Morris: Unbeaten teams deserve shot at BCS title

rmorris@ thestate.comDecember 3, 2013 

Ohio St Michigan Football

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer joins his team in singing the school's alma mater after their 42-41 win over Michigan in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Julian H. Gonzalez) DETROIT NEWS OUT; NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT


The ESPN/SEC Machine cranked up minutes after Auburn’s Chris Davis crossed the goal line this past Saturday to send the Tigers to an improbable win against Alabama.

The TV talking heads and an Auburn administrator began the rallying cry for a one-loss SEC team to play in the BCS Championship game. A one-loss team from the mighty SEC is far superior to an unbeaten team from any other conference, they claimed. It is, by gosh, the birthright of the league to send a team to the title game, they all but claimed.

What a load of malarkey.

If Florida State and Ohio State emerge from their respective conference championship games this weekend undefeated — and that is a big “if” on the Buckeyes’ part with a game against a Michigan State team ranked No. 10 by the BCS — then those teams earned the right to play for the national championship.

Any coach at one of the 126 FBS programs will tell you that completing an undefeated regular season — and winning the conference title game — is one of the most difficult accomplishments in all of sports, in any conference.

Over the previous 10 seasons, 13 teams from BCS conferences have gone unbeaten through a regular season and conference championship game. In 2003 and 2007, no team accomplished the feat. Among the non-BCS conference programs, it has happened five times in the previous 10 seasons.

It is remarkable that Florida State and Ohio State remain unbeaten, regardless of the fact they each competed in what are considered weaker conferences.

Yet when Florida State and Ohio State were atop the BCS rankings released Sunday, an outcry for a recount ensued. The ESPN folks, whose chummy relationship with the SEC should never be discounted, began pushing for the SEC champion to move ahead of Ohio State in the BCS rankings following this weekend’s conference championship games.

At the same time, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs got on his soapbox. Jacobs can be granted a pass for doing his job by promoting his program, but he went a bit far in his comments, first to USA Today and later to ESPN Radio.

Jacobs told the newspaper it “would be a disservice to the nation,” if Auburn won the SEC championship and did not play for the national title. Then he told the radio network: “It would be, quite frankly, un-American for us not to get a chance to go to Pasadena if we’re able to beat Missouri, and I believe the same about Missouri.”

In fact, the BCS system is democracy at work, and it would be “un-American” and a “disservice to the nation” if somehow the ESPN/SEC Machine manipulated the system to get a one-loss SEC team in the title game over an unbeaten team.

Jacobs’ premise with his comments is that SEC football is far superior to every other conference. He did not say it, but the inference was that the SEC has proved to be the nation’s best football conference for a long time and its teams should be rewarded for that.

Frankly, any reference to history in attempting to defend a side in this issue is the weakest of all arguments. While it is quite remarkable and nice that the SEC has won the past seven BCS national championships, that fact has absolutely no bearing on this season.

Besides, the SEC’s history already factors into the BCS rankings and discussions because every season starts with a baseline. That baseline renders the SEC as the strongest conference with the strongest teams from the get-go when it comes to polls and computer rankings.

If you want to inject history into the discussion, then Ohio State should be granted a counter argument that it has been the best team in the country the past two seasons. The Buckeyes were unbeaten in 2012 but ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions. They are riding a 24-game win streak. But, really, everyone knows what Ohio State did a season ago is irrelevant to the BCS discussion this year.

Further, based on this season alone, anyone who watched SEC football would concede that the league was not as strong as in years past. The conference had five good-to-outstanding teams, four sub-par squads and five others that were mediocre.

Auburn and Missouri did not exactly fight through taxing schedules during the regular season. Until Auburn defeated Alabama, both Auburn’s and Missouri’s best wins were against injury-riddled Georgia and a Texas A&M squad virtually void of defense.

Enough of the grandstanding for the SEC. Let the conference championship games play out as the semifinal round of the final BCS tournament. Should Florida State win the ACC championship and Ohio State capture the Big Ten title, then those teams deserve to play for the national crown.

If one of those two teams should lose, which is entirely possible, then the SEC champion likely will slide into the title game and the ESPN/SEC Machine will have proved to be just what it was all along ... a load of malarkey.

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