The BCS bowl projections took their biggest shakeup of November this past Saturday. Even though the top two teams, Alabama and Florida State, held serve in blowing out no-name opponents outside their conferences, two shocking blowouts and a couple other modest developments have revamped the picture for the major bowls. What’s more, this past Saturday set the tone for perhaps a bigger debate ahead.
Baylor was poised to move into the undisputed #3 spot when they went to Oklahoma State as a 9.5 point favorite. Oklahoma State winning the game and ending Baylor’s dream run was not a shock. The Cowboys, after all ,were playing for control of the Big 12 race themselves and had been coming on strong in recent weeks.
Who expected a complete blowout though? Okie State’s defensive front completely dominated Baylor’s offensive line, as the Bears got nothing going running the ball. Cowboy quarterback Clint Chelf, previously a mostly running quarterback, went 19/25 for 370 yards throwing the ball.
Oklahoma State got control of the game after a key sequence early. Baylor lost a fumble on the 1-yard line and the Okie State went 99 yard for the game’s first touchdown. After that it was all the home team, as the Cowboys won 49-17.
As the blowout unfolded, ABC commentators Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit began to talk about how happy everyone at Ohio State had to be. The Buckeyes have moved to #3 in the polls, and as Brent said several times, they’re about to become the biggest Auburn fans imaginable–the logic being that if the Tigers upset top-ranked Alabama this coming Saturday, Ohio State would move into the national title game with Florida State. I disagree with this logic.
The SEC’s dominance of the BCS landscape in recent years–not just the seven straight national championships, but up-and-down the ladder domination of bowls–have separated the conference from the rest of college football. It’s no longer enough to say the SEC is the best league. The SEC is in another league.
I resisted this for a while, but last year was when I finally threw in the towel. The SEC, by its own standards, didn’t have their best season in 2012, but they still went 6-3 in bowl games, the best of the major conferences and then saw its champion, Alabama, deliver a crushing blowout of Notre Dame in the national championship game. If that qualifies as a “down” year, then clearly, we were dealing with a level of conference dominance that I haven’t seen in my lifetime.
Consequently, I adopted a position prior to this season that I would never have considered before–it was simply that the SEC must be knocked out by another conference, not simply eliminated through the attrition that comes with conference play.
I wasn’t prepared to guarantee them a spot in the national championship game–if Georgia, who has lost to Clemson, were to have won the conference title, then I was okay with saying the Bulldogs had been knocked out by an ACC team in September. But to just knock out the champion of the best conference in my lifetime as a sports fan based on a loss (or even two) among their own? That would lead me to question the credibility of the ultimate title match.
I would have a hard time accepting the winner of an Ohio State-Florida State game as a true national champion. Both Auburn and Missouri deserve to absolutely control their own destiny for one spot in that game. Auburn would have to beat Alabama and then win the SEC Championship Game (Missouri or South Carolina). Mizzou has to beat Texas A&M and then the Alabama/Auburn winner. That’s on top of a schedule that’s already tougher than anything Ohio State has faced.
Quite frankly, I’m willing to extend this logic to two-loss South Carolina. The Gamecocks make the SEC Championship Game if Missouri loses to Texas A&M. That means South Carolina would have to win a non-conference date with Clemson, then beat Alabama/Auburn. This is on top of a schedule that already includes a road win at Missouri and a win over presumptive American Athletic Conference champ Central Florida.
If Ohio State fans want to argue they should be ranked ahead of Florida State, that’s a reasonable debate. If this saga with Jameis Winston gets any worse, you may have voters looking for a way to get the Seminoles out of the title fight, and I’m sure ESPN wouldn’t complain about an Urban Meyer-Nick Saban battle for the national championship. What’s not reasonable is taking away the opportunity for the SEC to win or lose this championship on the field against another conference, not just themselves.
BCS BOWL PROJECTIONS
One note on the BCS bowl projections below. I’ve given up on my resistance to the midmajor candidates and moved Fresno Stat into the projected field. I’ve lost confidence in the ability of San Jose State to beat the Bulldogs this coming Friday.
The Spartans continued their defensive collapse, giving up 58 points in a loss to Navy. And Boise State’s loss means that Fresno’s opponent in the conference championship game in two weeks will likely be Utah State, who has played without starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton since mid-October.
Oregon shocking played itself out of the entire field in a 42-16 loss to Arizona. The Ducks’ defeat gave Stanford the Pac-12 North title. Between that, the inclusion of Fresno and Oregon slipping to 13th in the rankings, they are temporarily out of the at-large picture as well.
ACC: Florida State
Big 12: Oklahoma State
Big Ten: Ohio State
American Athletic (old Big East): Central Florida
At-Large (4): Auburn, Clemson, Baylor, Fresno State
BCS National Championship: Alabama-Florida State
Sugar: Auburn-Fresno State
Fiesta: Oklahoma State-Central Florida
Rose: Stanford-Ohio State