Only a week ago, the SEC's dominance of the BCS seemed unquestioned in college football.
Three conference teams were ranked in the top seven of the simulated BCS standings, with three more in the top 15. The SEC champion was destined to be in the BCS title game for an eighth straight season, whether it be Alabama or somebody else.
A week later, after a slew of upsets, only two SEC teams are still in the Top 10 of the official BCS standings. Unheralded Missouri checked in at No. 5, as it's now one of only two unbeaten SEC teams, along with top-ranked Alabama. In fact, only one other SEC team has fewer than two losses—No. 11 Auburn.
This naturally brings up the question: If Alabama should stumble somewhere along the way, could Mizzou win the SEC without a loss, but get shut out of the BCS title game?
The answer is: possibly, but probably not.
The Tigers are currently ranked sixth and seventh in the Harris and Coaches polls, respectively, but are third in the computer rankings. They will have an opportunity to improve their poll positions with games against South Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas A&M still to come. How much of a boost they get in the polls will ultimately decide whether or not they have a shot at the BCS championship.
Since the adoption of the current formula for the BCS in 2004, every team that finished first or second in the final BCS standings has played in the title game, regardless of their computer rankings. It's a beauty pageant with 170-plus judges while the computers are merely window dressing.
With that being the case, Missouri has a lot going for it. First and foremost is the heft of Missouri being a member of the SEC, which has won the last seven BCS championships. While it sometimes may be hard to move up in the polls, the Tigers have come a long way already. In the preseason, they did not receive a single vote in either the AP or coaches polls.
But Mizzou could use a bit of help.
The Tigers will want Alabama to go unbeaten going into the SEC championship game and ranked No. 1. Their ascension to the top (or near the top) of the polls won't be as certain if they face a one-loss 'Bama team or even a one-loss Auburn team in the conference title game.
Oregon and Florida State can both potentially block Mizzou's path to the title game, with the Ducks' position much more unassailable. It wouldn't hurt if either of those teams loses a game. If not, the Tigers will benefit greatly if FSU plays a couple of clunkers against the lesser ACC teams.
Neither Ohio State nor an unbeaten Big 12 champ (Baylor or Texas Tech) poses a threat to Mizzou's upward mobility. The Tigers will be ahead of those teams if they win out. But for the sake of clearing out potential wedge teams in the polls, they wouldn't mind if one of those teams—especially the Buckeyes—lose a game along the way.
|How SEC Champions Did in BCS Era|
|1998||Tennessee||12-0||No. 1 BCS; Won BCS Title|
|1999||Alabama||10-2||No. 4 BCS: Lost Orange Bowl|
|2000||Florida||10-2||No. 7 BCS; Lost Sugar Bowl|
|2001||LSU||9-3||No. 13 BCS; Won Sugar Bowl|
|2002||Georgia||12-1||No. 3 BCS; Won Sugar Bowl|
|2003||LSU||12-1||No. 2 BCS; Won BCS Title (Split)|
|2004||Auburn||12-0||No. 3 BCS; Won Sugar Bowl|
|2005||Georgia||10-2||No. 7 BCS; Lost Sugar Bowl|
|2006||Florida||12-1||No. 2 BCS; Won BCS Title|
|2007||LSU||11-2||No. 2 BCS; Won BCS Title|
|2008||Florida||12-1||No. 2 BCS: Won BCS Title|
|2009||Alabama||13-0||No. 1 BCS; Won BCS Title|
|2010||Auburn||13-0||No. 1 BCS; Won BCS Title|
|2011||LSU||13-0||No. 1 BCS; Lost BCS Title Game|
|2012||Alabama||12-1||No. 2 BCS; Won BCS Title|
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