Nick Saban was the only SEC coach who separated his Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oklahoma State Cowboys by more than one spot on his USA Today Coaches Poll final ballot. Saban ranked LSU No. 1, followed by No 2 Alabama, one-loss Stanford at No. 3 and Oklahoma State at No. 4. When the ballots were made public yesterday, the news set off a firestorm of media criticism and even caused radio talk show host Paul Finebaum to jump on the bandwagon with the following Tweet:
Finebaum then joined fellow talking head and BCS ignoramus Tim Brando on the latter’s radio show, where the two went on and on with a tongue wagging tsk-tsk session taking Saban to task for trying to manipulate a system in which he had only one ballot.
By the way, Tim Brando fancies himself a fiscal conservative, having appeared on Sean Hannity’s Great American Panel on FOX News and elsewhere running his yap about how evil the BCS is. But Brando, like many sports media talking heads, doesn’t understand that the BCS is just free market capitalism at work.
But lest I digress too far, back to the allegedly nefarious and darkly underhanded deeds of Nick Saban.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not Mack Brown, smilin’ and dialin’ coaches and media members and brazenly politicking for votes to get his team in the BCS National Championship. This is a coach with skin in the game, but choosing the one-loss Stanford over the one-loss Oklahoma State is an easy argument to make for anyone voting in the poll.
Hell, my ten-year old daughter could make a case for ranking Stanford ahead of Oklahoma State. Stanford’s only loss was to the BCS’ 5th ranked team, Oregon. Oregon too would probably have been ranked ahead of Oklahoma State, except the Ducks have two losses—one to top ranked LSU and another to a USC team that, if eligible, would be a Top 10 team.
Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Where’s Iowa State ranked in the AP, USA Today or BCS standings, y’all? Go find’em and come back. We’ll wait.
According to the argument put forth by Finebaum, Brando and all the other talking heads, Saban gamed a system—a system in which he had only one vote—by ranking a better one loss team over an inferior one loss team. And as the argument goes, the only reason he did that was so that the inferior one-loss team would be denied the chance to play LSU for the BCS National Championship.
It is a specious argument and people like Finebaum, Brando et al should know better than to buy into it.
The debate should never come down to whether Alabama or Oklahoma State was the better one-loss team. The debate is whether Oklahoma State or Stanford deserved to be ranked No. 3. Saban and four other coaches gave the nod to Stanford, which was clearly the better team based on the quality of the opponent responsible for their only loss. It’s really very easy. If my 10-year old gets it, why the hell don’t Finebaum, Brando and all the other tongue waggers?
Saban is in a no-win situation with the media. He’s being castigated because a solid majority of coaches and Harris poll voters wanted a rematch, and his ballot was consistent with the consensus. His option was to rank Oklahoma State over a more deserving No. 3 Stanford and risk losing a shot at the title and an even worse media firestorm. That’s not happening in the worlds of 10-year olds or grownups.
The only reason he’s being singled out is because his team benefits from an outcome over which he had very little influence. That he had any influence at all may not sound fair to you, but that’s just too bad. Who told you life was supposed to be fair? A journalist?
Exit question: Do you think Nicholas Lou Saban gives one flying fook what people think of his ballot choice?