Friday, January 6, 2012

of split national championships and coaching cliches

Greetings from game day in New Orleans. We've been here since late Friday, have eaten way too much outstanding food — seriously, if I lived here I'd weigh 450 pounds — have drunk some fantastic drinks, and have heard "Roll Tide" and "Geaux Tigers" enough for (at least) two lifetimes. Today, we're told, there is a football game.

It's a game nobody, outside of Alabama (and the city of New Orleans), really wants to see. There's the strong possibility that, no matter what happens tonight inside the Superdome, Alabama will only claim a share of the national title.
In a system that continues to defer to polls and resumés, there is virtually nothing Alabama can do short of ritually sacrificing the Tigers to the sun that can make its season better than LSU's season. At best, the Crimson Tide can only pull even. In which case a split crown is not only possible, but preferable — you know, if every game counts. If BCS commissioner Bill Hancock really believed that cliché, he'd take advantage of an Alabama win by inviting both teams to share the postgame stage and congratulate them on fighting to a season-long draw. Since he can't do that, maybe the AP will.
In short, it seems like a no-win situation. (Except for me, since I've had blacked fish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, beignets and gumbo in the last two days. I'm doing OK.)

One of my favorite cliches in coaching is the notion that a team should "control what we can control." Alabama can't control what happened in November; it can't control that it doesn't have a division championship or SEC championship; it certainly can't control what Associated Press voters do in the game's aftermath.
But that's not really important. What's important is the 60-minute period from the game's outset until the final whistle, and whether Bama can make the most of that chance. Win the game, and — outside chatter be damned — this team will have finished 13-1 in the nation's best conference, and will be (at the very least) co-national champions. Here, I'll let Cecil sum it up:

The fact, however, is that the time for debate is over. Two tremendous teams are poised to play. A million words were written and spoken about this matchup in November. A hundred million, it seems, have been written or spoken in the past week in New Orleans.
Finally, they don't matter.
Thank God. And Roll Tide.

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