Conference comparisons will wait until the official BCS standings are released next week. (Early signs indicate the SEC may be performing at near 2004 levels out of conference). The SEC, even when down a notch, is still a peg or two higher than just about any other conference.
Can the SEC beat themselves out of the National Championship game?
The Boise St. Broncos and Oregon Ducks are the top two in my simulation of the BCS standings. Neither have the schedule fire power to keep up with the SEC for the remainder of the season. If one read down to the section on the expected finish if the teams continue to win, one would see that I project the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers to control their own fate.
Also, while I have the Alabama Crimson Tide, South Carolina Gamecocks, and the two Tigers below Boise State and the TCU Horned Frogs for the time being, that would change if the Nevada Wolf Pack or Utah Utes lose unexpectedly along the way. If an SEC opponent falls, it just boosts another SEC team in the rankings.
The problem for the SEC is not that they lack upward mobility. It is that they play each other. Consider the number of ranked teams a team plays in conference alone. On average this is the number of ranked teams times the ratio of conference games played to total teams in the conference. For the SEC this is 4.00. The Big 10 scores 3.64 and the PAC 10 3.60. No one else is over 2.67.
And someone from the conference will lose each of those games and fall in the rankings, father than the boost the winner will get up the rankings.
Consider: Alabama, Auburn and LSU still have a full round robin ahead. Auburn and LSU still face Arkansas and a host of SEC teams looking for their big day. The winner of that mess gets to face a hungry South Carolina or Florida teams (depending on which team survives the SEC East) in the SEC CG. Oh, and South Carolina and Florida have yet to play.
Alabama has everyone on their schedule taking a week off to take their best shot at them.
Considering these mentioned games as coin tosses puts any SEC team finishing the remainder of the season unscathed at a rough odds of 2:1 against. 25% of the time Auburn, LSU and Alabama split the three way title bout. The unmentioned games balance out any unevenness among the teams. Let's not forget that every once in a while an Ole Miss can pull a Jacksonville State on a team like the Florida Gators.
If LSU and Auburn lose, the SEC's lock on the 2010-11 NCG will be in question. Less than a handful of additional losses could open a window for a team like Boise State to usurp their spot in the NCG. For the first time since 2005.
National Championship Game Race
This race has been touched on, but a look at the current pecking order is useful.
LSU, Oklahoma and Auburn top the list. Ohio State, Nebraska and Oregon are the next takers.
Boise State and TCU fill in the next two spots, with uncharacteristic strength in the metrics I have honed. I am not sure I trust these in this extrapolated case, especially with the gang of SEC teams immediately behind them.
It would take 2007 like turmoil to get past some arrangement of these teams, and even then most of these teams would still be in the picture.
TCU takes the lead this week, as Air Force joined the rankings, giving them a second ranked team ahead. A surprise Utah or Air Force loss prior to the TCU game would shift the cards, as a Nevada loss would strongly impact Boise State's projection.
11 more AQ Conference members have fallen two or more games behind, and out of the at-large race. Additionally SDSU was formally removed, leaving the five ranked non-AQ conference members as the only possible outsiders to be in BCS contention.