If you watch television, you’ve seen the Allstate insurance commercials featuring a character named “Mayhem.” Mayhem is a bad, bad man. He symbolizes all the random and unexpected disasters that befall humanity. He also happens to remind you why you need good insurance: He’s the overemotional teenage girl who rams into your car in a parking lot, or the puppy who ate your back seat, or the satellite dish falling off your roof, or a whole winter’s worth of snow falling into your house.
You never, ever want to run into Mayhem.
But this weekend, when Alabama heads to Baton Rouge to face LSU in a rematch of last year’s BCS Championship Game, the BCS just might be running into Mayhem.
Let’s play the hypothetical game. Let’s say top-ranked Alabama loses to LSU. Then let’s say at least two of the three undefeated teams just behind Alabama in the BCS standings — Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon — run the table and finish the season undefeated. And let’s say that even the questionable genius of the BCS black-box computers wouldn’t be able to deny that undefeated teams from the Big 12 or Pac-12 or an independent team like Notre Dame deserve to play in the BCS title game over one-loss teams from the undisputed home to the nation’s best college football, the SEC.
It would be the most fitting nail in the coffin for the already doomed BCS: an unbeaten team defeating an unbeaten team in the BCS title game, but the national champion still not being seen as the legitimate best team in the land because it didn’t have to wade through the dangerous waters of the SEC.
If LSU beats Alabama this weekend, Mayhem is coming.
Mayhem could have been saved by a bit of urgency on the part of the brain trust of college football. A few months ago, a four-team playoff system was finally decided to be the proper way to determine the national champion. But the death of the BCS won’t happen for another two years, not soon enough to save this season from Mayhem.
No sane person would argue with the primacy of the SEC. But it would be equally as difficult to argue that an undefeated Kansas State, Notre Dame or Oregon don’t deserve a shot at the national title, particularly if the SEC doesn’t boast an undefeated champion. Kansas State’s toughest games are behind it, and it won them impressively and on the road: a 55-14 thumping at West Virginia and a 24-19 win at Oklahoma.
Notre Dame, with one of the toughest schedules in the country, has beaten four ranked teams and only has one more ranked team left on its schedule, at USC in its final game of the season. Oregon has so far blazed through the Pac-12, its ridiculous offense running up scores all season (although it’s heading into its toughest stretch, with three of its final four games against ranked opponents — USC, Stanford and Oregon State — before a likely Pac-12 Championship Game).
It is worth noting that having this many top teams being undefeated 10 weeks into the college football season is not exactly a novelty. Crazy things happen in November in college football, like Iowa State beating an undefeated Oklahoma State and throwing BCS computers into overdrive. At this point in 2011, the top-five teams in the BCS standings were undefeated; only LSU made it to bowl season undefeated. At this point in 2010, the top five teams in BCS standings were undefeated; only Auburn, Oregon and TCU ran the table, which made for an obvious Auburn-Oregon pick for the national title game. In 2009 the top-seven teams were all undefeated at this point; no one was thinking that Cincinnati, Boise State or TCU should have gotten the national title game bid over Alabama and Texas.
But undefeated Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon would make a tough logjam for one-loss SEC teams to crack (Florida, Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State all have only one loss). Should they run the table, one couldn’t possibly poke a hole in any of those three teams’ undefeated seasons, unlike back in 2009 when teams from weak conferences like Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State all headed to bowl season undefeated.
The Big 12 is a legit conference, and the K-State Wildcats are mauling it. Notre Dame’s tough schedule and its second-in-the-nation defense, behind only Alabama, would make an undefeated Notre Dame as deserving of a title game bid as an undefeated Oregon and the nation’s top-ranked offense.
Yet a national title game without a team from the best football conference would leave everyone wondering what a wondrous thing a four-team playoff would have been for this college football season. (Can you imagine: winner of Alabama-Oregon playing the winner of K-State-Notre Dame? Wow.)
Winning this weekend against LSU, though it’s its toughest test, won’t mean Alabama would be able to scamper all the way to the SEC title game and then the national title game unscathed. A tough matchup against 16th-ranked Texas A&M still looms.
Wherever a possible Alabama loss exists, Mayhem looms nearby, ready to show just how silly the BCS black-box system has been and just how appreciative everyone will be when it’s finally gone forever.
Follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @ReidForgrave or email him at ReidForgrave@gmail.com.