One of college football’s biggest challenges, from an institutional perspective, has been its ability to crown a consensus national champion at year’s end. The first memory I have of controversy in this regard was the 1997 split championship between Michigan and Nebraska that precipitated the implementation of the BCS in 1998. (I don’t know if that decision actually precipitated the BCS, because that system may have been in the works already, but it felt that way at the time.) The BCS did not bring peace and happiness across the land, however, and the criticism that started then– I recall writing an editorial on the arbitrariness of BCS outcomes as sports editor of a newspaper in the early 2000s– has only grown in scope and volume, even reaching the halls of the U.S. Senate and the Department of Justice, and the favors it grants upon certain athletic conferences certainly has been part of the fuel for the conference realignment conflagration that burns to this day.
By some magic mix of scheduling, on-field performance, coaching, recruiting, and everything else that goes into making one particular football game happen the way it happens and mean what it means, though, we have been gifted a national championship game this year that really is as free from controversy as one could imagine, a matchup of two undefeated teams, either of which could be ranked #1, playing in the toughest division of the toughest conference in the country, and largely dominating their opponents to this point. On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, #1 LSU will meet #2 Alabama for what many see as the de facto national championship. The BCS’ noncomical Rube Goldberg machine may churn out a pairing at season’s end that will garner national consensus, but this Saturday’s game is a guarantee; it provides certainty and assurance, things the BCS largely has failed to give teams and fans since its inception.
In anticipation of this game, plan on daily coverage this week* from ALDLAND to get you ready for it.