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Jacobsen: Cure for SEC fatigue (Dec. 3)

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, December 2, 2013

Depending on when you read this, it’s been approximately 60 hours since Auburn’s Chris Davis returned Alabama’s missed field goal attempt for the most exciting and improbable game-winning touchdown in recent memory. It’s now safe to declare Davis the most popular student at Auburn University. His picture is front and center on the university’s homepage, and I somehow doubt he will ever have to pay for a meal in any city outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabamba.
But Davis’s fantastic run should not earn him an automatic trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
Maybe I just have a wicked awful case of SEC-fatigue. But as long as No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State remain unbeaten, there is absolutely no reason for a one-loss team to play for a national championship, even if that team does play in the vaunted SEC.
As soon as this week’s BCS rankings were released Sunday night, the talking heads at ESPN began looking for ways to get Alabama, Auburn or even Missouri into the title game. They seem to think losing in the SEC is more of an accomplishment than winning against any other competition.
Well, I, for one, am done kowtowing to the SEC. For one thing, their claims to football superiority are vastly overrated. The way some Southern coaches talk, you would think Ohio State pads the schedule with middle school squads while LSU and Georgia host NFL teams. The Buckeyes certainly tossed around San Diego State as if the Aztecs were a Pop Warner team, but I doubt Chattanooga was a much bigger challenge for Alabama.
Even the teams within the SEC are not quite as dominant as residents south of the Mason-Dixon line would have you think. I don’t deny that the best teams in the Southeastern Conference are awfully good. I don’t even deny that it is probably harder to go undefeated in the SEC than in any other conference. But let’s stop pretending it’s a bottom-feeder-free zone. Arkansas (3-9) lost to Rutgers. Kentucky (2-10) lost to just about everyone. Florida (4-8) even found a way to lose to Georgia Southern. Does this really sound like the vicious, any-given-Saturday barrage coaches yap about?
But when we come down to it, one-loss teams like Auburn and Alabama shouldn’t be allowed to leapfrog undefeated squads, even if they have to compete against a murderer’s row of competitors. It’s fine to judge dog shows on beauty and pedigree, but in football, it’s winning on the field that matters. Frankly, I don’t care how impressive someone’s schedule or depth chart is. It doesn’t matter where the running backs were ranked as high school recruits or how much the offensive line outweighs the national average. To quote former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards, you play to win the game – not to pass “the eye test.”
Yes, it’s unfair that teams in the most talented conferences (at this moment, the SEC) face the hardest road to the national title game and will have a harder time getting into the four-team playoff when that comes to fruition next season. But the same is true of conference championships and professional playoffs. Yet, no one in SEC Land is suggesting that Alabama take Missouri’s spot as the Eastern Conference representative in the SEC Championship game because the Crimson Tide could probably beat the Tigers in a head-to head matchup.
We should recognize how unfair it is to overlook undefeated teams that aren’t in the glamor-conference of the moment. How is it fair that athletes from Florida State and Ohio State play their hearts out and give their fans an essentially perfect season, winning every game, often by dozens of points, and still are told they aren’t as good as teams that did slip up? If an undefeated season isn’t enough to earn some respect, what is the point of playing football?
Thankfully, it is unlikely that Auburn will be able to pass Ohio State if both win their conference championship games, because there are enough people like me with the wild notion that undefeated teams should be rewarded above one-loss outfits. Wins from both the Seminoles and Buckeyes should guarantee the first non-SEC champion since Texas won in 2006. That would be a welcome sight.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.