If Ohio State wins, it deserves to be in

The BCS is going away forever in a month, but it’s not going quietly.

If Florida State and Ohio State win on Saturday and Jameis Winston isn’t arrested between now and then, there’s going to be plenty of screaming from the SEC. More screaming than there’s already been.

Based on recent history, it is a little crazy to think that there could be a BCS National Championship Game without an SEC team. That’s not only because the SEC has won seven straight national title games, but because just two years ago two SEC teams played in the game.

This is a different year, and barring upsets on Saturday — and last Saturday showed that upsets still happen, even crazy ones — the last BCS title game is going to be different. If Florida State runs the ACC table and Ohio State runs the Big Ten table, those teams deserve to play for the title because no one ran the SEC table. The SEC is the tougher conference than both, but in the system in 2013 the SEC has not produced a stronger candidate than a 13-0 Florida State or Ohio State would be.

The bottom line is the BCS system rewards wins. It’s rewarded teams that have lost early in the season then continued to win, and on occasion it’s rewarded tough schedules, but there’s no precedent for an unbeaten major conference team to be passed by a one-loss team. The controversies have come when multiple teams have one loss, or even two. Wins have won out.

Backing up Ohio State’s argument is the computer average used to calculate the BCS score. Six weeks (and even longer ago), it looked like Ohio State could eventually be bitten by a soft schedule that included Florida A&M, Cal, Indiana, Illinois and Purdue. But the Buckeyes sit at No. 2 in the BCS and No. 2 in computer average with one game left to win, against 11-1 and No. 10 Michigan State. Even if No. 3 Auburn beats No. 5 Missouri and gains in some computer rankings (each team’s highest and lowest computer ranking are dropped; the remaining four are averaged), it likely won’t pass Ohio State in the computer rankings.

The SEC’s strongest argument is schedule strength, but computer systems based upon that very thing will likely solidify Ohio State’s standing.

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There are three elements to the BCS formula: The coaches poll, the Harris poll and the computer polls.

For a 12-1 Auburn to pass 13-0 Ohio State, there would have to be some funky voting done in the human polls. Very funky.

Last week, No. 1 Florida State got 58 first-place votes and Ohio State got four. In the Harris Poll, Ohio State got five first-place votes and Auburn got three. For Ohio State to fall behind the SEC champ, a whole bunch of voters in both polls would have to vote the SEC Champ No. 1, more would have to vote it No. 2 and those same voters would have to drop Ohio State to No. 5 or even lower.

It could happen. It would be a stretch — and it would take multiple voters stretching.

Polls are subjective, opinions vary and voters are certainly welcome to vote how they’d like. But what voters will see if they sit down and crunch the numbers on 2013 is that Florida State and Ohio State, if they’re 13-0, would be more deserving of the top two spots than the SEC champion.  

Missouri won at Georgia, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss and beat Texas A&M at home. That’s a better resume of wins than Ohio State has, but it includes a home loss to South Carolina. And it’s not good enough with that loss to be better than a 13-0 Ohio State.

Auburn beat Alabama — which was 11-0 and No. 1 — and beat Georgia in a wild one comparable to Ohio State-Michigan, just with a wilder ending. Auburn’s only road win of note was at Texas A&M. It lost at LSU by 14 a long time ago (Sept. 21) and what LSU has done since hasn’t exactly been flattering to Auburn.

The Alabama win is a great win. It’s the best win anybody had all year. Auburn has 10 other wins that look a whole lot like everybody else’s wins, and it has a 14-point loss.

The SEC is still the best conference in the country from 1-8 and 1-14; it probably isn’t close. But the SEC is going to crown a champion on Saturday, and that champion won’t have a stronger case than a 13-0 Ohio State team for playing in the national championship game.

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This has been a hot topic for weeks, but it’s really heated up in recent days as Auburn upset Alabama and the SEC’s grip on the BCS title game loosened. This week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said his one-loss conference champion “certainly has a compelling argument” to play for the title, and he’s right.

Again, if Florida State and Ohio State are 13-0, compelling just doesn’t equal good enough here.

What makes it compelling is recent history and the SEC’s recent domination. The SEC brings in the highest TV ratings, produces the most NFL first-round picks and consistently produces the best competition on a weekly basis.

A record of 25-0 over two seasons for Ohio State would be extremely impressive; only 13-0, if it gets there, is supposed to count. Seven straight national titles for the SEC is an amazing run of succcess; 2006-12 are not supposed to count in 2013.

This is compelling. By late Saturday night, it could be a closed-book argument.

Would Ohio State have lost games in the SEC, either division? It’s easy to say yes, but we don’t know. Thinking Ohio State would have is an opinion. It’s a hypothetical, like thinking Northern Illinois would have lost games in the Big Ten, or that Auburn wouldn’t have lost games in the Big Ten. A bunch of games were played this season. Everybody except Florida State, Ohio State and Northern Illinois lost at least one.

Everybody.

For those Ohio State fans (and Florida State fans, and Oregon fans, and Oklahoma fans, and so on) who are tired of the SEC, there’s been one way to win that argument: Beat the SEC. That hasn’t happened, but the SEC beating the SEC this year could be enough to let somebody else raise the trophy.

The SEC is not going away. The SEC is still going to win the ratings, a bunch of recruiting battles, the draft results, etc. It still will have great coaches and great programs and great standards. With the BCS going away and a four-team playoff coming in, those who are tired of the SEC are still going to have to beat the SEC. If there was a playoff this year, Alabama would make it by watching and resting at home this weekend. If there was a playoff, Las Vegas would have Alabama as the favorite.

That’s all for the future, and the future is still going to include the SEC. Why, as many fans gripe, is the early season coaches poll so full of SEC teams at the top? Because of Alabama and Nick Saban and Johhny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney. Because of LSU and Georgia and now Missouri and Auburn, too. The last seven years haven’t happened by accident.

If Florida State and Ohio State are intact and unblemished come Sunday morning, that won’t have happened by accident, either. And in that case, the SEC really won’t have much of a valid argument to have a team in the top two.