The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 4 Auburn Tigers is the biggest game of the 2013 college football season. If the pollsters and the BCS computer handle things properly, it should be even bigger than we expect.
Anytime a No. 1 plays a No. 4 this late in the season, it's a huge game. Throw in the fact that it happens to be one of the biggest and most bitter rivalries in college football, and it becomes even more important. Now let's also consider the fact that one of the teams between Bama and the Tigers in the polls has played one of the weakest schedules in the country.
Obviously I'm not talking about the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles. Jameis Winston and Co. have proven themselves on multiple occasions. Most notably, the Seminoles' thrashing of Clemson and Miami. stand out on the team's impressive resume. The Noles knocked off those two opponents by an average of 32 points.
The team in the cross hairs is the No. 3-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bucks have never lost under Urban Meyer. While that is a noteworthy accomplishment, the program hasn't played anyone that would even represent a significant test for the teams they keep company with near the top of the BCS standings. Mind you, this analysis isn't based on knowledge from the pollsters or a technical breakdown of the BCS computer. This point of view is the product of one college football fan's observation and opinion.
That said, ask yourself, how bad do you think Alabama, Florida State or Auburn would beat Wisconsin and/or Northwestern? Obviously, the Tide, the Noles or the Tigers haven't played Wisconsin or Northwestern this season, but the trio are a combined 9-1 against ranked teams this year.
The lone loss against a top-25 team was Auburn's 35-21 loss to the then No. 6-ranked LSU Tigers on Sept. 21.
Only one of Bama's three ranked opponents has stayed within a touchdown and none of Florida State's ranked foes have kept it close. All of Auburn's games with ranked opponents have been within a score, but the Tigers will have played five top-25 teams on Saturday. That is more than any other team in this discussion.
That number will rise to six if they beat Alabama and play in the SEC championship game.
Ohio State only beat Wisconsin by seven at home and Northwestern by 10 on the road. The Bucks will have a tough game on their hands against No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, but does that equate the Bucks' schedule to any of the other three elite teams?
No, it doesn't.
Undefeated is great, but a one-loss Auburn or Alabama team would still be more deserving of a national championship berth. Barring something completely unforeseen, the Noles should be in. It is hard to imagine them losing in the ACC title game against Duke, Georgia Tech or Miami.
If Alabama beats Auburn—as most aside are expecting—the Tide would be in position to head to Pasadena. If Bama was blown out in the SEC championship—which is highly unlikely—perhaps a big win from Ohio State over Michigan and Michigan State would make their case better.
However, if the Bucks win two close games to finish the season and Bama beats Auburn and loses a close game in the SEC championship, Bama still deserves the nod over Ohio State. I point to the same schedule differences and the fact that Ohio State has still failed to separate themselves from their rudimentary competition. One late-season slippage wouldn't make the Bucks' overall body of work better than Bama's.
As for the Tigers, it is a little more complicated. If the team beats Bama in the Iron Bowl, it deserves to be third in the BCS while Bama should sit at No. 4. The Tigers would need to win the SEC championship to deserve a spot ahead of Ohio State in the polls. Losing their second game of the season in the conference championship would be too much to keep them in the top two.
However, in that scenario, Alabama's resume would then still be more impressive than Ohio State's. The Tide would have just one loss this season while the Bucks were undefeated, but without a win over a top-10 team.
This point of view is going to come off as disrespectful to the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it isn't designed to be. Meyer has done an excellent job with the program. That said, the team's schedule has been cotton soft. While undefeated seasons are sometimes the product of this type of schedule, the lack of respect for the Bucks' opponents should cost them.