(Let's consider this our Selection Sunday Open Thread as well.)
This really shouldn't be a debate.
If Texas or Oklahoma had identical seasons to the one Oklahoma State just completed, there's no doubt the Big 12 champion would be advancing to New Orleans instead of the SEC West runner-up.
And if Mississippi State or Ole Miss were sitting in the place Alabama now resides in, there's little question that the runner-up of the SEC West would not be in contention for a rematch with the SEC Champion in place of the one-loss champion of the deepest conference in the nation, circa 2011.
Unfortunately, pedigree matters. A lot. How good your program was in 1992 or 1978 or 1966 seems to be just as relevant to determining which team advances to New Orleans as how good your program is in 2011.
(And I write this as a Texas alum who knows full well that it benefits from this unspoken preference for the blue bloods of the sport.)
I fear this will be the biggest determining factor as to who plays LSU. Oh, that, and the fact that Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Never mind the fact that Iowa State is actually decent (note to SEC boosters: I said "decent," not "good" or "great," but nevertheless they are far from your 1-11 Cyclones of yore). If an SEC team had lost, on the road, in double overtime, to a bowl-bound team (on the same day tragedy struck your school's athletic department to boost), all we'd hear would be that this would be proof about how deep the conference was. But since this was Iowa State instead of Kentucky or Mississippi State, it's an awful loss. A seemingly disqualifying loss.
That's wrong. The champions of the Big 12 have earned their right to be there.
The runners-up of the SEC West had their chance. They didn't take advantage.
So do the right thing, voters. Vote Pokes.