If you’re a college football fan who is already suffering from Southeastern Conference fatigue, don’t look at the initial BCS rankings.
The SEC owns them.
For now. Let’s say right here that few things are less important than BCS rankings in October, because so much will change over the next seven weeks. But the initial returns of the most reviled system in sports should be read with a Southern accent for maximum authenticity.
Alabama is No. 1, as expected. The big (but expected) news was Florida checking in at No. 2 – ahead of Oregon, which is second in both the human polls. The six computers that are part of the BCS formula love the Gators, ranking them between first and fifth. The same computers despise the Ducks, ranking them between third and 10th, with four of them placing Oregon sixth.
And if occupying the top two spots isn’t enough, the SEC also has LSU at No. 6 and South Carolina at No. 7. They are the top two one-loss teams in the rankings, still very much in the mix if the current unbeatens start dropping games.
There are three Pac-12 teams in the top 10: Oregon at No. 3, Oregon State at No. 8 and USC at No. 10. There are two from the Big 12: Kansas State at No. 4 and Oklahoma at No. 9. And there is resurgent independent Notre Dame at No. 5.
Notably, and embarrassingly absent: the Big Ten – and not just from the Top 10. From the entire Top 25. Meanwhile, the oft-mocked Big East has three teams in the Top 25 (Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati).
But back to the SEC. Last year the league won its sixth straight national title with the first-ever meeting of two teams from the same conference in the BCS championship. When Alabama beat LSU 21-0 in a rematch of a regular-season slugfest, just about everyone outside Dixie said they’d seen enough SEC dominance.
Now the league is back in the driver’s seat. And also riding shotgun.
Could there be another all-SEC title game? It’s not out of the question. If 'Bama and Florida both win out and face each other at 12-0, who’s to say a close, competitive loss would knock either out of the top two spots?
In that scenario, voters (who are two-thirds of the BCS formula) would probably elevate an undefeated team – say, Oregon, Kansas State or Notre Dame should one run the table – ahead of the loser of the SEC title game. But the computers (one-third of the formula) would be likely to disagree.
And if it’s a matter of trying to differentiate between one-loss teams, the current rankings are strongly in the SEC’s favor. With six of the top 12 teams, and all of them with games remaining against each other, strength of schedule will remain very much in the league’s favor.
The SEC is loaded with showdown games between its six highest-ranked teams in the coming weeks: South Carolina at Florida on Saturday; No. 12 Mississippi State at Alabama and No. 11 Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 27; Alabama at LSU on Nov. 3; and Mississippi State at LSU on Nov. 10.
But there still are challengers to the SEC hegemony.
Oregon will have a chance to significantly strengthen its position in November. The Ducks face USC on Nov. 3, Stanford on Nov. 17 and Oregon State on Nov. 24, with a possible rematch against the Trojans to come in the Pac-12 championship.
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Kansas State has four games remaining against teams currently in the BCS Top 25: West Virginia on Saturday, Texas Tech the following week, TCU on Nov. 10 and Texas on Dec. 1. So there are plenty of big-ticket games remaining that could help the Wildcats as well – also potential losses that can derail their national title hopes.
And what about Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish face Oklahoma and USC on the road, but the other four games (BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest) won’t do much for the computers. Brian Kelly’s team will likely have to keep winning and hope for losses from the four teams ahead of it in the rankings.
For now, though, college football remains the SEC’s domain. The first BCS rankings back that up, like it or not.
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