It doesn't matter that Ohio State went 12-0 last year. It doesn't matter that an unbeaten Auburn was shut out of the BCS National Championship in 2004. It doesn't matter that Ohio State has lost two national title games against SEC teams in recent years. It doesn't matter that the SEC has won seven straight championships.
Or at least it shouldn't.
What will matter, however, is whether the BCS polls and computers rank Ohio State or Auburn No. 2 next week, assuming the Buckeyes and (burnt orange and navy blue) Tigers win their respective conferences. We'd thought we were just about done with the season's series of debates over which team should rank No. 2 and which should rank No. 3, but we've only just now arrived at the biggest one yet.
For now, the updated BCS standings after Week 14's wild weekend:
|BCS||Harris Poll||Coaches Poll||Computer rankings|
The numbers show a thin margin between Ohio State and Auburn as it is. And that's before next Saturday -- if both teams win, the Tigers will hold a significant advantage in the BCS computers, as Missouri's considered a more impressive team than Ohio State's opponent, Michigan State, is.
A win by either the Spartans or the other Tigers would render all this moot (except for Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs suddenly becoming a huge Mizzou* fan, we trust).
* Though Missouri would have a better case for No. 2 than Auburn would, if you ask me, since the (black and gold) Tigers have spent most of the year smashing fools by exorbitant margins. But nobody's asking me. Mizzou's probably too far back to jump that far, barring insanity.
If our new Nos. 2 and 3 win their conferences, the polls would be where Florida State finds its Pasadena opponent. While many voters would fall back on the SEC's presumed strength of schedule and difficulty (and most strength of schedule numbers do rate Auburn's as tougher so far), others would sympathize with a 13-0 BCS conference champion that was ineligible last year. At the moment, the Buckeyes hold that advantage, and would any voters who were unconvinced by an Auburn win over Alabama really be swayed by one over Missouri?
The difference could be Urban Meyer, who's successfully stumped his team into a BCS National Championship before -- and that was an SEC team at the expense of a Big Ten team. But do voters still think of Meyer as they did then? Whether Meyer's national profile has changed since '06 due to various controversies would actually matter. Like, actually help determine the season's champion. That's insane and ridiculous, but it's the system.
We don't know whether Auburn or Ohio State would win the right to go play FSU if the two played on a neutral field. We don't have a playoff yet, not for 12 more months. We do know the Buckeyes have won all but two of their games by multiple scores, while Auburn's won by a single score six times (including the two luckiest, most improbable winning plays of the year). Auburn's also lost a game by 14 points. Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall have led an immaculate rebuild, but let's not let that loss be a footnote.
So it begins. One more week. The only vital contributions to the debate going forward will be those made by the players on the field in the Big Ten and SEC championship games.