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CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

It's SEC and Big 12, then everyone else in BCS title race

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The Crimson Tide, Cowboys control their own destinies to win the BCS title. (CBSSports.com Original)  
The Crimson Tide, Cowboys control their own destinies to win the BCS title. (CBSSports.com Original)  

Welcome to the halfway point, Big Ten. Now stand aside.

The same goes for the Pac-12 and ACC. Seven weeks down, seven weeks to go and you're all going to need some BCS help. If you haven't noticed, that SEC stranglehold on the national championship is alive and well. Five titles and counting.

The first BCS standings were released Sunday and there is no reason to believe it won't be six straight. For now, the season has been whittled down to a couple of national semifinals: LSU-Alabama on Nov. 5 and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State on Dec. 3.

After a first-half, first-hand site inspection of all four of those teams I'll take the Tigers-Tide winner against the field. It just so happens that the Sooners (still No. 1 in the coaches poll) and the Cowboys have positioned themselves best to populate the other half the championship game in New Orleans.

Everyone else needs that help. The news Sunday wasn't the order of the top four -- LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. It was in slots 6 through 8 -- Wisconsin, Clemson, Stanford.

Wisconsin, Stanford or Clemson could win out and be shut out of that championship game. That would be three undefeated major-conference champions on the outside looking in. That's incredible at first glance -- outrageous when you consider there have been two undefeated major-conference champs miss out on the title game in the history of the BCS.

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What, you forgot Auburn in 2004 and Cincinnati in 2009?

It's not a tipping point yet, but we seem to be closer to postseason change. If the Big East goes away, there is going to be one less BCS conference. That means one more free-floating BCS bid that could be gobbled up by one of the major conferences. For that to happen, the two-team limit per conference would have to be rescinded.

Why not? The SEC is soon going to be 14 teams. The Big Ten has been in the most BCS bowls. The Mountain West and Conference USA merged Friday. They have no assurance at all that the new "Big Country" (my name) will get a BCS bid. But C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky did offer this reason for the merger:

"Who knows whether there will even be a BCS [beyond 2013]," he said on Friday.

It's not a tipping point yet but let's see how Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany reacts if a 13-0 Wisconsin, fresh off the league's first championship game, gets left out.

True, these things have a way of working out. Teams lose, unexpectedly. USC was upset on the last day of the 2006 season, allowing Florida to sneak into the championship game. West Virginia had its heart ripped out by Pittsburgh in 2007. Boise State had a heck of a run last year but lost the night after Thanksgiving at Nevada when its kicker threw up all over his shoes.

But it's one thing when an undefeated TCU has to settle for the Rose Bowl, it's another when it happens to the mighty Big Ten. That's why you probably missed the relevance of one of the biggest stories of the season, way back in August.

Quietly, Pac-12 and Big Ten athletic directors voted in favor of a plus-one.

For those not fluent in BCS, I'll translate: They want a playoff, even if it is a modest, seeded four-team bracket. You know why they want a playoff? They're sick of the SEC dominating.

Delany tried to shoot down the report by the Seattle Times' Bud Withers but didn't succeed. Withers' reporting was solid. I was able confirm it through multiple sources. Then the story just kind of died. The season started, conference realignment took hold, another player was suspended at Ohio State.

But now that the BCS has debuted, the significance of those AD's straw vote is clearer. We're talking the 24 ADs from power conferences who would take up arms to protect the Rose Bowl, favoring a four-team playoff.

We now have tangible proof that someone somewhere is sick and tired of the SEC's dominance. Amazingly, it was the SEC proposing the same thing three years ago. Along with ACC commissioner John Swofford, SEC commissioner Mike Slive pitched a plus-one.

At that time it suited them. Back in 2008, Slive/Swofford wanted a four-team bracket for the same reason the Big Ten and Pac-12 ADs want one today: They're sick of their teams being shut out of the BCS title game. The SEC was four years removed from the Auburn situation and only two years into its current five-year run.

The Big Ten hasn't won a national championship since 2002. The Pac-12 hasn't won one since 2004. Oregon has risen up lately only to lose consecutive games to SEC powers Auburn and LSU.

Look at the NHL, NBA, NFL or Major League postseasons. It's hard to dominate a postseason through a bracketed playoff. Look at college football, it would be more difficult for the SEC to dominate through a bracketed playoff.

It's not coming until at least 2014, if at all. By then the SEC could win eight in a row. Hey, but we're only halfway through 2011. These things have a way of evening out.

Or did.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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