The lame-duck BCS system is giving us a final reason to rejoice in its demise with a full-throated debate over the relative beauty of each remaining pageant contestant.
In a counter intuitive way, we’re going to miss this arguing when it’s gone (though I’m sure there will be plenty more to complain about until the playoff field eventually expands from four to a more palatable size of eight, 10 or 16).
The current mess has the established cock of the walk, the Southeastern Conference, in the unenviable position of having to lobby its merits after Alabama coughed up its dynasty bid in glorious fashion at the Iron Bowl. That’s one second and lapse in Nick Saban judgment that commissioner Mike Slive would like to have back.
This last gasp of the BCS has given us perhaps the greatest absurd statement in the laughable history of title-game campaigning. The hyperbolic gift comes courtesy of Auburn director of athletics Jay Jacobs.
“It would be a disservice to the nation if we got left out,” Jacobs told USA Today earlier in the week. He backed that up on ESPN by saying it would be “un-American.”
That’s right. The poll voters deciding the fate of who will be ranked Nos. 1 and 2 hold in their hands a responsibility to the United States as grave as that of our do-nothing Congress or fugitive spy Edward Snowden.
I guess in Alabama that doesn’t seem as silly.
The situation of the SEC’s one-loss championship combatants Auburn and Missouri sitting behind unbeatens Florida State and Ohio State has even forced the esteemed Slive to have to support the substance of Jacobs’ claims (if not his outrageous delivery).
“The words are his, but the points he made are ones I really appreciate because in a sense he celebrates the conference,” Slive told AL.com. “The SEC champion with one loss ought to play for a national championship.”
Slive, of course, comes from a position of strength as the SEC owns each of the past seven BCS titles dating back to 2006 – five of those winners having at least one loss on the ledger. While the rest of the country might be weary of hearing about it, it’s hard to argue against the strength and depth of the SEC – which boasts the Nos. 3, 4, 5, 8, 15, 22 and 24 teams in the latest BCS rankings. Only the Pac-12 can make a reasonable case of comparable competitiveness after a season of cannibalizing left no Pac-12 team with fewer than two losses. If Stanford and Arizona State hadn’t choked away nonconference games to Utah and Notre Dame, respectively, rest assured they’d be a vocal part of this final BCS chorus.
But with the Pac-12 out, that leaves the SEC arguing its case against the ACC and Big Ten – and nobody would want to argue the side opposite Slive on this. Despite the ACC’s historical lack of BCS success, Florida State gets a pass because the Seminoles have arguably the best player in college football and were utterly dominant against Clemson in the one quality game that mattered. It’s not Florida State’s fault that Florida proved to be a nonconference dud.
The target of this non-SEC character assassination is current No. 2 Ohio State – and it makes for an easy target in spite of the Buckeyes’ perfect 24-0 record under former Florida coach Urban Meyer. The grossly overrated B1G is typically at the heart of all BCS arguments (and has been the biggest obstacle to the playoff era).
Not even Meyer is willing to step up and speak for his 12-0 Buckeyes before they get ready to play the only opponent of the season ranked inside the BCS top 20.
“There will be no conversation about what happens after this game until after the game,” Meyer said as he prepares for No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.
Meyer knows the only thing he has going for him is that zero at the end of his record – no matter how feeble the competition. Perhaps that’s why neither he nor the conference was willing to suspend starting offensive guard Marcus Hall after embarrassing his team and conference in a post-ejection tirade after a fight against Michigan – a televised tantrum that included him trashing the sidelines and delivering a pair of one-fingered salutes at the Wolverine fans on his way out. Stay classy, Urban.
Meyer not talking is a far cry from 2006 when he couldn’t shut up about why his one-loss Gators from the SEC deserved a title shot over a Big Ten rematch between Ohio State and Michigan that many people were clamoring to see.
“We’re going to tell a group of young men, who just went 12-1 in a most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents, that they don’t have a chance to play for a national championship?” Meyer said in 2006. “I’m going to need help with that one.”
Now that’s the same argument that Auburn and Missouri are making as they prepare for one of the most unlikely SEC Championship matchups in history between teams that went a combined 2-14 in conference play a year ago.
Both Auburn and Missouri went 4-1 against ranked teams in the regular season. Auburn is 3-1 against teams currently in the BCS top 25 while Missouri is 2-1. Their only losses are to No. 15 Louisiana State and No. 8 South Carolina, respectively. Combined the two Tigers will have played 18 bowl-eligible teams.
Of course, Auburn got its last two wins on miracle finishes including the improbable deflected fourth-down pass that blotted out blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead to Georgia. Last week’s triumph over No. 1 Alabama was basically gifted off the feet of errant Tide kickers who missed four field-goal attempts (and didn’t try another), including the one that yielded the 109-yard game-winning return after time expired.
But, as Slive said, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Frankly, I believe Missouri is the better team and if it wins Saturday at the Georgia Dome would have the SEC’s best case.
But there’s no point in arguing. Unless Florida State or Ohio State lose Saturday in their conference championships, the SEC’s BCS win streak should be over. Deep down, even Slive knows that.
“If you ask me what color tie I have on today, it’s green,” Slive told AL.com, proving the commish has more faith in the Big Green of Michigan State than the Blue Devils of Duke.
It will only be fitting that another lame Big Ten team will take college football kicking and screaming into the playoff era.