IT SOUNDS strange but this could be the last chance any outsider has to take down the Southeastern Conference, winners of seven consecutive national titles and heavily favored to make it eight.
Next season, when the playoff replaces the Bowl Championship Series, all four participants can be from the same conference.
The SEC has pined for the day when the playoff could become its own private party. Last year, six SEC teams finished in the top 10, but, gee, only Alabama got to play for the championship.
The final BCS season offers one last quirky chance for a non-SEC team to get spit into the championship by the unregulated BCS computers. Once the playoff starts, the teams will be picked by a selection committee.
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The SEC has owned the BCS era with equal parts passion, talent and made-to-order nonconference scheduling. The SEC even caught a few breaks along the way, right, Michigan and Oklahoma State?
Total domination, though, isn’t enough. SEC coaches after 15 years suddenly don’t understand why Notre Dame, one school, has such disproportionate say-so.
“We just started trying to figure out why the athletic director of Notre Dame is equal to all the conference commissioners,” South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said at SEC media days. “Nobody had a good answer except that’s the way it’s always been.”
Spurrier has a valid point, but it seems like piling on, given that Notre Dame hasn’t won a national title since 1988 and, based on last year, does not pose an immediate threat.
That didn’t stop the SEC coaches from voting, 14-0, in favor of Notre Dame joining a conference.
The vote means nothing as the Fighting Irish have remained adamant about remaining a football independent, but it just goes to show what SEC coaches like to do in their spare time.
Here are four schools this year with a chance to take down the SEC:
1. Ohio State
Why? Urban Meyer knows what it takes to compete at the highest SEC level and, as we’ve seen, it’s not always pretty. Meyer led Florida to two BCS titles and returns a Buckeyes team coming off a 12-0 season.
Why not: Ohio State still doesn’t have enough team speed.
Why? Texas A&M proved last year you can beat Alabama by spreading the field and speeding up the tempo. Oregon wrote the operating manual on this style and also plays solid defense.
Why not: The Ducks always seem to mess up one or two games a season.
Why? The Cardinal plays a completely different, smash-mouth style but seems to have the beef on the interior lines to match up with the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Why not: Coach David Shaw’s stubbornness in short-yardage situations (remember Notre Dame in overtime last year?); he sometimes plays too much to his team’s strengths.
Why? The Longhorns played in the BCS title game the past two times it was held at the Rose Bowl. Texas returns 19 starters and has its best team since losing to Alabama four seasons ago in Pasadena.
Why not: Vince Young (or Colt McCoy) is not walking through the stadium gate.
And one more late addition, bonus-team longshot: Louisville. The Cardinals have a great quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, an easy schedule and a coach, Charlie Strong, who used to coach in the SEC. And didn’t Louisville beat Florida in last season’s Sugar Bowl?