Something to fear, or relish, depending on which side of the argument you align, about Saturday’s Iron Bowl is the possibility of an Auburn win.
That such could happen is one more reason for Alabama doing the Ooga ’Nooga this year as its part of taking out some BCS/SEC insurance. A win by fourth-ranked Auburn over top-ranked, undefeated defending champion Alabama might very well create a rematch in January, one for the so-called national championship of college football.
The SEC and the BCS like it that way, an all-SEC final. TV is locked into a big money deal for telecasting SEC games, so the higher the rankings, no matter how inflated for the southern squads, the higher the ratings. SEC teams have lived large In recent times by touting their prowess on the national network while basically only having to play each other making for a fail-proof system to rake in the monetary benefits.
They do not play non-conference games against the other power conferences such as the Pacific 12, Big 12 or Big 10 and seldom, if ever, play any non-conference games on the road.
It is low-risk football in terms of potential loss of attention, publicity, finances or acclaim.
Another development of late has been the cushion game toward the end of the schedule. The SEC teams have been building in a late-season non-conference home game against a much lower profiled team to insure against a rankings tumble at a time when ratings matter most and bowl invitations are being considered.
Meanwhile, the other conferences are locked into intense late-season conference play, quite often against their most fierce rivals, on those same weekends. So, any poll shakeups will greatly benefit the SEC.
Such was the case last year when a win over Western Carolina lifted Alabama into the championship game against Notre Dame while Oregon and Kansas State were both being upset by good conference opponents.
While Alabama proved itself to be the worthy national champion, the case can be made that, in the current championship format, the Crimson Tide did not belong in the title tilt, springing into a berth with a cinch win over Western Carolina.
Of course, such strategy can backfire. Florida continued with the formula this year and wound up red-faced with a stunning loss to Georgia Southern.
So, anyway, last week Alabama repeated the ploy that worked so well for the Tide in 2012. While Big 12, Pac 12 and Big 10 teams were each locked into emotional, ferocious play against late-season league rivals, when upsets are most likely, the Crimson Tide had an ace up their sleeves. They scheduled Tennessee-Chattanooga at home in Tuscaloosa. That was done, of course, just in case ’Bama might have stumbled somewhere along the way on this year’s slate and the Tide could do the Ooga ’Nooga, chewing on Chattanooga, protecting their poll position. Then if anyone that might have been above them in the rankings lost, Alabama would be in place to move up, with a win over Chattanooga, just like happened last year in its conquest of Western Carolina.
Really though, if the SEC is the super conference, then how did Missouri and Texas A&M go from being middle of the pack contestants in a supposedly lesser (Big 12) conference to becoming big-time SEC and national contenders a minute and a half after joining the SEC and “somehow” sporting better records? Exactly.
Florida State, of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is ranked second at this time and even borrowed on the SEC poll protection plan itself with a strategic home non-conference game last week against Idaho. The Seminoles clobbered the Vandals, who do appear on the upswing under new coach Paul Petrino of Butte roots after vowing some years back that they wouldn’t play any Big Sky Conference teams, particularly Montana, until the program was in good enough shape to have a chance to beat them.
Alabama-Auburn is a legitimate conference and rivalry game on Saturday, and Florida-Florida State is also a matchup of intense in-state adversaries. If Florida knocks off Florida State and Auburn spills Alabama, look for Auburn to take over No. 1 and Alabama to slip to No. 2 to set up an all-SEC national championship game, no matter what unbeaten Ohio State does against nasty rival Michigan.
Less likely, but still very possible, would be Auburn shooting to the top with a win over Alabama and setting up the same national matchup even if Florida State also stays undefeated.
It’s the intent the SEC/BCS formula. It’s why SEC teams such as Alabama do the Ooga ‘Nooga. 1 comment