Ranked No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in the AP and Coaches polls, Mississippi State and Auburn making the first College Football Playoff poll wasn't a surprise, but Ole Miss came in ahead of 16 other one-loss teams at No. 4.
"The College Football Playoff selection committee met for the past two days and we engaged in a lively and detailed discussion about who the best teams are in college football, as of October 26," said selection chairman Jeff Long.
Florida State joined the SEC trio at No. 2, while Alabama came in fifth. The SEC had six teams in the Top 25 with Georgia at No. 11 and LSU at No. 19.
There was talk that it would be the Crimson Tide and not the Rebels in the first four with Ole Miss suffering its first loss a week ago, 10-7 to LSU. But the committee put its stock in the head-to-head matchup, as the Rebels beat Alabama 23-17 on Oct. 4.
"We debated, we reviewed facts and statistics, and we used our judgment. There are 18 one-loss teams in the FBS and the differences between many of these teams are slight. The bottom line is it’s early, it’s close and it’s going to change."
That last part is what should be fixated on, not those charges of SEC bias that are only going to grow with not only the conference but one division taking up three-fourths of the field. But the reality is it isn’t likely to be like this when the dust settles in December.
Mississippi State still has to play Alabama (Nov. 15) and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl (Nov. 29), the Crimson Tide also draw LSU (Nov. 8) and Auburn (Nov. 29), and the Tigers (of the Plains variety) also take on Ole Miss this week and Georgia (Nov. 15).
So what we see one week from now is going to look very different, especially with two teams in the top four meeting this weekend in Oxford.
But if you’re SEC commissioner Mike Slive, this has to be seen as another reminder that the college football universe still revolves around this conference. After winning seven of the last eight Bowl Championship Series titles, the league has a leg up on everyone right now.
The fact is the SEC was rewarded for its dominance, even if it was surprising that Auburn — fourth in the AP Top 25 — bypassed Alabama, which was third, and Ole Miss — seventh in the AP — bypassed three other one-loss teams ahead of them (the Crimson Tide, Oregon and Notre Dame).
One of the most intriguing questions ahead of the selection committee’s initial poll was whether it would mirror the other rankings or if this new group would instead make a statement with its first release.
It’s fair to say the committee made the statement that the SEC has its full attention.