By Kevin McGuire
Forget trying to wrap your head around what happened Saturday afternoon in the final moments of the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. It may be impossible to do so. The game itself may not have been the best, but the ending to Auburn’s victory over Alabama can certainly be recognized among the best endings to a college football game in the history of the sport given the importance of the game not only for Alabama and Auburn, but also for the entire SEC and BCS landscape.
The politicking for a spot in the BCS Championship Game is now officially underway. Although there are two undefeated teams still standing, the debate on whether or not a one-loss SEC champion is deserving of a spot in the BCS championship game is already heating up, and Auburn’s athletic director lit the first match shortly after his school’s SEC West clinching moment.
BCS Primer: Get a full analysis on all four possible BCS teams plus an explanation on how the final two will be chosen here.
“An SEC team can’t get left out of the [BCS title game] with one loss,” Auburn AD Jay Jacobs told USA Today Saturday. “We just beat the No. 1 team in the nation … And a one-loss SEC team that wins in Atlanta — if it’s us or Missouri — you can’t get left out of the BCS after you beat the No. 1 team. We have a better argument because we beat the No. 1 team.”
Auburn may have a strong case to be sent to the BCS Championship Game with a win over Missouri on Saturday, but the numbers just do not look as though they will add up for Auburn if Florida State and Ohio State keep up the pace. Auburn will have the country’s most impressive win of the season and will have run through the toughest conference in the country with just one blemish on the road against an LSU team that could be heading to the Cotton Bowl, according to the latest bowl projections by Jerry Palm of CBS Sports.
The case is not quite as strong for Missouri, who does not own a single victory over a team ranked in the latest AP top 25, although the team would with a win over Auburn. Missouri defeated teams while it was ranked but a re-evaluation of Missouri’s season shows that Missouri’s schedule may not have been as difficult as it was once believed. Missouri also did not play Alabama or LSU in crossover division match-ups.
If Ohio State gets by the defensive juggernaut of Michigan State in Indianapolis, the Buckeyes absolutely deserve to head to the final BCS Championship Game of the BCS era regardless of what happens at the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Ohio State started the season ranked second in the country behind Alabama and it has gone on to complete a 12-0 regular season and would be 13-0 with a win against the Spartans. The team’s non-conference schedule includes two wins over teams heading to bowl games (Buffalo and San Diego State) and a cross-country trip to the West Coast, although against a weak, struggling program (Cal). Maybe the Big Ten is down this season, but Ohio State blitzed through the conference and always found a way to win games when needed, as was the case in Ann Arbor against Michigan this past weekend. Ohio State faced the same criticisms at the beginning of the season that it faces now as far as the perception of the conference is concerned, and the Buckeyes end the regular season exactly where they were expected to, ranked second.
Ohio State has done everything that was expected of it to this point. A win on Saturday night in Indianapolis and the Buckeyes will be rewarded with an opportunity to play for the BCS Championship Game, whether SEC fans like it or not.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.