Let’s get real for second: The SEC West is imploding. And yes, that’s a bad thing if you’re an SEC fan, or think that the conference deserves more than one team in the College Football Playoff. (Chances are, you’re one of the two.)
Because as things are looking right now, the SEC is only going to get one team in, with the real possibility (any thought-up scenario in the world of college football is plausible) that it will be completely shut out of the four-team crusade.
As Lisa Horne so aptly described in last week’s Friday column on pigskingrind.com, it’s not a lock that the claimed best conference in America receives a bid to the playoffs.
@Tyler_Waddell Agreed. When I was writing that up I actually said to myself, “this is not that unrealistic.”
— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) November 7, 2014
Alabama can beat Mississippi State this weekend, and the Bulldogs could go on to lose to two-loss Ole Miss as well. The Crimson Tide, riding the momentum of a six-game winning streak (assuming they beat FCS Western Carolina on Nov. 22), can fall to two-loss Auburn in the regular season finale.
You then have four two-loss teams in the SEC West, but that’s not what would wrap it up for the big boys down south.
@Tyler_Waddell Noooooo! I don’t want to hear the fans’ screams. One SEC team HAS to be in the CFP.
— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) November 7, 2014
Insert either Missouri or Georgia as the winner of the SEC East, and if either team not-so-shockingly (what is, these days?) knocks off a West power in the conference championship, then there you have it: no SEC teams in the College Football Playoff.
The selection committee is not going to bump the No. 20 Bulldogs—who have lost to South Carolina and Florida (yikes)—or the unranked Tigers—who lost Indiana (double yikes) and were shutout by Georgia in Week 7 (coming off a bye week, mind you)—into the Top 4 in less than a month’s time.
“The selection process will not be easy, especially in year one, where we have no comparative selections with which to weigh. The reality of not having an SEC team in the initial CFB Playoff just seems wrong,” wrote Cole Cubelic of Saturday Down South, all the way back in June. “If you look at the paths that lie ahead for the teams that already have a mental lean with the committee and the media, there is a much larger chance it happens; a much greater chance than any of us would ever want to believe.
“It’s a little different than the guaranteed ‘two SEC teams included every year’ every SEC fan originally predicted.”
Best-case scenario? Mississippi State wins out and finishes as the No. 1 overall seed, which would be an incredible feat, considering ESPN’s Football Power Index is only giving the Bulldogs a 26.4 percent chance to win in Tuscaloosa this weekend, with a 32.3 percent chance of winning the Egg Bowl against rival Ole Miss. They also only hold a 4.6 percent chance to win out their schedule, which ranks 93rd in the nation. (So much for confidence in the “best” team in the country, amiright?)
Or: Alabama rises to the occasion, beats MSSU on Saturday, seeks revenge on Gus Malzahn in the Iron Bowl, and takes the SEC crown by storm. Nick Saban and company have the No. 1 FPI in the country, No. 2 strength of record, and a 35.4 percent chance of winning the SEC—the best number in the conference.
Another card that’s playing against the SEC’s odds is the outside competition. Florida State has by no means played up to its ability, but is 9-0 and is expected to once again win the ACC and enter the playoffs riding a 29-game winning streak that dates back to 2012. Oregon will be cashed in if it can sustain its high level of play through the remainder of the regular season and in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and then you have to think that either TCU (No. 5 in the latest AP Poll) or Baylor (71.7 percent chance of winning the Big 12) will catch the eye of the committee as well.
That leaves one spot open for a one-loss SEC team, and it will have to be Mississippi State or Alabama—Ole Miss’ chances were kissed good-bye with its crushing (for lack of a better term; no insensitivity toward Laquon Treadwell implied) defeat at Auburn, and the Tigers’ subsequent (and uncharacteristic, for that matter) home loss to Texas A&M will keep them caged out of the playoff, too.
Sorry SEC fans, but this might finally be the year where being the stronghold of the NCAA twists things inside out and plays against your favor.
Don’t you just miss the good ol’ days when everyone wanted ‘Bama?