December 8, 2013
Just when I thought the coast was clear for a college football national championship game without the Southeastern Conference, Ohio State stumbled for the first time in two seasons. The Buckeyes, and their unbeaten record in 2013, had climbed to second in the BCS standings. That was good enough to squeeze the SEC out of the national championship picture, at least temporarily.
Sure, I knew deep down that their conference, the Big Ten, was not really a powerhouse league. That Ohio State's schedule was suspect. That they had been lucky to hold off Michigan just a week earlier. I still felt they had enough to dispatch a Michigan State team that too many disregarded as being unable to hang tough against an unbeaten squad.
We now know that the Spartans left Indianapolis on Saturday with the Big Ten Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl in hand. Just as Ohio State had cheered Auburn's upset win over Alabama a week ago, so too, Auburn celebrated the Buckeyes' collapse. OSU was unable to capitalize on good fortune. Auburn was more than willing to sweep into the title picture and carry the SEC logo right along.
I had said last week that if one of the top two teams lost, that I would be OK with the SEC champion going to Pasadena on January 6th. And I am. Given the kind of season Auburn has had, two dramatic wins at home to close the regular season, and a thumping of Missouri in the conference championship game, I expect the Tigers to extend the SEC run of national championships.
Oddsmakers disagree. The opening line announced just after the match-up became official favored number one Florida State by 9 and a half points. In hours, that number dropped to 8. Is Florida State that good? The champs of the Atlantic Coast Conference were hardly tested by Duke in that title contest. I think the ACC was on par with the Big 10 this year in quality of play. Not as good as the Big 12, Pac 12 or, certainly, the SEC. But is Auburn that good?
The Tigers could have just as easily finished the regular season 9-and-3. A loss to LSU. A thank you very much win against Georgia that a lot of people had already racked up as a defeat. The overtime that never happened thanks to walkoff heroics against Alabama. I thought Missouri would beat Auburn last Saturday. Auburn dominated the battle of Tigers. The game wasn't close, and cemented Auburn's claim as worthy national title contenders.
By the way, did you see that groundskeepers at Auburn's field found cremated remains on the turf in front of the Tigers' bench after the Alabama victory? With so many fans on the field in celebration it is easy to believe somebody was able to spread some ashes. Jordan-Hare Stadium officials revealed that a) there was no proof that these were human remains; b) that this happens more often than we would expect; and c) that cremated material is bad for the turf and was removed when it was found. So much for fulfilling a lifelong wish of a final resting place on the Auburn field.
So the bowl schedule is set. I am disappointed with Central Florida as an opponent for Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Texas will have its hands full with Oregon in San Antonio. Duke, improved as the Blue Devils might be, will be no match for the Aggies in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. My friend Larry, and I'm sure many others, have wondered why a pair of 8-and-4 teams couldn't be matched in the bowl season. Texas against A&M would prove an interesting test, while at the same time, re-igniting a popular rivalry. It should happen, but it can't. Frustrations are a part of the college bowl system. Better luck next time.
Dave Brown serves as a special contributor to CHANNEL 5 Sports and produces his Overtime blogs on a weekly basis for www.krgv.com/sports.more »