NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Alabama’s convincing victory in the BCS championship wasn’t enough to convince all 60 Associated Press college football poll voters that the Crimson Tide is No. 1.
Four members of the media panel had Oklahoma State at No. 1, and Erik Gee, of KNML-AM in Albuquerque, N.M., picked LSU — as he said he would before the game.
“I was a lot closer than I thought I would be to changing my mind,” Gee said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “I don’t think I necessarily felt good about voting for LSU. But I also didn’t feel good about voting for Alabama. I stared at the computer for 10 minutes. It wasn’t an easy decision.”
Alabama (12-1) was an overwhelming No. 1 in the final Top 25, receiving 55 votes. LSU (13-1), which beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime on the road in November and played a much tougher schedule than the Tide, finished second and Oklahoma State (12-1) was third.
The USA Today coaches’ poll had the same top three, but those voters are contractually obligated to put the winner of the BCS title game No. 1 on their ballots. While there have been occasions when coaches have ignored the rule, it was not the case this season. Alabama received all 59 first-place votes.
Only once in the last five years has the final AP No. 1 been unanimous. Unbeaten Alabama received all 60 first-place votes after the 2009 season.
The Crimson Tide’s 21-0 victory Monday night at the Superdome didn’t sway Gee, but it did persuade two other AP voters who had said they expected to vote LSU (13-1) No. 1 even if the Tigers lost.
“The score says it all,” Joe Giglio, of the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., said in an email early Tuesday morning.
Giglio ended up voting Alabama No. 1.
Seth Emerson, of The Macon Telegraph in Georgia, was also leaning hard toward keeping LSU in the top spot.
“My thinking was I was going to keep the Tigers No. 1 unless they got trounced — and they did,” he said.
Emerson, however, ended up giving Oklahoma State his first-place vote, along with Matt Markey, of The Toledo Blade in Ohio, Steve Conroy, of the Boston Herald, and Scott Wolf, of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Big 12 champion Oklahoma State finished its season with a 41-38 overtime victory against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl last week, and many fans believed the Cowboys should have played LSU instead of Alabama getting a second chance to beat its Southeastern Conference rival.
But when the final BCS standings were posted in December, the Tide was second behind LSU and just ahead of Oklahoma State. The AP Top 25 isn’t part of the formula used to determine the championship matchup.
Emerson had Oklahoma State second and Alabama third in his final regular-season rankings, and said the Cowboys had done enough to stay ahead of the Tide after both won bowl games.
“OSU wins and drops a spot?” he said.
Emerson said Oklahoma State had more quality victories than Alabama, and as good as the Tide is defensively, the Cowboys were as impressive on offensive.
“All I know is every time I saw them, Oklahoma State scored points,” he said. “I think Oklahoma State would give Alabama a hell of a game.”
Emerson would like to see changes in the Bowl Championship Series that would allow more than just two teams to play for the national title in the postseason.
That sentiment was prevalent in comments made by all five voters who didn’t roll with the Tide.
“I thought Oklahoma State played a better overall schedule than Alabama and deserved a share of the title if LSU lost,” Wolf said in an email. “The fact that Alabama got a second shot at LSU influenced my decision because it is tough to beat the same team twice.
“It’s not Oklahoma State’s fault the BCS system denied them a chance to play in the title game.”
Conroy said his “gut feeling” was Oklahoma State’s offense, which was third in the nation at 550 yards per game, would have prevailed against Alabama’s top-ranked defense, which allowed 183 yards per game.
“It would have been a great game and it would be nice to see a plus-one system in the future,” he said.
The plus-one is a four-team playoff BCS officials say they to plan to consider as the future format for the postseason.
Gee said he gave LSU the top spot as a reward for “their full body of work.”
LSU won the SEC title by beating No. 19 Georgia in the league championship game, and won six games away from home, including wins over No. 4 Oregon and No. 17 West Virginia. None of the top three teams faced as tough a schedule. And the Tigers did split with Alabama.
Gee insisted this was not a protest vote against the BCS or a way to get attention.
“This was not a publicity stunt,” he said. “This is my opinion.”
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP