It’s been a great ride for the Southeastern Conference – seven straight national titles from four different programs, a ridiculous run of dominance.
But it’s on the verge of being over.
With the revealing of the penultimate BCS standings Sunday night, it looks like the SEC will need help to extend its title run to a great eight. The league of champions will need either No. 1 Florida State to lose to Duke (no way) or No. 2 Ohio State to lose to Michigan State (possible) in their respective conference championship games to get into the title game this year.
Auburn’s unforgettable, last-second, 109-yard touchdown to beat Alabama moved the Tigers into third in the BCS standings. But third won’t get Auburn to Pasadena on Jan. 6 to play for the crystal football. And the gap between the Buckeyes and the Tigers is significant enough that it will be difficult to close when the final standings are released next week. It likely would take more than Ohio State winning ugly; it likely would take a loss.
[Photos: Auburn fans celebrate]
Ohio State is No. 2 in all three elements of the BCS formula: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Poll and the composite computer rankings. Auburn is third across the board. Missouri, also 11-1 and Auburn’s opponent Saturday in the SEC title game, is fifth in the BCS.
At 12-1, the SEC champion should have a legitimate argument to get into the title game – whichever team it is. But 13-0 Florida State and Ohio State are very likely to get the nod, despite playing in demonstrably weaker conferences.
If all hell breaks loose – the Seminoles and Buckeyes both lose – then the SEC wins big. Get ready for an all-SEC championship game for the second time in three years.
There is the possibility of Alabama Armageddon: a Crimson Tide-Auburn Tigers rematch of the breathtaking Iron Bowl played Saturday. If Auburn beats Missouri. Or we could have an all-SEC final between the Tide and Mizzou.
(We won’t even consider the permutations that could result if Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston is charged this week with the felony sexual assault of which he's being accused. If that happens, throw the whole thing in the shredder. The investigation of Winston is important for reasons far bigger than football, but it’s also the ultimate BCS X-factor.)
But for now, Ohio State is the big winner from Alabama’s big pratfall on The Plains. The Buckeyes should feel very, very fortunate.
They beat a mediocre Michigan team by one point. The Wolverines had scored a total of 49 points in regulation in their first four games of November – then torched Ohio State for 41 Saturday. A team that compiled just 168 total yards against Michigan State, 175 against Nebraska and 158 against Iowa hit the Buckeyes for a staggering 603.
If not for a failed two-point pass – a fully supportable gamble by Brady Hoke – the Buckeyes could have gone down in the Big House.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer recently called the BCS “a flawed system.” But it’s been very good to him over the years.
His two Florida national champions both made the title game with one loss. In 2006, the Gators won the BCS beauty contest by a smidge over Michigan. In ’08, the Gators got in over fellow one-loss teams Texas and USC. And this year Meyer’s team is positioned to win a hair-splitting contest over whoever wins the SEC championship.
If it’s a Florida State vs. Urban Meyer BCS championship game, this really will be the worst season ever for Florida fans. Their team has limped to the finish line 4-8, worst record since 1979, and now they’d have to watch their hated arch-rival play against the former coach who left them when the going finally got tough.
It would be a tough ending for the rest of the SEC, too. The title run is in jeopardy. It had to end sometime, and this could be it.