BCS Championship Game: An Auburn Win Benefits Every SEC Program

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 26, 2013

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Chants of "S-E-C" have echoed in venues of each of the last seven BCS National Championship Games, as four different SEC programs have claimed the last seven crystal footballs.

The success on college football's biggest stage has been a point of pride for fans of all 14 SEC schools, but it also presents a problem for others. One team's success typically comes at the expense of another in close proximity, which gives the team with the national spotlight on it an advantage in recruiting.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: An Auburn Tigers flag is seen after the Auburn Tigers defeated the Missouri Tigers 59-42 to win the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Does that outweigh the benefit the conference as a whole enjoys from consistently winning titles?

Absolutely not.

When Auburn and Florida State square off in Pasadena on Jan. 6, it would be incredibly beneficial for the entire conference if the Tigers spring the upset, as ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit noted on Twitter.

1 thing for certain. Jan 6th-14 teams fans from the SEC vs the World. SEC convinced NOONE can hang w/ em & rest of fans tired of hearing it!

— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) December 22, 2013

Perception is reality in college football—more so than in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the NBA or other major sports leagues in the country. With 125 FBS teams and a scant 12 games in a regular season, the enormous landscape coupled with a limited slate of games creates a perception-based sport that will always be that way regardless of the postseason format.

That means fans around the SEC should be screaming "War Eagle" in early January—yes, even Alabama and Georgia fans.

A rising tide lifts all boats—"pun" very much intended.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  The line of scrimmage as the Alabama Crimson Tide line up against the Auburn Tigers in the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Part of the reason Auburn is playing for the crystal football is the benefit of the doubt that exists thanks to the SEC's seven straight titles. That's exactly why it wasn't even a discussion between one-loss Auburn and fellow one-loss conference champions Michigan State and Baylor for the final spot in the title game on selection Sunday.

Sure, Auburn's strength of schedule is ranked 20th by Jeff Sagarin, while Michigan State's is 56th and Baylor's is 61stwhich means the Tigers would likely have won that discussion anyway. But it wasn't even a discussion specifically because of the perception that exists that the SEC is superior to every other conference in college football.

Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn celebrates after winning the 2013 SEC Championship game against the Missouri Tigers at Georgia Dome. Auburn won 59-42. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If you're a fan of any SEC school, you want that perception to stay as strong as ever, especially in the new four-team College Football Playoff, where getting two teams from the same conference in will become more likely.

Had the roles been reversed in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and Alabama had been blown out by Notre Dame, would it have hurt Auburn's chances this season? Absolutely. The mighty SEC would have been knocked off its perch, and future teams in the title or playoff mix may not have received the same benefit of the doubt.

Another SEC team winning the national title would be a short-term problem for the conference's elite. But let's be real—Auburn, as was the case with Alabama, Florida and LSU—recruits at a high level anyway. That's short-term reasoning for a long-term discussion.

If Auburn comes out on top in Pasadena, it is the Tigers' title, not the SEC's. But all 14 teams would benefit from the perception continuing into the new age of college football.