Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Split National Championship?

Right about now, many LSU fans -- and by extension, some SEC fans -- have worked themselves up into a tizzy about the possibility of a split national championship.

Gulp, that's right, it's possible that the AP will decide not to go along with the winner of Monday night's BCS title game and declare its own champion, a la 2003.

And yep, the potential perp, again, is the damned three-letter word that Geaux Tigers fans hate to utter ... U-S-C.

If Ohio State wins the game, there would be no doubt that the Buckeyes will be crowned champion by the AP, by virtue of being only one of two 1-loss BCS teams (the other being Kansas). If LSU wins, then things might get messy.

A Tigers win, especially one in which they struggle, will force the voters to ponder their ballots and make adjustments. Up to six teams (LSU, USC, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia) would get consideration for the No. 1 vote. But if the voters decide to discriminate against teams that failed to win their conferences (and they will), then the choices are LSU, USC and West Virginia.

You can forget about the Mountaineers right now. Only seven of the 65 voters have WVU higher than ninth in the final regular-season poll. In short, it's just too high of a mountain to climb.

USC? Well, 20 voters have the Trojans second, third or fourth on their last ballot. These people conceivably might move USC up to No. 1 after its demolition of Illinois at the Rose Bowl.

But that won't be enough. Not even close. In the last poll, LSU received 11 first-place votes (to USC's none) and 27 others voted Tigers No. 2. So at the very least, the Tigers can count on nearly 40 first-place votes in the final AP poll, thus ensuring a non-split.

Should the Tigers win Monday night, they will be the consensus champion. And who should they thank? Well, that must start (and end) with the good folks at the Tournament of Roses.

With the first pick after losing Ohio State to the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl could've secured a USC-Georgia matchup. Even though the Rose needed to receive permission from the Sugar to get the Bulldogs, it never bothered to ask. Mind you, that the Sugar Bowl probably would've exercised its veto power for fear of diluting the title game it was also to host, that also wouldn't have prevented the Rose from scoring either No. 6 Missouri or one-loss Kansas.

Any of those three teams would've made for a more compelling matchup than the one involving the outclassed Illini. As impressive as its 49-17 victory was, USC will not gain enough traction to make the quantum leap to No. 1 in the AP poll.

This is not 2003, when USC was the clear No. 1 team in both AP and coaches polls at the end of the regular season. This time, the Trojans dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of it.

So, relax, LSU fans. Wipe that white foam from the edge of your mouth and have some gumbo: It's not gonna happen.

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