Flashback Friday: Would the 2011 season have been different with the college football playoff?

The Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers had their first meeting way back in 1895. Alabama holds the edge in the series 48-25-5, with the Tide winning three straight and five of seven. This has been a long rivalry with twists and turns, but I want to focus on the recent 2011 season in which the teams met twice. It’s worth asking: Could a 2011 scenario become more of the norm with the College Football Playoff?

With both teams sitting at 8-0, the No. 1-ranked LSU Tigers met the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in a game some dubbed the “Game of the Century.” The game was a hard-fought defensive struggle in which the Tigers prevailed, 9-6.

The game was not without some controversy, as LSU’s Eric Reid came down with this interception that originally looked like a catch by Alabama’s Michael Williams:

After that win over Alabama, LSU destroyed the rest of its opponents. The Tigers plowed WKU, 42-9. They bombed Ole Miss, 52-3. They blitzkrieged No. 3 Arkansas, 41-17, and they used an avalanche in the second half to beat No. 12 Georgia, 42-10, in the SEC Championship Game.

After the “Game of the Century,” LSU cruised into the BCS National Championship Game with a smooth 13-0 record. The Alabama game was one of a select few bumps in the road. The drive to the BCS title game was a largely comfortable ride for Les Miles.

After the loss, the Tide regrouped and won at Mississippi State, 24-7, and then beat Georgia Southern, 45-21. In their regular-season finale, they took down a mediocre Auburn squad, 42-14. It was hardly the three-game resume to enable a team to boomerang into the BCS National Championship Game after a November loss, but…..

In week 12, No. 2 Oklahoma State lost, 37-31, to Iowa State. No. 4 Oregon fell to No. 18 USC, 38-35. No. 5 Oklahoma lost to No. 25 Baylor, 45-38 (also known as the game that won RG3 the Heisman).

Not to mention that in the previous week, No. 3 Stanford lost to No. 6 Oregon, 53-30, and No. 5 Boise State lost to TCU, 36-35.

A lot had to happen before we got a rematch for the national championship between the undefeated SEC champion LSU Tigers and a one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide team whose loss happened to come at the hands of the Tigers. Was it fair to ask the Tigers to beat the Tide one more time?

As it turned out, the Tigers came into the game flat and the Tide came in highly motivated. Alabama beat LSU, 21-0, in a game that turned into a study in futility for the Tigers. LSU earned just 5 first downs and gained only 92 yards of total offense.

The Crimson Tide were grateful for the rematch opportunity, but the general public didn’t respond to the matchup. That game posted one of the worst ratings in the BCS era.

Now that the NCAA has expanded its field to four teams for the College Football Playoff, it’s much more likely we’ll see a rematch as we did during the 2011-2012 season. However, is that good for college football and for the playoff?

Would fans be interested in seeing a Michigan State-Oregon rematch? Will an Auburn-Mississippi State or Alabama-Mississippi State rematch be of interest? Probably not.

One rematch I believe would garner interest for this season is Florida State-Notre Dame, due to how the regular-season game ended, especially if it was a national semifinal (given that both teams win out).

Should the committee take this into consideration when it decides on the four teams that will be in the playoffs?

If there is a possibility for a rematch, should committee members go ahead and make sure that game is slotted for a semifinal game instead of giving it a chance to be for the national championship?


Another interesting question to pose is how would the 2011-2012 season have played out if we had the College Football Playoff during that season?

Heading into bowl season here were the top four teams:

No. 1 LSU

No. 2 Alabama

No. 3 Oklahoma State

No. 4 Stanford

If you look at this straight up then you have these semifinals:

LSU vs. Stanford

Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Or, the committee could have looked at the potential rematch and given it to us in the semis in this form:

LSU vs. Alabama

Oklahoma State vs. Stanford

Would that have drawn more interest from the fans?

On the national level I definitely think it would have, especially with the anti-SEC sentiment that was starting to grow within the non-SEC parts of the college football world.

Would LSU have been more motivated knowing that if it beat Alabama again, it would have an entirely new challenge in front of them in the national championship game?

That’s one thing to keep an eye on with the committee. Will the 12 people in the room stick solely with the rankings, or will they jostle around a position or two to potentially avoid an unpleasant rematch in the semifinals?

I am a proponent of the College Football Playoff, but I’m also skeptical of the committee. In the first year of this new system, the season is certainly playing out like it’s going to make the committee’s job very difficult. Despite having a rematch between two rivals, the 2011-2012 BCS National Championship Game didn’t resonate with college football fans. Let’s hope the committee can learn from the past when deciding the final four in year one.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.