For the first time in NCAA history, the title game features two teams from the same conference — the SEC. Now, the way the NCAA chooses its top-ranked teams has always been a bit of a black art. It used to rely on polls of sports writers and coaches. Now, it has a complicated formula tied to wins, losses, quality of opponent played, margin of victory and whatnot that gets calculated by computer down to the nth decimal point.

This year, the two teams that got spit out at the end were the LSU Tigers  and Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tigers were the only team to go undefeated this year (13-0), and heading into bowl season they were indisputably the #1 ranked team in the nation, so they were a lock for the game.

Alabama finished 12-1, with their only loss coming at home against the Tigers 9-6 in OT on Nov. 5. And their selection rankled fans of other teams who enjoyed solid seasons. Particularly aggrieved were supporters of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. They finished 11-1 this year, and trounced state rival Oklahoma Sooners 44-10 in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 3.

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the nod. Instead, they played the fourth ranked Stanford Cardinals led by Heisman-winning QB Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2. The ‘Boys eeked out a 41-38 victory in OT.

Like ‘Bama and them, the Cardinals were 11-1 this year. And while the victory is a feather in their cap, it wasn’t overwhelming in any way, so it doesn’t really buttress any argument Oklahoma State might be inclined to make should LSU happen to get blown out by ‘Bama tonight that regardless of what the rankings said they were the best team in NCAA football this season. Not that that’s likely to happen anyway. LSU is playing in nearby New Orleans, and since beating ‘Bama in early November they’ve only improved as a team.

 Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m.