12-0 and nowhere to go
Auburn didn't blow Tennessee out of the water, but so what? The Vols are a top-15 team that won nine games this year. Auburn already destroyed Tennessee on the road earlier this season, and the difficulty of beating a quality team twice in one year shouldn't be underestimated. (I'd like to see how USC would fare in a second game against California. And why don't we give Texas another shot at Oklahoma while we're at it?)
It's time for the number-crunching, so be sure to skip the next two paragraphs if you hate math. Auburn has beaten four ranked teams this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (three). Auburn has won four games against teams with at least nine wins this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (one). Only two teams, LSU and Alabama, have held the Tigers to a single-digit margin of victory. USC had four single-digit wins over Stanford, California, Oregon State, and UCLA. Oklahoma also had two single-digit victories, over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Some football commentators have tried to justify Auburn's lower ranking by saying the SEC is weaker than normal this year, but it still produced seven bowl-eligible teams -- the same number as the Big 12, and two more than the Pac-10. We haven't even mentioned undefeated Utah, which hasn't played a close game all year and which dismantled the same Texas A&M team that took Oklahoma to the wire. And who's to say that unbeaten Boise State, little-
regarded or not, doesn't deserve a shot at the brass ring?
The moral of the story? The BCS is a miserable, pathetic failure, and Auburn and Utah -- my picks for No. 1 and No. 2 -- are about to pay the price for its ineffectiveness. Even worse, those teams won't get to face off in a shadow national title game in the Sugar Bowl. Instead, Auburn will draw two-loss Virginia Tech, and Utah will go to the Fiesta Bowl to play Pittsburgh, which needed overtime to beat a I-AA team this year. At least the Virginia Tech matchup will give Auburn a common opponent with USC. If the Trojans win the Orange Bowl, pollsters can compare their win over the Hokies to the Tigers' showing.
If Auburn finishes 13-0, it unquestionably deserves a share of the national title. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the voters are too obstinate to agree. USC and Oklahoma are at the top of the polls not because their play this year justified it but because they started the season there. Many poll voters are so stubborn that they wouldn't jump Auburn to No. 1 if it defeated the New England Patriots by three touchdowns.
This Auburn team looks like the best one ever on the Plains, but since university presidents think a playoff is the devil, the Tigers probably won't bring home a national title this year. It's a damn shame they won't get the chance they've earned.