Alabama QB AJ McCarron
The faces may have changed, but the process apparently has stayed the same.
Despite Alabama taking home each of the last two BCS National Championships, the SEC has cannibalized itself over the last two seasons, and the Crimson Tide needed a ton of breaks outside of their own control to even play for those crystal footballs.
The SEC's options have dwindled to three after Upset Saturday handed South Carolina, Texas A&M and LSU their second losses of the season, and Georgia and Florida their third. Alabama, Missouri and Auburn are the SEC's only three hopes remaining to extend the SEC's streak to eight straight BCS National Championships.
Before we discusses two-loss LSU winning the title in 2007, just stop.
With the way Florida State, Oregon and Baylor are playing, the likelihood of that sort of craziness being possible is slim to none.
Top-ranked Alabama is obviously in the catbird seat.
The Crimson Tide have returned to form, giving up just one touchdown since the Texas A&M game and relying on a bevy of running backs to carry the load. They've got Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn left on the schedule, which isn't the most treacherous road in college football, although LSU and Auburn will certainly provide challenges.
Head coach Nick Saban has been in this position before, and as long as he can avoid the November slip-up—which has happened in each of the last two seasons—the Tide are fine. If they get upset, all bets are off and the SEC's streak is done.
Nobody expected Missouri to be in this position, not even the SEC's media, according to ESPN's Paul Finebaum:
Mizzou was picked to finish No. 6 in the SEC East at Media Days. In the first BCS, the Tigers are No. 5 ... in the nation.— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) October 21, 2013
But here the Tigers are at 7-0 with a No. 5 ranking in the BCS, with all seven of their wins coming by at least two touchdowns.
They're on the outside looking right now, but the fact that they're that high tells you just how crazy this season has been. The Tigers are already above the two unblemished teams in the Big 12 and 6-0 Miami out of the ACC.
If Missouri takes care of business and beats the SEC West champ in Atlanta, it'll jump to the top of the BCS standings. The SEC has earned the benefit of the doubt over these last seven seasons, and even though Missouri is an SEC newbie, it still will benefit from the SEC's perception as the unquestioned top college football conference in America.
Auburn's margin for error is razor-thin, but the fact that we're even talking about the Tigers having a margin for error in the BCS title hunt given the 3-9 debacle of last season is remarkable.
Finebaum points out that, like Missouri, head coach Gus Malzahn is also fighting an uphill battle this season.
Auburn picked No. 5 in SEC West in preseason. The Tigers are No. 11 in first BCS.— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) October 21, 2013
If the No. 11 Tigers can run the table and win the SEC Championship Game, they'll be treated like any other one-loss SEC champ. Oregon and Florida State will be nearly impossible to get by if those teams run the table, but Ohio State—given the wide gap the Buckeyes are currently facing and the largely unimpressive schedule—could be had.
Who will play for the BCS National Championship?
It's a long shot for the Tigers to play, as one-loss SEC teams have played in the title game five of the last seven years. Auburn will be likely be favored in every game leading up to its Iron Bowl showdown with Alabama on Nov. 30 on the Plains. If they can look pretty in the process and creep up in the human polls before that date, it'd be a huge benefit to their title chances.
That's it—that's all that's left for the SEC. A stark contrast to the initial standings last season, when the SEC had six teams in the top 12.
Sure, LSU is sitting at the No. 13 spot this season, but the Tigers have Texas A&M and Alabama left on their schedule. Considering the Jekyll and Hyde defense that head coach Les Miles is trotting out there, you have to imagine another stumble is likely.
Options are limited if the SEC's streak will extend into the College Football Playoff era, although considering the way the Crimson Tide are playing, they might be the only option the SEC needs.