One of the very best things about college football is the arguing. Who's No. 1? Who knows? We're never entirely certain, and that has always been fine with me. College football is not basketball, or soccer, or softball – where tournaments settle everything – and it never will be. Even next year, when the four-team playoff begins, who's to say a fifth school that is left out might not be better than one of those that got in?
We are living in the final days of the Bowl Championship Series, which has tormented college football fans for the past 15 years. The BCS has been good at producing arguments, not so good at producing indisputable champions. So, as the BCS takes its final breaths, it's perfectly fitting that it goes out with one last great shouting match.
By now, you're certainly aware that Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, the self-appointed czar of the college game for this week at least, said it would be a "disservice to the nation" if a one-loss SEC champion – you might not be surprised to find out he's talking about Auburn – were left out of the so-called national championship game. A disservice to the nation? It's always so nice to see football kept in proper perspective, especially in the SEC.
"An SEC team can't get left out of the (championship game) with one loss," Jacobs told USA TODAY Sports. "We just beat the No. 1 team in the nation (Alabama), and a team ahead of us (Ohio State) struggled…"
Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn leads his team through Tiger walk.(Photo: John Reed, USA TODAY Sports)
But, as things stand now before Saturday's conference championship games, it would be Ohio State that joins top-ranked Florida State in the BCS finale on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., and Auburn would be left out. All three schools play this weekend, and if we learned anything from last weekend, it's that we have absolutely no idea what is going to happen.
Let's say, though, that Florida State, Ohio State and Auburn all win Saturday, and the decision is that it's FSU-OSU in the championship game. Is this fair? I think almost all of us can agree that the SEC is a better football conference than the Big Ten. I'm a Big Ten person through and through, and I agree with that statement. The SEC has won seven consecutive national titles. Auburn's schedule was much tougher than Ohio State's. Auburn defeated the No. 1 team, although there's a part of me that says Nick Saban's decision-making defeated the No. 1 team. Nonetheless, we have been given a sports memory for the ages.
But here's the problem for Auburn. It lost a game earlier this year. Ohio State did not. In fact, the Buckeyes haven't lost since Jan. 2, 2012. And, in an imperfect system, in which we have no idea who's really a better team, we have to hang our hat on something – and in college football, undefeated counts for something.
I know there will be people who disagree with this philosophy. Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer once was one of those people. In 2006, he was in Auburn's position as the head coach at Florida: "We're going to tell a group of young men, who just went 12-1 in a most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents, that they don't have a chance to play for a national championship? I'm going to need help with that one."
Meyer's Gators did get into the championship game against undefeated Ohio State, and easily beat the Buckeyes, 41-14. So there's the case for the SEC, made by Meyer, who now is in the Big Ten.
It does get confusing sometimes.
There are several ways the conference championship games could play out. What if Auburn wins big over Missouri (which has shown in its second season in the conference that it's not as difficult as we thought to get to the top quickly in the SEC) and Ohio State squeaks by Michigan State? Does Auburn leap Ohio State in that case?
What if Duke beats Florida State in the ACC title game? (Wouldn't that be something? On second thought, never mind.)
Then there's this scenario, my personal favorite: Duke beats Florida State. (I know, I know.) Michigan State beats Ohio State. (Certainly possible). Auburn beats Missouri and moves up to No. 1.
Who would it play in the BCS title game? By process of elimination, it would have to be Alabama.
How about that? Auburn-Alabama. Again. It's a fun thought, although it's about as likely to happen as a missed field goal being returned 109 yards for a touchdown in a game's final second. You know, almost impossible.