Even before Alabama lost to Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, the murmurings of where a one-loss SEC champion stood in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) landscape began.
After Johnny "Football" Manziel finished off the Aggies' dazzling 29-24 win over the Crimson Tide and the SEC's streak of six straight titles was put in serious jeopardy, they became a dull roar.
If either Oregon or Kansas State loses, should a one-loss SEC champion—presumably Alabama or Georgia—jump undefeated Notre Dame, which is currently ranked third in the latest BCS Standings and topped three teams in the current top 25?
Of course not.
Sure, the BCS exists to determine and place the top two teams in the country in a national championship game. Even with a loss, you could make the argument that a one-loss SEC champion is one of the top two teams in the country.
Probably more so for Alabama, because even if Georgia wins the SEC title, the 35-7 loss to South Carolina is still going to stick out like a sore thumb.
Losses, no matter how they look, still have to count for something.
Notre Dame isn't winning pretty. In fact, it's winning in remarkably ugly fashion.
The Fighting Irish rank 60th in the country in total offense (403.3 YPG) and have narrowly escaped home tests from Purdue, BYU and Pitt in addition to the overtime win over No. 13 Stanford.
But it's still winning, and that zero in the loss column is the most important part of a championship resume. The Fighting Irish will still need some help because voters aren't impressed with how it's winning.
Down the road, if the debate becomes either undefeated Notre Dame or a one-loss SEC champion, the Fighting Irish should, and would, get the nod.
The SEC has earned the benefit of the doubt over the last six seasons, but that doesn't mean that it's the SEC's right to play for the crystal football.
The ticket to Miami still needs to be earned. The price of that ticket varies from year-to-year based on circumstances. In some years, you need to run the table, and in others, you can slide in with two losses.
That's the beauty of college football—every game counts.
In some years, like 2011, the better loss outweighs head-to-head results. In others, strength of schedule trumps everything else. The SEC has cannibalized itself to a point this year where even that benefit of the doubt won't be enough to get into the title game, even if Notre Dame doesn't pass the eye test.