Les Miles has been saying all the wrong things for all the right reasons.
Let's face it: If LSU has to face Alabama again with the national title on the line instead of a half-championship in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers coach doesn't want to provide any bulletin-board fodder for the Crimson Tide to stew over two months from now.
So, it's only natural for Miles to keep insisting _ at least for public consumption _ that he wouldn't have a problem giving Team Saban another shot, even after LSU emerged from last weekend's throwback throwdown in Tuscaloosa with a 9-6 overtime victory.
But what the Mad Hatter can't say is Alabama should forget about a rematch.
The Tide had their shot. Now, it's time to move on.
Give us LSU-Oklahoma State. Or LSU-Stanford. Even LSU-Boise State. Just not the same game we've already seen.
"There's still a lot of other teams in the country," said Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. "The Stanfords and the Boises and everybody elses are great football teams as well."
Not that we would mind watching LSU and Alabama go at it again. For all those who insist the Game of the Century wasn't even the game of the night because neither team scored a touchdown, well, there's nothing wrong in these days of point-a-minute offenses to see two teams knock each other silly for 60 minutes and then some.
No, it wasn't pretty. There were penalties and interceptions and botched plays. But that's what happens when two of the most talented defensive teams of the last decade or more are pitted against one another. And you know what they say: Defense wins championships.
"Anyone not impressed with that game, I don't care," Miles said Monday. "Obviously you have not watched football for a length of time, care anything about defense, effort, speed to the ball or two teams that fought valiantly. If you didn't like that game, then tough."
Yep, either LSU or Alabama would make a worthy champion. No argument there. But the Tide doesn't get a do-over. Instead of prepping for a rematch, coach Nick Saban can devote his energy to finding a kicker.
The next two unbeaten teams in line _ Oklahoma State and Stanford _ aren't ready to start their full-scale lobbying efforts just yet.
"I don't really need to at this point," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "I would prefer to just continue with what we do each week and then get prepared and take care of our business on the field. That would be my first choice."
"I'm sure if business is handled," added Stanford star and Heisman favorite Andrew Luck, "we'll be in the situation that we'd like to be."
If, instead, the BCS formula produces an LSU-Alabama rematch, it would go against everything this convoluted system is supposed to be about.
OK, everyone, let's repeat after those misguided souls who support the outdated bowl structure: A playoff system would diminish the importance of the regular system, so that's why we've got to keep everything from the BCS championship game to the Beef `O'Brady's Bowl.
Well, what would it mean if the biggest regular-season matchup in years, only the 23rd such game between the AP's No. 1 and No. 2 teams, was actually just a warm-up for the real thing?
In essence, the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium was a playoff. Call it the semifinals. LSU won and moved on. Alabama lost and was eliminated unless a lot of crazy stuff happens. If the Tigers win out _ and the guess here is they will _ then it wouldn't be the least bit fair for them to have to beat a team they already defeated once, on the road no less.
"I doubt Saban is going to lose back-to-back games, especially to the same team," said former LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who now plays in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. "I'd like to see LSU against a different team _ Oklahoma State, Stanford."
LSU and Alabama might very well be the best teams in the country, but that's not the point. Unless the NCAA does what it should have all along _ set up a legitimate playoff system _ then this is what we've got.
The Crimson Tide (8-1) aren't giving up. When the latest BCS standings came out, Alabama had slipped only one spot, from second to third. Oklahoma State (9-0) moved up second, while Stanford (9-0) remained behind the Tide in the fourth slot.
"Who wouldn't want to see a rematch?" Alabama running back Trent Richardson asked, showing he's ready for a job on K Street. "That's probably the biggest game that you're ever going to see like that, unless we get a rematch."
Thankfully, Alabama isn't likely to get that second chance if either Oklahoma State or Stanford win out. The Cardinal may be behind at the moment, but their computer ranking figures to improve enough if they win their last three regular-season games, including Saturday's top 10 showdown with Oregon, plus pick up a 13th victory in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Things will get ugly, however, if everyone has one loss except LSU and, say, Boise State (and, yes, we know Houston is unbeaten, too, but let's not make this even more confusing than it already is). The Broncos' weak schedule might make it difficult for them to get past the Crimson Tide in the BCS standings, and that would be a real pity.
While we wholeheartedly agree that Boise State wouldn't put up such a gaudy record if it played in, say, the SEC or Big 12, the BCS-Busters have twice won major bowls. This season, they impressively defeated Georgia at the start of this season, knocking off the team that has the inside track to face LSU in the SEC championship game.
If everyone else falls by the wayside, the Broncos deserve their shot _ especially if the Bulldogs, beaten by Boise State, get a crack at LSU.
We'd much rather see Boise State star Kellen Moore against that fearsome LSU defense than Tigers vs. Tide, The Sequel.
Granted, it might not be another Game of the Century. Might even be a blowout.
But at least it was the right thing to do.
AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez and Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Jeff Latzke in Stillwater, Okla., John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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