Apparently, the reports of Auburn’s first-half death were greatly exaggerated. As was the notion of Boise State and TCU pulling up a chair at the BcS title table — for now.
The Tigers dodged a major bullet, erasing what was at one point a 24-0 deficit in the 28-27 win over Alabama, and kept their title hopes very much alive, while simultaneously breaking the hearts of those in Boise and Fort Worth as this could be the last big test for either Auburn or Oregon. The stirring comeback, one of the greatest in the tradition-rich history of the Iron Bowl, seemingly removes the final major obstacle in the Tigers’ path to Glendale. Or does it?
Barring a complete collapse — or an NCAA ruling coming down on Cam Newton’s eligibility beforehand — Auburn should be able to handle their business in the SEC championship game against South Carolina. “Should” is the operative word here, though; the Gamecocks took a 27-21 lead into the fourth quarter on the road in late September, but turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter as the Tigers mounted one of their eight fourth-quarter comebacks. Certainly Auburn will be favored, possibly heavily, in the conference title game but, as Alabama showed today, the Tigers are far from invincible… provided you play four quarters.
As for Oregon, the Pac-10 school still has two games remaining — tonight against Arizona, then the Civil War against in-state rival Oregon State — and remain in the driver’s seat for a spot opposite Auburn. As also proven by the Tide, though, the Ducks should tread lightly and warily when facing a rival on the road; you don’t think there’s anything the Beavers, in the midst of a wildly disappointing season, would love to do more than knocking their bitter rivals from the national championship picture? Still, and provided they survive tonight, they will be heavy favorites next weekend and have a path to Glendale that’s as equal to or greater in ease than their potential opponent in the BcS title game.
Three shots remain, though. A trio of chances for Boise State and TCU to sneak through the back cargo door and onto a plane headed for Arizona.
Is it possible that a non-automatic qualifier will make it to the title game in 2010? Certainly. Is it probable? Given the paths remaining for the two schools ahead of them in the BcS rankings, certainly not. While it’s a credit to those two programs that we are this deep in the season and they’re still in the discussion, it’s also an indictment of the current system used to determine a national champion and screams “damn shame” that an equitable solution to what most perceive to be a major problem is easily found in a playoff format. Of course, the BcS is not about fairness or equity or any other virtue espoused by the member institutions; rather, it’s all about funneling the most money possible to the Big Six “power” conferences. Even at the expense of one of its own.
And what of Stanford, one of the Big Six’s own? There probably wasn’t a bigger Alabama fan in the country as afternoon faded into evening than that program. Should both Auburn and Oregon win out, and Boise State/TCU remain unbeaten, the Rose Bowl would be contractually obligated to take the highest-rated of the non-AQs… at the expense of the Cardinal.
Forget Boise State and TCU; Stanford might be subjected to the biggest jobbing of the 2010 season.
And the biggest reason yet for a playoff to get here sooner rather than later.