores of the games? LSU 284, Other 108. That’s right, including the nine points in the first Bama tilt, LSU averaged 35.5 points in these games and gave up an average of 13.5 … against ranked opponents! In 6 of the 8, the Tigers scored more than 40 points and held opponents under 20 another six times.
What an astonishing accomplishment to make a schedule that brutal look so easy. This year, LSU clearly was the best team in college football. Sadly, that fact didn’t play out in the national championship game.
About the author: Frasier should have mentioned Oklahoma State because he – like Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weedon – is a ginger. But he does have a soul.