Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Big Game

Florida at Alabama. The last 2 defending BCS champions. A SEC showdown. Virtually meaningless to deciding the eventual “National” Champion.

What? Doesn’t that last part fit the hype?

I’ll readily admit that, if either team gets blown out, that team is probably out of the mythical title race.

But let’s look at the scenarios for close losses by either team –

Florida Loses

The Gators, with a loss, go to 2-1 in the SEC standings. Arkansas, in losing at home to ‘Bama, fell 4 spots in the Coaches’ Poll (11 to 15). I’m guessing the Gators would end up around 10th with a loss.

Florida’s 5 remaining SEC games after Alabama are –

Oct 9 vs LSU
Oct 16 vs Mississippi State
Oct 30 vs Georgia
Nov 6 @Vanderbilt
Nov 13 South Carolina

Four of the five are home games. And while I know better than to overlook any SEC team, the only game here that suggests a serious contest is the mid-November tilt against the Gamecocks.

If Florida loses to ‘Bama, and runs the SEC table after that, the Gators will be playing in Atlanta. Win there and a trip to the BCS title game is a reasonable probability.

After all, Florida lost to SEC West teams in both 2006 (at Auburn) and 2008 (home to Ole Miss) and won the BCS title.

Alabama Loses

If the Tide lose a competitive game to Florida, history would dictate they end up about 5th or 6th in the Coaches poll.

Alabama’s 6 remaining SEC games after Florida are –

Oct 9 @ South Carolina
Oct 16 vs Mississippi
Oct 23 @Tennessee
Nov 6 @ LSU
Nov 13 vs Mississippi State
Nov 26 vs Auburn

‘Bama’s slate is a tougher than Florida’s, but all the better from a ranking standpoint to rise in the polls. If they can get past South Carolina on the road, they should have easy wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. They also get Auburn at home.

But the Tide are already on top of the SEC West’s most likely toughest opponent in Arkansas. If they run the table with the remaining schedule after losing to Florida, Alabama will again be in Atlanta.

The Polls

Here is your current top 11 -

1 Alabama (57)
2 Ohio State (2)
3 Boise State 3-0
4 Oregon 4-0
5 TCU 4-0
6 Nebraska 4-0
7 Florida 4-0
8 Oklahoma 4-0
9 Wisconsin 4-0
10 LSU 4-0
11 Auburn 4-0

LSU and Auburn will necessarily be knocked out under our scenario (‘Bama and Florida win out). Either Ohio State or Wisconsin will eliminate each other, as well as Nebraska or Oklahoma. I also firmly believe an eventual 1-loss SEC Champion will jump either TCU or Boise State. But even if they don’t, the scenarios that allow a 1-loss SEC Champ to get back to the title game are numerous. After all, the SEC has earned a reputation of success (6-0 in BCS title games).

Not to mention the most important aspect here – the rematch (and the unbelievable hype that will accompany it). If we have a rematch in the SEC title game between Alabama and Florida, THAT will be the eliminating game, just as it has been the past 2 years. I can guarantee the SEC winner in that scenario won’t care much who won this coming Saturday.

The main point is neither team eliminated by a reasonable loss this weekend. Certainly it doesn’t strengthen the loser, and the margin for error after that is very thin. But the SEC winner has gone to the title game the last 4 years, and only one of those teams (‘Bama last year) was undefeated. The SEC title is the game that matters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

UF's remaining 5 game SEC slate is actually 3 home, 1 away, and 1 neutral.