Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his team walk out to the field to play against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Getty Images)
CHAPTER 4: THE REMATCH
Alabama dropped from second to third in the BCS rankings after the loss. Most analysts believed for the Crimson Tide to have a shot at a rematch, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oklahoma and Stanford would all have to lose a game in the last month of the regular season—which is precisely what happened. The most unlikely upset occurred November 18, when 27-point underdog Iowa State beat No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in double overtime.
Alabama student reporter
I watched the Iowa State game at Buffalo Wild Wings in Tuscaloosa, and people cheered like it was an Alabama game. Then I went to the Strip, and every single bar was playing “Cyclone” in honor of Iowa State.
We were in the Hotel Capstone [in Tuscaloosa], staying the night before our game against Georgia Southern, when we found out that Iowa State had beaten Oklahoma State. The whole place erupted. People were yelling and pounding on walls. Players were running up and down the halls. It was a crazy scene.
I was winding down in my room in the hotel when I heard the guys running around. When I found out what had happened, I just felt a huge sense of relief. I didn’t blame myself for losing that LSU game, but I still felt disappointed in myself for not helping my team win the game.
When the final regular-season BCS rankings were released in early December, it became official: Alabama would play LSU in the Superdome for the national championship. In the rankings, the Crimson Tide narrowly edged Oklahoma State, the Big 12 champions who finished second in the majority of the computer rankings.
Eric Reid reacts after an interception against the Alabama Crimson Tide during a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Getty Images)
When we found out we had to play Alabama again, I was pissed. We had already beat them. Alabama didn’t even make it to the conference championship game, and now they get to play us again for the national title? I’ll be upset about that forever.
When we learned that we were playing LSU again, there was no doubt in our minds we were going to beat the hell out of them. They had escaped death once before, and it wasn’t going to happen again. I had never been so ready to put my hand in the dirt and destroy whatever was in front of me.
Alabama didn’t deserve to be in the national championship game. We certainly weren’t thrilled about playing them again. It’s hard to beat anyone twice. We knew we were going to have our hands full.
We definitely felt we deserved to be in the national title game. We played by the rules, and polls and computers put us there. We showed a lot of character winning our final games of the season after losing to LSU to put us in the position where we still could play for the national title.
Jeremy Shelley celebrates with the trophy after defeating LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game at the Superdome on January 9, 2012, in New Orleans. (Getty Images)
On January 9, 2012, in the Superdome, Alabama beat LSU 21-0. It was the first time in the BCS's history that teams from the same conference faced each other in the championship game. On offense, LSU advanced past the Crimson Tide’s 50-yard line only once. The game earned a paltry 14.0 rating on ESPN, which was the third-lowest for a title game in the BCS era. Two years later, beginning with the 2014 season, the BCS was replaced by the College Football Playoff.
I think us playing again for the national title was the straw that broke the camel’s back of the BCS system. It wasn’t fair that they got another shot at us, and I think the rest of the country knew that.
The old system worked perfectly for us, but the other conferences weren’t happy that it was two SEC teams that had played for the title. It was clear the system needed to change. We needed a playoff.
Alabama radio analyst
There was a lot of pushback from the other conferences about the rematch. People realized that to keep the interest of everyone in the nation for the final game, you needed to make sure that teams from all conferences had a chance to play for the national title. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the playoff system we have now, it’s going to be very difficult for two teams from the same conference to make the final four.
The fact that Alabama was given a second chance showed the flaws in the BCS system. I think that’s when people really realized that a playoff would be better than computers and polls determining who played for the national title. Alabama was awarded a chance they shouldn’t have had. I talk to Odell all the time about those two games. We had a chance to be considered one of the best teams of all time, but we just didn’t get that last one done.