Bracketology/Bowls Expert

BCS projections: Is the SEC streak over?

Auburn's magic carpet ride of a season continues. The Tigers scored twice in the last 32 seconds to beat Alabama, leaving us with only two major unbeaten teams, Florida State and Ohio State.

This means the seven-year streak of SEC national championships is now in serious jeopardy. The winner of the SEC title game, either Auburn or Missouri, would be the highest rated one-loss team in the BCS standings, but is unlikely to play for the title unless one of the unbeaten teams loses.

Naturally, there is a big cry from the southeastern portion of the United States that the SEC champ should be in that game anyway. That cry is led by -- shockingly -- Auburn AD Jay Jacobs, who said the exclusion of the SEC champion would be a, "disservice to the nation."

HAHAHAHAHA! Yes, we might somehow fail as a nation if the SEC champ doesn't play for the BCS title. Perhaps President Obama could intervene. I'm glad Jacobs can manage to keep things in perspective.

The BCS formula is dictated primarily by the will of the voters in the Harris and coaches' polls. If they decide that the SEC champ is more deserving, then they will vote that way.

History tells us that voting a one-loss team ahead of a major undefeated team would be unprecedented. That's one thing the BCS has yet to screw up in its 16-year existence.

Only three weeks ago, many thought this very thing might happen when Stanford beat Oregon. At that time, the Cardinal was No. 6 in the polls, behind five undefeated teams, the lowest rated of which was Baylor. After the win over the Ducks though, Stanford gained a total of 9 points on the Bears in both polls combined.

The voters have a history of respecting undefeated teams. The coaches in particular understand how difficult it is to finish unbeaten. And the voters also have a history of not caring much about strength of schedule, at least when talking about major conference teams.

Another thing to consider is that while SEC country may consider it a birthright for its champion to play for the national title, the other 75 percent of the country would like to see someone else -- anyone else -- win it for a change.

The coaches' poll has Auburn within 25 points of Ohio State. That could be close enough to put the comptuers into play. The BCS computers can only impact the rankings if there isn't consensus among the voters. A 25-point margin isn't tiny, but it's also less than half the number of voters. Auburn is projected to have a slight lead in the computers over Ohio State. That could make the race this week close, but it also means that whatever it says this week, it might say something completely different next week, even without upsets.

The Harris poll gave the Buckeyes a 66 point lead over Auburn. With the current poll numbers, the Tigers would need at least a 1.25 point lead over Ohio State in the computers to be ahead overall.

But in fact, Ohio State is ahead of Auburn in the computers. The Buckeyes are second in the computers, behind Florida State. That 1.25 margin still stands though. If the voting doesn't change next week, Auburn has to lead the Buckeyes by that amount in the computers to finish second overall. The Tigers currently trail by 1.0. Conversely, if the computers don't change, the Tigers would need to gain 214 points on Ohio State in the Harris poll, or 126 points in the coaches' poll, or some mathematically equivalent combination. For example, if every Harris voter moved Auburn up one spot and Ohio State down one, that wouldn't be enough points to change the result. Obviously, not all the movement would happen in just one place, but a lot of minds need to be changed, and that seems unlikely.

The scenario for Missouri is pretty much the same. If those Tigers win, they figure to jump into at least Auburn's position, but again, going past Ohio State seems very unlikely.

And if you want to do your own geeking, here's the math: a one spot move in one computer that counts is .0033 BCS points. A one spot move in the Harris poll is equal to .00013 BCS points, while a similar move in the coaches' poll is worth .00022 BCS points.

 
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