Why the Pac-12 Is More Deserving of 2 BCS Teams Than the SEC
Status quo dictates the SEC gets two BCS invitations every year, but unprecedented parity threatens the routine in the last year of the system. With the SEC cooking a pot of three- and four-loss stew, football's most celebrated conference could have to settle for one bid this year.
Conversely, a two-bid postseason is ready-made for the Pac-12.
The SEC has landed two invitations to the five most prestigious bowls every year since the system expanded to five games in 2006.
The Pac-12 remains the best-represented conference atop the BCS rankings, with Stanford maintaining its No. 5 spot behind third-ranked Oregon. However, a Week 11 showdown between the Cardinal and Ducks threatens that, with four SEC teams—Missouri, Auburn, South Carolina and LSU—ranked from No. 8-13 looming.
Which conference is most deserving of two BCS bids?
A fifth, Texas A&M, checks in at No. 15.
Any could conceivably jump Stanford by season's end. But equally as conceivable is the five falling to three or more losses.
Two-loss Texas A&M goes to LSU; two-loss LSU visits Alabama. Two-loss South Carolina faces No. 7 Clemson in the regular-season finale. One-loss Auburn visits Tennessee, which already derailed South Carolina, then hosts Georgia and Alabama.
In addition to No. 1 Alabama, surprising SEC East leader Missouri is the conference's best hope for landing a second BCS bid. The Tigers can either win out, including the SEC championship; win out in the regular season and drop the league title game to finish 11-2; or finish the regular season 10-2 to avoid Alabama, instead sending South Carolina to play the Tide in the conference title game.
The latter seems most likely. Missouri travels to Ole Miss one week before hosting Texas A&M. Both are prime candidates to knock off the eighth-ranked Tigers.
Otherwise, the SEC's run of BCS at-large invitations is in serious jeopardy.
The BCS made an exception for a three-loss team in the past, when Illinois appeared in the 2008 Rose Bowl.
The 2013 season has been wild. Look no further than Stanford, which has a loss at Utah. That early October outcome will loom over the Cardinal's BCS bid, should they finish the regular season 10-2.
Wild as this campaign may be, though, it's yet to take the same kind of unexpected turn as the 2007 season. A scenario welcoming a three-loss team into the BCS fold is improbable.
Clemson is in position to finish 11-1, a record that would give it book-ending wins over the SEC's Georgia and South Carolina. The Big 12 has three teams ranked in the Top 14.
There are two non-automatic qualifiers, Fresno State and Northern Illinois, ranked ahead of American Athletic automatic-bid front-runner UCF.
And then there's the Pac-12. Even with the Utah loss, a 10-2 Stanford would have a stronger BCS resume than most of its automatic-qualifying conference counterparts, including the SEC—especially the SEC.
A nine-game conference slate helped Stanford strengthen its schedule. The Cardinal sport two wins against teams ranked in the BCS Top 25: No. 19 UCLA and No. 22 Arizona State. They get two more cracks at adding to that list.
In addition to Thursday's long-awaited showdown with Oregon, Stanford hosts No. 23 Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. With all going according to plan, both the Cardinal and Fighting Irish should be 9-2 on Nov. 30.
After years of criticism against the SEC for collectively eschewing marquee, non-conference games, the Pac-12 solidifying a second BCS bid with a non-conference win would be poetic justice.
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