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Senior College Football Columnist

Power Poll: Ducks, Wildcats on top after SEC's darkest day since 2005


Saturday may end up being the worst day in SEC history since Jan. 4, 2005.

It was a night when USC clinched its last national championship, Ashlee Simpson broke our ear drums and a desperate Tommy Tuberville was seen working the press box. Those poor guys at the bottom of highway exits with signs that read "Will work for food" never looked less needy.

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Except that Tubs was trolling for AP votes that night. A split national title was the only way an undefeated SEC champion was going to get to No. 1 that 2004 season. Yes, there actually were such days before the Strength Everywhere Conference put a choke-hold on the sport.

And it would never be that way again. Auburn finished 13-0 that year and couldn't get a sniff because the BCS math determined USC and Oklahoma were better. It was only time in BCS history three undefeateds were at the top fighting for two spots. (Are we looking at a repeat this season?) The Tigers were No. 3. USC finished No. 1 in AP and the coaches' poll (reserved for the BCS title-game winner).

The situation arguably started us down the road to a playoff. The thought that an unbeaten SEC champ couldn't play for a national title didn't sit right with a long list of folks -- even some outside of the South. By 2008, SEC commissioner Mike Slive was proposing a modest four-team playoff. By January of this year, formal meetings began on the subject. You know where we stand now.

In between, the SEC asserted itself by winning six BCS titles in a row. Saturday may have signaled the end to that run. Alabama lost to Texas A&M -- and for the first time this early in the season (three weeks to go) since 2008, everyone in the SEC has a loss.

The Power Poll is choked with SEC teams -- five in the top 10. But none of them control their own destiny. Alabama needs two of the top three here to lose to have a chance. Even then, what's the worth of a one-loss team that has given up 866 yards and 21 third-down conversions out of 38 attempts in the last two games?

That's a whole new open-faced barbeque brisket sandwich introduced to the argument. Does Alabama even deserve to play for the national championship if there is a gaggle of one-loss teams near the top?

Consider this list of possible one-loss contenders: Notre Dame, Kansas State, Oregon, Florida, Florida State, Clemson. OK, it's a stretch but Florida has beaten A&M and tied for the SEC East. (They actually give trophies for such things.) Georgia's BCS fate as a one-loss team would be decided in the SEC title game.

That game may be the conference's best weapon at this point. The SEC champ -- assured to have at least one loss -- would be playing one more game than a one-loss Notre Dame or Kansas State. Oregon plays a possible Pac-12 title game the night before the SEC extravaganza kicks off. That gives the SEC the CBS broadcast network all to itself with a chance for one final, emphatic statement.

It's getting late, but it's not too late. Alabama dropped to No. 9 on Sunday in the Sagarin Ratings computer used in the BCS. But for what it's worth, the Tide's schedule strength remained tougher than those of Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame in Sagarin.

You know the old BCS saying: If you lose, you have no right to argue. True, but isn't it more than ironic that SEC expansion (to Texas A&M) may prove to be the league's undoing this season? Johnny Manziel wouldn't have been within 800 miles of Bryant-Denny without college football's Manifest Destiny mindset.

Still, on the SEC's darkest day in more than seven years, there remains a sliver of light.

 Before we get any more lathered up, let's all admit one thing. It really doesn't matter who is No. 1 this week. Kansas State? Oregon?

If they keep winning, they'll decide No. 1 on the field. Except for bragging rights and possible home-team designation, it really doesn't matter. Come to think of it, Bill Snyder may want to be that home team. That way he can keep the sun out of his team's eyes at Sun Life Stadium.

(See what I did there? There will be no sun at Sun Life since the game is at night. This is as silly as No. 1 arguments in Week 12. They'll both get in, people, if they keep on keeping on. No argument there. Unless it comes from Notre Dame, which it shouldn't.)

 Nebraska and Oklahoma have in agreement in principle to renew their rivalry in 2021, 50 years after the Game of the Century.

It may come a lot sooner. Saturday's results made a Nebraska-Oklahoma Rose Bowl more possible.

How it would happen: Nebraska would first have to win the Big Ten. The Huskers took another step by beating Penn State on Saturday to stay in control of the Legends Division. Assuming Oregon is No. 1 and plays in the BCS title game -- or perhaps even if it is No. 2 -- the Rose would have first choice to replace the Ducks.

As of now, its first choice would be the next best Pac-12 team ranked in the top 14 of the BCS. Candidates include UCLA, Stanford and USC. But if there are no other Pac-12 teams in that top 14 -- a distinct possibility -- the Rose could go off the reservation.

At that point, how does the Rose not choose Oklahoma at 10-2 and possibly ranked in the top 10? That is, unless Notre Dame (see below) is available. Something to watch.

 Anyone else outraged that the media can't talk to the best player in college football after 11 weeks of football? Johnny Manziel apparently is too feeble and weak-minded to speak to the media, but talented and strong-minded enough to pull off one of the biggest upsets in years.

That's why it makes no sense the media remain shut out from talking to Texas A&M's quarterback. Something to do with being a redshirt freshman but, again, that argument is incongruous. Johnny Upset is trusted enough to execute a game plan before a packed house at Bryant-Denny but can't answer a question from Johnny Beat Writer?

This is getting to be like Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. We know about as much about the voice and speech patterns of the president from 150 years ago as we do the current Aggies quarterback.

If Manziel's Heisman candidacy dies on the vine, don't blame the media. By interviewing him, we -- TV, Internet, print -- promote him in some small way. That's what coaches don't get. And you can't promote what you can't speak to.

It would be a shame if the person with the biggest impact on the 2012 season doesn't get a fair shot at the Heisman, or worse, doesn't even get to New York.

Dodd's Power Poll
RankTeam (Previous)Comment
1Oregon (2)
Overall: 10-0
Conference: 7-0
There, satisfied? That ought to settle things. No? Try to separate them. At one point, Oregon was nursing a seven-point lead and Cal was running at will on a banged-up defense. Injuries were so extensive that the Oregon defensive line featured a DE at nose guard, a converted tight end at one d-end and a walk-on at the other position. You can never say Chip Kelly is running it up because this is what he does. Oregon scored at least 30 for an NCAA-record 23rd straight game and at least 40 for an NCAA-record 13th straight game. Oh yeah, and Marcus Mariota tossed a school-record six TDs.
1Kansas State (3)
Overall: 10-0
Conference: 7-0
If Oregon is best offensive team in the country, Kansas State is the most complete. While Oregon plays fast, K-State milks the play clock. Both have Heisman candidates. With three weeks left in the season, does it matter who is No. 1? If they keep winning, they'll decide it on the field.
3Ohio State (4)
Overall: 10-0
Conference: 6-0
OK, what's stranger -- putting the Buckeyes above the Irish in the Power Poll or the Sagarin Ratings having Notre Dame No. 1 overall? Since this is America and we still have the free-speech thing, here's my pitch: I like Ohio State at No. 3 because of the eye test. There is no clear delineation. Notre Dame is 1-0 vs. top-10 schools (according to Sagarin). Ohio State has yet to play one. Notre Dame has had to win five of its games by a touchdown or less. Ohio State has won four that way. Braxton Miller is the best player on either team. Ohio State has nothing to play for but has been able to concentrate each week. Notre Dame struggled with Pittsburgh, BYU and Purdue, which are a combined 14-16.
4Notre Dame (5)
Overall: 10-0
Conference: N/A
The only sure thing that came out of Saturday: The Irish clinched a BCS bowl berth. At least it seems that way. Notre Dame could lose its final two against Wake and USC and still be in the top 14 of the BCS needed for "consideration" of a BCS bowl. At that point, it's the street fight scene in Anchorman among the bowls to get the Irish.
5Texas A&M (12)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 5-2
Call him Johnny Upset for pulling off the season's biggest shocker. Now the debate begins about who is the best team in the SEC. We'll take the Aggies. Their losses are by a cumulative eight points to LSU and Florida. Johnny Upset for Heisman. Kevin Sumlin for SEC coach of the year.
6Alabama (1)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 6-1
Hubris, LSU, attrition -- and A&M -- beat the Tide. Eight turnovers in the first nine games. Three against the Aggies. One wag tweeted that Saturday's result clearly means Texas A&M and Alabama will meet again in the national championship game. Please, God, no.
7Georgia (6)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 7-1
Dawgs shut out the program previously known as Auburn. Make it into the SEC title game for the second straight year. Question: Is this team better than the one that lost to LSU by 32 last year?
8Florida (9)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 7-1
There was no more deeper depression in college football on Saturday than Louisiana-Lafayette's. Give the Gators credit for returning a blocked punt for the winner with two seconds left. But how does an SEC power even play that close against a Sun Belt team? Jeff Driskel is hurt and offensive issues abound.
9LSU (11)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 4-2
Unlike Alabama, the Tigers rebounded from their gut-wrenching tussle last week. Seems like this Mettenberger kid can play.
10Florida State (7)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 6-1
Noles scored the winner against Virginia Tech on Thursday with 40 seconds left. They can clinch the ACC title-game spot with a win this week vs. Maryland.
11Clemson (8)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 6-1
Biggest Maryland fans in the world after destroying ... Maryland.
12Oklahoma (13)
Overall: 7-2
Conference: 5-2
Can't decide what's a bigger accomplishment -- Bob Stoops passing Bud Wilkinson on all-time wins list or holding Baylor to 172 passing yards.
13South Carolina (15)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 6-2
Guess Bama couldn't play in the NFL after all, eh Spur Dog?
14Stanford (16)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 6-1
Pac-12 North on the line when the Cardinal go to Eugene. Couldn't come at a better time for Stanford. Oregon's defense is beaten up.
15UCLA (21)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 5-2
Wait, what just happened here? The Bruins can clinch the Pac-12 South by beating USC this week. Jim Mora Jr., Pac-12 coach of the year? Bruins finished 4-1 on the road, and have reached eight wins for the first time since 2005 and only the third time since 1998, which happens to be their last Rose Bowl.
16Nebraska (17)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 5-1
Huskers are Big Ten's Comeback Kids. They rallied for the fourth time when down by double digits in the second half this season to beat Penn State.
17Louisville (10)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 4-1
Bad, bad loss at Syracuse. Big East title and BCS berth could come down to Nov. 29 game against Rutgers.
18Rutgers (18)
Overall: 8-1
Conference: 4-1
Army hung around for way too long, but give the Knights credit. They blocked two field goals and caused three fumbles.
19Oregon State (14)
Overall: 9-2
Conference: 5-2
Crushing loss to Stanford after being up by nine in the second half.
20Texas (NR)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 5-2
Look who's won four in a row since being embarrassed by Oklahoma.
21Kent State (20)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 6-0
One of only undefeated teams in MAC play needed every bit of 400 rushing yards to beat Miami (Ohio). Zac Dysert was sacked five times and threw two interceptions.
22Boise State (22)
Overall: 8-2
Conference: 5-1
Way out in the Pacific Ocean, BCS-afterthought Broncos rolled over Hawaii 49-14.
23Louisiana Tech (24)
Overall: 9-1
Conference: 4-0
Yo, Sonny. Kentucky on Line 1. Arkansas on Line 2. Auburn on Line 3.
24Fresno State (NR)
Overall: 8-3
Conference: 6-1
Quietly, first-year coach Tim DeRuyter is putting together the best season at Fresno in at least five years. The Bulldogs need only to beat Air Force on Nov. 24 to clinch at least a tie for the Mountain West title.
25Cincinnati (25)
Overall: 7-2
Conference: 3-1
Senior quarterback Brendon Kay directed five scoring drives that totaled 394 yards. Butch Jones remains a hot property for some program with wandering eyes.

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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