BCS in 2011: No league supremacy settled

STILLWATER, Okla. -- You'll have to excuse Oklahoma State for failing to riot after national television told them that Alabama would be playing LSU in the national championship.

An hour before the show began, Mike Gundy gathered his team and told them that they'd likely have to settle for No. 3 in the BCS.

"Good news travels fast," Gundy said, employing a bit of dark humor.

Maybe a few players held out hope until the news was official, but Stillwater's Sunday hopes were crushed well before the difference of .009 points between the Cowboys and Crimson Tide was revealed.

"We knew, and the way Twitter works, you hear stuff early," said quarterback Brandon Weeden, aka @bweeden3.

But don't feel sorry for the Cowboys, especially Weeden, who recently changed his photo on the social networking site to one of him hoisting the Big 12 trophy.

The disappointment is obvious, but it's not the only emotion that came with Sunday's announcement that the Cowboys would meet Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012.

"I'm still extremely excited," Weeden said, noting the title and the opponent it came against: Oklahoma. "For me, living in Oklahoma, that's sweet."

They'll take a trip out to the desert and be wined and dined for a week, playing in a BCS bowl for the first time ever after winning their first Big 12 title ever.

"I've been to Scottsdale. I love Scottsdale. I'm taking my sticks and I'll play a little golf," said Weeden, a walk-on for Oklahoma State's golf team. "It's going to be fun."

It will be.

You know what won't be fun?

The national championship game, because Oklahoma State isn't in it.

Feel sorry for the Cowboys if you must, but the biggest losers on Sunday night were college football fans everywhere, especially those from Big 12 and SEC country. People will accept the SEC as the best league, but it won't have what's become an annual opportunity to prove it. There will always be whispers.

Another off-the-field battle rages nearly every season, and unlike Florida and Oklahoma in 2008, followed by Texas and Alabama in 2009, fans won't get a chance to see it settled.

"The debate's gone on all year about the defense in the SEC and the offenses in the Big 12, and we had a chance to settle that," Gundy said. "That's what's really disappointing to me."

And the rest of us, too.

The SEC settled that debate at the Orange Bowl in 2009 and at the Rose Bowl in 2010. Both wins were by double digits, though Texas Heisman finalist Colt McCoy checked out of the championship early with a freak shoulder injury that left his arm limp.

The Superdome could have been the site of an epic third chapter of the Big 12 vs. the SEC, one more chance for the SEC to assert its dominance, puff out its chest and chant "S-E-C!" for the world to hear.

That, or an opportunity for the Big 12 to offer up a "Big 12!" chant of its own, followed up by a, "You may take our teams, but you'll never take our freedom! Or championship rings."

It won't happen.

And as lovers of college football, with all its warts and infuriating computer formulas, we won't get to watch it. Instead, Alabama and LSU will stifle one another for 60 minutes with identical styles and near identical teams in a low-scoring game with an over/under of 16 decided by one or two plays.

Their first matchup was decided by field goals. Four of them actually. Those were all the ones missed by Alabama, including one in overtime.

The eye test? Gundy says he doesn't know what that means.

"That would have done it for Secretariat, I guess," he said.

His solution? Gundy was half-joking, but he suggested a friendly "scrimmage" between Oklahoma State and Alabama.

"I'm sure Coach Saban would like to do that, too. He likes to play," Gundy said. "If somebody can Google halfway between here and Tuscaloosa, in a couple weeks, we could have a scrimmage. Let's have some fun."

That halfway point? Little Rock, Ark., a city that has a 54,000-seat stadium that SEC member Arkansas plays in twice a season.

Gundy made it clear his comments weren't intended to disrespect the tradition-rich Crimson Tide, a factor that helped Alabama grab the No. 2 spot in the BCS.

"People see the SEC different than they do any other conference, and it's deservingly so, because they have won in the big game," he said. "But, in my opinion, from top to bottom, the Big 12 is the strongest league in the country this year."

In my opinion, too.

But we'll never know for sure.