Kevin C. Cox
Over the last six years, we've gotten so used to a SEC team playing for the national championship that it has come to feel automatic. But if Alabama and Florida each drop a game along the way, don't be surprised to see no SEC teams in Miami. Follow @SBNationCFB
Now that we have Oregon fans riled up after correctly forecasting the Ducks would fall another spot to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, it's time to get somebody else going. Take a deep breath, and here goes: a one-loss SEC champion is no sure thing to play in the BCS title game.
That's right. As unfathomable as this sounds, the SEC does not yet have a mortal lock to play in Miami on Jan. 7, even after winning the last six BCS championships. If the conference does not produce an undefeated champion, it's possible that the SEC will be watching someone else play for the 2012 national title.
The complete BCS Top 25 with six weeks to go:
There are three undefeated SEC teams now, and that number will dwindle to two next week after Alabama plays Mississippi State. The top-ranked Crimson Tide certainly seem invincible at the moment, but let's look at a couple of hypotheticals:
- If Alabama loses at LSU in two weeks, and then LSU defeats an unbeaten Florida in the SEC title game, it's possible that all three teams would be shut out.
- Or if Georgia beats Florida to win the SEC East and then upsets undefeated Alabama in the SEC title game, it's also possible that neither gets to play in the BCS title game.
Neither of the above are implausible, and other scenarios that would produce a one-loss SEC champion certainly also exist. If two of the teams among Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon or Oregon State -- and especially three of the four -- finish the season undefeated, it's actually difficult to see how a one-loss team would crash the BCS title game party, even if it's one from the SEC.
Keep in mind that one-loss Alabama only made it to the BCS title game last season because of a catastrophic late- season loss by Oklahoma State that opened a backdoor. If the Tide should lose to LSU again this season, they might find that backdoor bolted shut.
The Big 12 is ranked higher by the computers than the SEC, and an unbeaten Kansas State certainly will not be denied a place in the BCS title game, much to the consternation of Oregon. If the Ducks keep their end of the bargain by going undefeated, then all they need is to have either the SEC winner or Kansas State to have one loss. Notre Dame would be next in the pecking order, and THEN the one-loss SEC champion.
Of course, all of this could be moot if the Tide or the Gators do as expected and run the table. And here's a colossal twist: Should those two meet as undefeated Nos. 1 and 2 in the SEC title game, at least the computers might call for a rematch in the BCS title game if the other major conference winners (and Notre Dame) all have at least one loss. History has proved that the voters will not rule out an all-SEC matchup in the BCS title game if they deem the teams are worthy.
So the point of all this is: The season is still very young. Nothing is in the bag, for anyone.
Non-AQ Update: With the re-emergence of Michigan -- and the Big Ten -- in the BCS standings, the prospects of a non-automatic qualifier-conference champion winning a BCS bowl bid took a major hit. The Wolverines check in at No. 22, representing a Big Ten that was shut out of the standings last week. Wisconsin is also in at No. 25, followed by Nebraska at No. 26 (see complete standings).
Michigan is just one spot behind Boise State, the highest-ranked non-AQ team in the standings. Keep in mind the Wolverines just defeated Michigan State, the team that handed the Broncos their only loss. A victory over Nebraska next week will certainly vault Michigan over Boise State.
This development means the road to a BCS bowl for a non-AQ champion suddenly isn't so wide open anymore. A top 12 threshold will be nearly impossible to attain this season, with none of the contenders still having a marquee matchup left on the schedule that can significantly improve their poll positions. Absent a dramatic fratricide in the Big East, which still has two unbeaten teams, it's looking increasingly unlikely that a non-AQ team will grab a BCS bowl berth.
Check the national college football scoreboard right here, and look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.