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Senior College Football Columnist

Crunch the numbers any way you like, SEC will extend BCS streak to seven

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SEC commish Mike Slive (right) probably will be posing with the BCS title trophy again in January. (Getty Images)  
SEC commish Mike Slive (right) probably will be posing with the BCS title trophy again in January. (Getty Images)  

It isn't that complicated, this 2012 season. If Alabama doesn't win it all, then LSU will. Georgia's there as a backup.

If that fails, South Carolina is your dark horse. And there's always Arkansas.

College football turns 143 this season and it's hard find a reason why the SEC shouldn't win its 142nd national championship in a row. Wait, what, it would only be seven straight? It appears that one of the side effects of a dynasty is hyperbole.

Or not. Do the math. The SEC has depth. Its teams inhabit half of the top 10 to start the season. Five teams. That has never happened, at least not in the SEC. For the nation's best conference, that means there is plenty of room to fail. One team loses and it's next man up from down South to take its place.

You might have noticed that the top 10 is a good place to lift off. Eleven of the 15 champions in the BCS era have started there. The average preseason rank of a national champion since 1998 is 7.5.

The SEC has five on the launching pad. Five.

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This discussion is suddenly less about your possible SEC weariness and more about the odds. They overwhelmingly favor the conference to win a seventh consecutive title. The Las Vegas sports books don't take prop bets on such things, but there would be dumber wagers. Take the SEC against the field. Do it. Lay $100 on the Strength Everywhere Conference winning it all against the 110 other FBS schools.

You would win $180. Maybe that's why the sports books aren't posting it. It's a sucker bet.

Paul Bessire will gladly run the numbers. The 30-year-old general manager of Predictionmachine.com has a master's degree in quantitative analysis. Bessire also has one of those computers ("The Predictalator" -- don't laugh) that can run a season 50,000 times in eight seconds. This year, most of the time, the SEC wins. In fact, three of his top four teams in that scenario are Alabama, LSU and Georgia. USC is the other.

The SEC has slightly better than a 1-in-3 chance of winning a seventh consecutive national championship if stacked against the field. The average conference would have a 25-33 percent chance in any given season, Bessire says. This year, the SEC is at 34 percent to 36 percent. Further perspective: Bessire says if any conference had gone into a season with a 1-in-3 chance since 2006, it would have a 0.129 percent chance of winning six in a row.

Translation: When Texas' Vince Young scored the winning touchdown against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, the likelihood of the SEC grabbing the game by the throat the next six years was 1 in 775.

How unlikely was that? Swear to God, Jordan Jefferson's completion percentage was higher.

If Bessire were setting the odds right now -- he doesn't, by the way -- he personally would give the SEC a 45 percent to 50 percent shot against the country this season.

"Because of the very strong chance that an SEC team makes the game and that it is favored in that game," he said.

Take a more organic BCS view: Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina would likely all have to finish with at least two losses for the SEC to drop out of the running. Impossible this season, right? One will emerge, at least. Last season, there were two.

The biggest opponent could be voter backlash. The coaches and Harris voters as a group could simply decide they've had enough. Not only can they manipulate the system, they have manipulated the system. Steve Spurrier used to give Duke a complimentary Top 25 vote because it once hired him. The coaches' poll ballots that we actually see at the end of the season always raise eyebrows.

Don't forget, the BCS has its roots in a system that denied Alabama a third consecutive championship in 1966 because of what many believe was a backlash against segregation.

Here's a more salient question making the rounds: Would a one-loss SEC champion be passed for a BCS title-game berth by an undefeated champion from another conference?

It depends on the team and the week and the loss but ... no. Predictalator or any other measuring stick, be damned.

No, because Georgia's top-10 defense from 2011 might be better in 2012. No, because South Carolina -- kicking off Thursday night at Vanderbilt -- is the brightest dark horse you ever saw, coming off a school-record 11 victories. No, because history tells us that the first week of November might prove absolutely nothing between LSU and Alabama. No, because Arkansas gets the Tide and Tigers at home and maybe this is the year the Razorbacks finally break through.

Yep, the Hogs.

It's just hard to imagine an unbeaten BCS conference champion anywhere else stepping up. The Big 12 is at least a two-team race between West Virginia and Oklahoma. No. 1 USC seemingly has to beat Oregon twice just to get to South Florida. The ACC and Big East aren't factors. There's too much parity in the Big Ten.

"We don't want the SEC to win another national championship," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said this week.

Then do something about it.

That's what makes Saturday's Alabama-Michigan game doubly important. It is the only non-conference game this season between teams currently in the top 10.

No one outside of Ann Arbor is actually talking about the Wolverines beating the defending national champs. At least it seems that way. Oh, there are those thinking it, hoping it and filling up air time with it. But Michigan actually winning?

Not really. The Wolverines are better but aren't back until they actually win a game against the likes of Alabama. Michigan's last victory against a top-10 team was almost five years ago.

That's one of the offshoots of this dynasty. We've yet to play one of the biggest games of the season and we've already seen it. Anyone remember LSU handling Oregon in the same building last year? It set the tone for the LSU, the SEC, for everything.

There are better, more realistic angles for the Tussle in Texas: Denard Robinson, Nick Saban, Jerry Jones, his $300,000 luxury suites, those defending national champs their ownselves.

There is still only one reasonable conclusion. Polls, Predictalator and prognosticators agree. The SEC is halfway home before the season kicks off.


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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