League's run not done yet


Despite the SEC being without an unbeaten team this late in the season for the first time since 2007, it's needed even more drastic outside help in the past than what it needs now, and it's gotten it. (Photos by The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 12:07 a.m.

In its quest for a seventh straight national title, the SEC controlled its own destiny. After all, it always seems to be exactly that: destiny.

Of all its challengers, the biggest threat to college football's best conference has been itself, but the surprising thing was that the SEC's six-year reign may have been stopped by a newcomer that was told it didn't belong.

Many pundits believe Texas A&M single-handedly sabotaged the SEC by beating then-No. 1 Alabama last week.

One coach isn't convinced of that just yet.

“I would still say the winner of our game's got a shot at getting in the final game,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. “Still got a chance I would say. I don't think it's over yet.”

Not by a long shot although the SEC is in a precarious position staring up at three undefeateds (No. 1 Kansas State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Notre Dame).

Despite the SEC being without an unbeaten team this late in the season for the first time since 2007, it's needed even more drastic outside help in the past than what it needs now, and it's gotten it.

In 2006, Florida suffered a Week 7 loss to Auburn and dropped to No. 9 in the rankings before watching four undefeated teams lose and pave the way for the Gators' second national title.

In 2007, LSU picked up a second loss and fell to No. 7 in the BCS rankings before vaulting back up to No. 2 the following week just in time.

Last year, Alabama benefited from Iowa State's upset of Oklahoma State late in the season to jump the Cowboys.

“I think that you have to take the whole body of work that every team does relative to the strength of schedule, and I think the system that we have takes those things into consideration,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Contrary to college football conspiracy theorists, the BCS never favored the SEC. The SEC simply took it over.

Remember that prior to the SEC's streak of superiority, only two SEC teams (Tennessee and LSU) had made it to the eight previous BCS title games dating back to its inception in 1998.

Still, there were some that saw the four-team playoff that begins in 2014 as just the thing to free the country from the SEC's stranglehold, but even Spurrier himself is one of the biggest advocates for a playoff.

“I have tremendous respect for playoffs,” Spurrier said. “If you had eight teams goin' at it, then all those undefeateds and some of those with one losses would have a shot at goin' at it, but that's not how we do college football, so you accept the fact that that's the way we do it.”

If an eight-team playoff started today, five would be SEC teams with Spurrier's Gamecocks just missing out at No. 9. Not that he would want to hear that.

Still, Spurrier is right to believe the SEC isn't out of the conversation. There are three one-loss SEC teams — No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Florida — that have a shot at rising to No. 1 or No. 2 with two games left to play.

The winner of the SEC title in Atlanta, whether it's Alabama or Georgia, will likely benefit from a win over a top-five opponent barring a major upset. If two of the three undefeated teams lose, the Tide or Bulldogs would go.

Meanwhile, the Gators likely need the Wildcats, Ducks and Irish to lose their first games.

Kansas State is the most unlikely to fall with two relatively easy ones at Baylor and vs. No. 15 Texas. However, Oregon and its banged-up defense is at home against No. 13 Stanford and then at No. 16 Oregon State before a potential Pac-12 title game. Notre Dame visits No. 18 USC in its last game of the year after taking on Wake Forest.

Regardless, LSU coach Les Miles believes the winner of the SEC Championship game should be given “tremendous consideration.”

“I think that there should be a quality view of every conference and every team and be viewed individually,” Miles said. “But over time this football conference has really shown that given an opportunity to play in the national championship game, they fare very well versus a number of conferences and a number of teams.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top