Seven seasons have passed since one of the biggest controversies of college football’s BCS era took place, and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is still sore about it.
Gundy, in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN, still maintained his 2011 Oklahoma State team would have beat LSU in the national championship game – if only his Cowboys had been given the chance.
“We would have played LSU and won,” Gundy told ESPN. “They were an overload-the-box, man-to-man team on defense, and you could not play our team in man that year. We were too good. That still bothers me, that we didn’t get a shot.”
Oklahoma State, of course, finished the season ranked third in the BCS standings after an improbable 37-31 overtime loss to Iowa State, which eventually finished the season 6-7. That opened the door for Alabama, which lost a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup with LSU previously that year, to rematch the Tigers in an all-SEC national title game. This, despite the Tide being idle in the final week of the season while No. 3 Oklahoma State whipped No. 10 Oklahoma 44-10.
Gundy can say whatever he wants about how his team matched up to LSU, but the fact is his team couldn’t finish against a vastly inferior Iowa State, which is ultimately what cost his team the chance to play (the Cowboys finished the season 12-1 after beating No. 4 Stanford 41-38 in the Fiesta Bowl). That said, it would have been fun to see how Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon measured up against Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and company.
“And if the system was set up like it is now, we would have been in the Playoff, Gundy said. “I guess those things don’t drive me as much. I love for our kids to have success, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t dwell on it like I used to.”
Ironically, it was that all-SEC title game (and, by extension, OSU’s loss to the Cyclones) that sounded the death knell of the BCS. It lasted only two more seasons, with the inaugural College Football Playoff debuting in 2014. Had it been in place in 2011, the Cowboys would have played Alabama in a semifinal – regardless of who was ranked No. 2 or 3 – while top-ranked LSU took on No. 4 Stanford in the other.
An unfortunate circumstance of the BCS system, but one that creates one heck of a what-if scenario.