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November 15, 2011

HURT: Too early to worry about voters

Think about where college football was three weeks ago, and that will tell you exactly how much energy should be devoted to the Bowl Championship Series right now.

Pundits all over the nation are trying to speculate about hypothetical voting patterns based on games that haven't been played yet. Some representatives of one-loss teams are touting the virtues of their body of work - even when no team in the country has a body of work that is complete. And absolutely none of it matters, if LSU and Oklahoma State win their remaining games.

That's the position Alabama has put itself in. Two teams in America control their own destiny, and Alabama isn't one of them. There is some chance that the Crimson Tide can regain that control, but it will require luck, and winning games, and Alabama isn't in charge of the luck.

The other part of the equation - winning games - is the only thing Alabama does control, as Nick Saban said in his Monday press conference.

"I don't really care about (BCS speculation)," Saban said. "I mean, I've been sitting in that room for two days watching film, trying to get enough guys on a pitch guy. You figure it out and come tell me what it is, because I don't know, and don't really care. All I know is that we just need to take care of what we control, and what we control is how we play. My contribution to that is how we get the team ready to play. So I couldn't care less about that because I don't understand it to start with."

That left some observers surprised. Saban, they felt, should have been on the campaign stump, talking about the most painful topic possible - the narrowness of Alabama's loss to LSU. But expecting Saban to treat the final two weeks of the regular season as if they were the buildup to the Iowa caucuses is a miscalculation of both the timing of the BCS selection and the electorate that must be swayed.

First, the chances are good that Alabama's regular season will end on Nov. 26. (It seems more mathematically likely that Alabama will make it to New Orleans for the BCS Championship Game than to Atlanta for the SEC title game, based on the quirks of the SEC's tiebreaker system.) Every other potential BCS finalist will likely be in action on Dec. 3, when the SEC and Pac-12 play their title games and Oklahoma faces Oklahoma State. Those games will garner lots of attention, but in every pregame show, or halftime report, Saban can (and should) be available to discuss the merits of his own team's case, with its full body of work on display. That will provide plenty of publicity, if the Crimson Tide's performances merit a trumpeting (neither Georgia Southern nor Auburn will be easy opposition.)

Furthermore, one has to make the assumption that the voters - the coaches voting in the USA Today poll, or the varied assemblage that votes in the Harris Poll - will actually do their job. That means they are analysts, not matchmakers. They should vote for the best teams as No. 1 and No. 2, without trying to make the "best matchup" under some set of rules other than those of the BCS. Hopefully, that will be the only agenda at work. That doesn't mean that Alabama will be one of the two deserving teams at the end of the year - there is too much football to be played to guess at that. And it's futile to worry too much about it until December.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0225.




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