'Bama likely the SEC's only hope for 8th straight BCS title
Repeating anything for eight straight years is a tall order.
The New England Patriots reached the Super Bowl five times in 11 years, winning three titles between 2002-12, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are considered living legends for doing so.
With Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships in eight years (1991-93, 96-98) and are still held up as a standard of excellence two decades later. The Lakers of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Pat Riley were called Showtime, but they could only muster one "three-peat," which, at the time, was an historic feat.
In any profession, eight in a row is such an outlier that no one thinks much about it. Sure, you can win Salesman of the Year &mdassh; but not eight times running.
Even your mom's can't-miss Thanksgiving turkey recipe has an off year every now and then.
That's what makes the SEC's quest for an eight straight national championship so otherworldly.
It's also why this year, even with two teams in the top five (including No. 1 Alabama) and five in the top 15, the prospects of an SEC "eight- or octo-peat" are growing slimmer by the day.
For the most part, of the last seven years, winning the SEC championship led to a berth in the BCS title game. But South Carolina likely wouldn't have gone to the BCS title game if it had beaten Auburn in 2010, and Georgia might not have made it if the Bulldogs had beaten LSU in 2011.
And the Dawgs certainly would have taken on Notre Dame for the last year's national title, if they had knocked off the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship.
This year is different, though, not because the SEC doesn't have the best team — Alabama might be better than its championship predecessors from 2009, 2011 and '12 — but because the lower half of the conference has surprised people by exceeding expectations.
Normally, it would be a good thing when one, two or three teams considered to be bottom dwellers wins more games than expected.
But for teams like Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Missouri, the victories have come at the expense of other ranked teams within the conference.
While those victories have moved the winners up in the polls (Auburn is now ranked 11th in BCS standings and AP poll; and once-unranked Missouri has vaulted to 5th), those movements have been at the expense of some very good SEC teams.
Georgia, the preseason favorite to win the SEC East, has fallen out of the top 25 with losses to Missouri and Vandy, while South Carolina, which lost to Tennessee last Saturday, dropped from No. 6 in August ... all the way to 20th.
Texas A&M, with reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel fell from 6th to 14th after being upset by Auburn. And LSU, ranked 6th and vying for the SEC West title, fell to 13th after a jarring loss to unranked Ole Miss.
Florida, ranked No.12 in the nation early in the year, has tumbled out of sight after losing to a Missouri team without its star quarterback, James Franklin. And Ole Miss, which lost three in a row before upsetting LSU, is knocking on the door of the top 25, but still has a long way to go before contending for an SEC title.
As it stands entering Week 9, Texas Tech and Baylor have a better chance of playing in the BCS title game than LSU or Georgia. As such, undefeated Alabama has the only straight line to a BCS title shot, among the SEC crowd.
The Tide will take the next step in that quest Saturday. After that, it's LSU, Mississippi State and Chattanooga before traveling to Auburn for the Iron Bowl — the biggest rivalry game in college football and a potential meeting of top-10 clubs.
Assuming Alabama gets through that stretch unscathed, the Tide still has to face the winner of the SEC East, with Missouri in the driver's seat. Then and only then will Alabama play for a possible three-peat in the BCS Championship game.
Nick Saban's team is awfully strong, but that is a lot to ask. All streaks must eventually come to an end. As we enter the home stretch of the season, the SEC still has a grip on the national title ... but it's not a firm one.
And it could slip away at any given moment.