Awesome. RT @MrSEC Of all the losses suffered by top 15 teams, 11 have been administered by SEC teams http://t.co/rM79fbiN
The stage is set for the SEC to once again play for the BCS championship. With the release of the latest BCS standings, it’s clear that the winner of Saturday’s SEC Championship Game — a de facto national semifinal — will face #1 Notre Dame in Miami in early January to try and extend the league’s unprecedented run of six straight national titles:
1. Notre Dame
6. Kansas State
9. Texas A&M
10. South Carolina
If you’re counting, yes, there are six SEC teams in the top 10 of the BCS standings. But this isn’t just about the computer rankings. The AP Poll has six SEC teams in its top 11. The USA Today Coaches Poll has six of its top 10 slots going to SEC squads.
If Alabama defeats Georgia in Atlanta on Saturday — the Tide opened as a 7.5-point favorite — then once again, form will have held in the BCS race. As we noted back at the first of the month, the teams that land in the BCS title game are most often already ranked in the top four of the standings when November begins. At the time, Alabama and Notre Dame were ranked in the top four along with Kansas State and Oregon.
If Georgia upsets Alabama, the Dawgs will become just the fourth team out of a possible 30 in the 15-year BCS era to jump all the way from outside the top four in early November into the BCS Championship Game. History, therefore, favors the Tide.
A few other quickie notes on the SEC, Notre Dame, and an inflammatory anti-SEC column are below.
* Could BCS and television executives have gotten any luckier? Notre Dame reaching the title game will mean a boon for ratings just one year after an Alabama-LSU rematch left many Americans yawning. A pairing of Alabama and Notre Dame — arguably the two most storied programs in football history — could set a ratings record for a college football game. And even if the title bout features Georgia versus Notre Dame, millions of clickers will still be clicking to ESPN on January 7th. (Georgia’s last national crown came in the 1980 season thanks to a January ’81 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame, 17-10.)
* CBS and SEC officials have to be loving life, too, as fans get a preview of the soon-to-come playoff system on Saturday. Barring some bizarre hanky-panky in the human polls next Sunday, this weekend’s game between the Tide and Dawgs will in effect be a national semifinal game. Prepare for a record number of eyeballs to watch SEC Championship Game #21. Roy Kramer, Mike Slive and everyone else associated with creating the SEC title game and building it up over the past two decades will be smiling all week.
* While Alabama or Georgia will be favored over Notre Dame, all this talk of a guaranteed SEC blowout is a bit premature in our view. After all, it was just mid-August when ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly produced this nonsense about Notre Dame (great timing, huh?). We responded by pointing out the silliness of Reilly’s diatribe about Notre Dame’s program here (and that really was great timing, huh?).
We’ve heard all the chatter about Notre Dame squeaking by Purdue and inching by Pittsburgh. But we also know this Irish squad plays better defense than any non-SEC foe an SEC team has faced in the last six BCS title games. We know they’re well coached because their offense-first head man, Brian Kelly, has been wise enough to slow his usual attack and lean instead on the strength of his team — it’s defense. Good coaches — see Steve Spurrier — know how to make such adjustments when necessary.
We also know that Notre Dame went undefeated with victories over 7-4 Navy, 6-6 Purdue, 6-6 Michigan State on the road, 8-4 Michigan, 7-5 Miami, 10-2 Stanford, 7-5 BYU, 9-2 Oklahoma on the road, and 7-5 Southern Cal on the road. If Pittsburgh wins this weekend, 10 of the 12 teams the Irish have beaten will be bowl eligible. Scoff if you like, but Notre Dame is battle-tested.
For comparison, Alabama has beaten bowl-eligible Michigan, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU. Georgia has beaten bowl-eligible Vanderbilt, Florida, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. That’s it.
Now, we’re not picking a Notre Dame win. The SEC has more talent than any other league and therefore the SEC champ should be favored. Prior to last season’s SEC-versus-SEC title game matchup, Slive’s league had won the previous five BCS title games by an average score of 32 to 18 over non-conference foes.
But this Irish team has more in common with SEC teams than some of those other all-offense teams Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn have faced in years past. You heard it hear first. Laugh if you must.
* CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote a ridiculous column last week knocking the Southeastern Conference. It’s the usual over-the-top trolling effort that we’ve come to expect from many highly-successful national writers. The formula is simple: pick a fanbase (Alabama football fans, Kentucky basketball fans, Notre Dame fans, SEC fans, Texas fans), tick them off with exaggerations and/or stereotypes, and then sit back and watch the pageviews explode.
His argument hinged on the idea that the SEC’s true strength is its reputation and nothing more:
“It’s a Ponzi scheme, this 2012 SEC fraud, built upon layers of air. Georgia is great because it has beaten Florida. Florida is great because it has beaten Texas A&M. Texas A&M is great because it has beaten Alabama. And Alabama is great because it has beaten … um, who has Alabama beaten, anyway?”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. First, what conference doesn’t feature its teams playing against one another. Technically this goofball argument could be made about any successful league in any sport.
In reality, the SEC has proven it’s mettle time and again in BCS title games and on NFL draft days. There’s a reason the SEC produces more pro picks each year… SEC teams are more talent-rich than other squads.
But if anyone — Doyel? — needed further proof of the SEC’s strength, Saturday should have provided it. Georgia crushed Georgia Tech 42-10. The Yellow Jackets will be in the ACC Championship Game this weekend. Vanderbilt smoked Wake Forest 55-21 on the road. Florida knocked off #10 Florida State 37-26 in hostile territory. And South Carolina took down #11 Clemson 27-17 on the road, the fourth year in row the Gamecocks have topped the Tigers.
Just looking at the current BCS top 15, here’s who that crew has lost to:
1. Notre Dame — no losses
2. Alabama — Texas A&M (SEC)
3. Georgia — South Carolina (SEC)
4. Florida — Georgia (SEC)
5. Oregon — Stanford (Pac-12)
6. Kansas State — Baylor (Big XII)
7. LSU — Florida (SEC) and Alabama (SEC)
8. Stanford — Notre Dame (independent) and Washington (Pac-12)
9. Texas A&M — Florida (SEC) and LSU (SEC)
10. South Carolina — LSU (SEC) and Florida (SEC)
11. Oklahoma — Kansas State (Big XII) and Notre Dame (independent)
12. Nebraska — UCLA (Pac-12) and Ohio State (Big Ten)
13. Florida State — North Carolina State (ACC) and Florida (SEC)
14. Clemson — Florida State (ACC) and South Carolina (SEC)
15. Oregon State — Washington (Pac-12), Stanford (Pac-12) and Oregon (Pac-12)
Of all the losses suffered by top 15 teams, 11 have been administered by SEC teams. Six have come at the hands of Pac-12 teams. No other leagues even come close.
So let’s stop the talk about the SEC’s reputation being over-inflated. Year-in and year-out that’s proven false. In the fall and again in the spring when NFL GMs re-stock their rosters.