|Kansas State's loss to Baylor was the SEC's gain. (US Presswire)|
In 2004, Auburn rose from preseason also-ran into the BCS top 5, then top 3, and waited for No. 1 USC and No. 2 Oklahoma to fall. The Trojans gave up a pile of yards to Aaron Rodgers and Cal, but held on for the win. Oklahoma fell behind early at both Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but recovered for narrow victories. And even at 12-0, Auburn eventually settled for the Sugar Bowl instead of a BCS title shot--the only BCS team outside of the Big East to finish with a perfect record and still be left out of the BCS Championship Game.
Since that season, though, whenever the SEC has needed some help from underdogs around the country to worm its way into the crystal football discussion, it's gotten it. Baylor's takedown of Kansas State and Stanford's of Oregon Saturday were just the latest in a long string of late-season upsets that have done the SEC a world of good. The rundown:
2006: Florida entered the final week of the season No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind undefeated No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 USC, and No. 3 Michigan. With the Buckeyes and Wolverines having already finished their seasons and the Trojans 11-point favorites over UCLA, even the Gators' SEC championship over Arkansas didn't look to be much help. But the Bruins stunned USC 13-9 and voters decided in favor of Florida's conference title over a Buckeyes-Wolverines rematch, giving Urban Meyer's team the chance to demolish Ohio State in the BCS title game and kick off the SEC's six-year national championship streak. (The Gators were also helped by BCS No. 3 Louisville's Week 11 loss at Rutgers.)
2007: LSU seemed to have lost out on its title shot with stunning overtime loss to Arkansas in its regular season finale, dropping all the way to No. 7 in the next-to-last BCS standings. But No. 1 Missouri fell to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, No. 2 West Virginia suffered a loss to Pitt that ranks among the biggest upsets in college football's recent memory, and LSU's win over Tennessee gave voters a chance to vault Les Miles' Tigers past other two-loss conference titlists like the Sooners, Virginia Tech or USC (as well as one-loss Kansas, knocked out of contention by Missouri) into another title bout with Ohio State. Dennis Dixon's Week 12 knee injury for Oregon also played a major role in clearing the way for LSU, eliminating the Pac-10's biggest challenger.
2008: By the time the SEC Championship Game rolled around, No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida was a play-in game for the BCS championship, with the Big 12 (in No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Texas) taking the other spot. But that might not have been the case had then-No. 3 Penn State not lost its undefeated season in Week 10 in a 24-23 upset at Iowa.
2011: LSU might have won the national championship for the SEC regardless of whether Oklahoma State made it to New Orleans or not, but the league's most recent title was guaranteed all the same when the undefeated Cowboys were stunned at Iowa State in Week 11.
That's four out of the six titles where the SEC needed some kind of help from the rest of college football, and got it. And if the winner of the 2012 Alabama-Georgia SEC title game does indeed advance directly into the BCS title game -- as now seems likely -- the events of Saturday will have made it 5 out of 7.