If Auburn loses a reasonably close game to South Carolina on Saturday, it still should play for the national championship.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not going Gordon Gee on you.
Unlike the Ohio State University president who sideswiped non-BCS football last week, I have no ulterior motive, other than to see the two most deserving teams in the national championship game. And unless there’s a South Carolina runaway in the Georgia Dome, one of those teams should be Auburn.
For argument’s sake, let’s say No. 1 Auburn loses a close game to South Carolina in the SEC championship game, and No. 2 Oregon defeats Oregon State in its final regular-season game Saturday.
That would leave Oregon and TCU at 12-0, and Auburn at 12-1. But does anyone seriously think Oregon and TCU would have achieved more by going unbeaten than Auburn would have by going 12-1?
There’s no comparison between the schedules.
Oregon has beaten one team, No. 4 Stanford, currently ranked in The Associated Press top 25. TCU also has beaten one top-25 team, No. 21 Utah.
Contrast that with Auburn, which has won five games against teams ranked 22nd or higher.
Auburn has played as many nationally ranked teams as TCU has FBS teams with winning records. Aside from its rout of Utah, what’s TCU’s marquee win? A five-point victory over 8-4 San Diego State? A 35-point thrashing of 7-5 Baylor?
That’s not meant as a slam against the Mountain West. It recently has been more deserving of an automatic BCS bid than the Big East. Nor am I suggesting Auburn is out of TCU’s league.
But Auburn should be rewarded for winning the best conference in the country. And it shouldn’t be penalized for playing an extra game, especially when that game is against nationally ranked South Carolina in the SEC championship game.
TCU has finished a 12-game regular-season schedule undefeated. Oregon will likely do the same Saturday with a victory over Oregon State.
But Auburn is already 12-0, thanks to the mother of all comebacks against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Now, a week later, it’s playing at a neutral site against another top-25 team.
For the Tigers, the back-to-back challenges are familiar. During the regular season, they won on consecutive Saturdays against Arkansas and LSU, ranked eighth and 10th, respectively, in the current BCS standings.
Neither Oregon nor TCU accomplished anything comparable to that.
Oregon’s victory over Stanford was preceded by a victory against 5-6 Arizona State. TCU warmed up for its dominant performance against Utah by playing 2-10 UNLV.
The coaches’ poll is mystifying. Only 10 coaches voted Auburn No. 1 this week, compared to 46 who voted Oregon first and another three who put TCU No. 1.
Based on what? Beating bad teams badly?
The coaches’ first-place votes are so out of whack, I wonder if they’re penalizing Auburn for the speculation surrounding the eligibility of its quarterback, Cam Newton. Or maybe it’s a backlash to the SEC’s supremacy.
The SEC has won four consecutive national championship games, all by double-digit margins. Two of those national champions lost a conference game along the way; another, LSU, lost two. What does that tell you?
It tells me that unless Auburn gets blown out Saturday, it should be playing for the SEC’s fifth consecutive national championship.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.