Over at College Football News, a very nice and informative website that features one of my favorite college football writers, Pete Fiutak, they have been printing a roundtable discussion of various burning questions in college football. The roundtable includes another of my favorite college football writers, Bruce Feldman, among other lesser lights.
One of the first questions, and I know I'm a day late in getting to this is "Did LSU Deserve [The] Title?" For the most part, everyone answered "Yes," with some elaboration. Most of them make what I consider to be a cardinal mistake in focusing on losses.
Of course, I consider the conference championship to be a very serious matter, while the national championship is about fun, but when you're talking about a national championship, don't focus on losses. Focus on wins. If you're making a case for one team over another, don't start with, "We haven't lost." Start with who you've beaten.
This was why I had such a big problem with all the Kansas talk and the Hawaii talk last year. Kansas managed to have an 11-1 regular season, but until their bowl game, the best team they'd actually beaten was Kansas State. Their best team in decades managed to avoid playing Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, and they lost to Missouri in the final week of the regular season. Their non-conference schedule included Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo, and Florida International, hardly a Murderer's Row.
If you had asked a Kansas fan to tell us about their wins, they probably wouldn't remember any. Yes, your team looked awfully impressive beating Baylor's intramural squad and beating the ghost of Nebraska's top flight program. The only truly good team they played in the regular season beat them by more than a touchdown.
Hawaii was even worse. Yes, they went undefeated in the regular season, but the best team they played was 19th ranked Boise State, and they eked out close wins over Louisiana Tech (who was beaten convincingly by Ole Miss), San Jose State, Nevada, Fresno State, and Washington. The Washington Huskies, at 4-9 on the season, was the only BCS conference team they played, and Tyrone Willingham's group gave them a tough game. One of their 4 wins, incidentally, was against Boise State, Hawaii's toughest opponent. A championship resume this is not.
Hawaii may have failed to lose, but they also failed to win anything meaningful, and that in my opinion is the downfall of a national championship argument.
Taking LSU, sure we lost to Arkansas and Kentucky, but let's start with who we beat. We started the season by crushing a MIssissippi State team that would go on to a bowl game by a score of 45-0, and followed that up by beating future ACC Champion and national title contender Virginia Tech 48-7.
After those two games, we were never healthy on our defensive line again, and it showed. However, we still managed to beat a hot South Carolina team that was coming off a victory against Georgia. Then we beat future Heisman winner Florida in one of the greatest games of the year last year. Then we beat a solid Auburn team in another of the greatest games of the year last year. Then we went on the road and beat a ranked Alabama team that would, of course, tank the rest of the season. We then beat Tennessee with our best player a shadow of his former self and our backup quarterback playing the whole game. And finally healthier after a long layoff, we beat Ohio State in the BCSNCG by 14, and it wasn't really that close.
The point is, when you stack LSU's wins against other contender's wins, our 2 losses start appearing less significant. Kansas's best win (before their bowl win) was against K-State. We beat at least at least 5 teams that were better than K-State. Hawaii's best win was against Boise State. K-State is probably better.
This is why I believe that starting your national championship argument with, "We haven't lost a game," or, "We've only lost one game," is weak. It only encourages teams to avoid facing the best teams in the country if they want to win a national championship. After all, why go on the road to face USC if you're only risking getting that all-important "1" in the loss column? According to the, "It's all about your number of losses" crowd, a road loss to USC is just as bad as a home loss to Stanford, and a home win against La Tech is just as important as a road win against USC. Using that logic, schedule all the La Techs of the world and painstakingly avoid the risk of loss.
It's not a good argument, and it's not good for college football.