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College Football Weekend Preview: SEC Championship Streak May End if Alabama Loses

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College Football Weekend Preview: SEC Championship Streak May End if Alabama Loses

It feels necessary to start with a disclaimer, because the SEC fans and homers are so passionate, so loud, so vociferous that their conference is the best conference in the land.

They're right. It is. No other conference can lay claim to title of "Best in America" from top to bottom, although the Pac-12 is doing its best to close the gap.

But if Alabama happens to lose––however unlikely that may be––the SEC's string of seven consecutive national championships will be in danger of being extended to eight.

Sorry SEC, if you don't like it, don't lose.

As long as there's two undefeated teams from the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, a one-loss SEC team doesn't deserve to be in the national championship game.

Essentially, that means as long as any of Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State or Baylor are undefeated, they deserve the opportunity to play for all the marbles ahead of a one-loss Alabama, Auburn or Missouri.

Sure, the argument can be made that a one-loss Tide team is better than an undefeated Buckeyes or Bears. But again, tough luck, SEC. Ohio State and their two-season win streak or Baylor and their point-a-minute offense warrant the national-championship berth, and pollsters would be advised to vote them as such.

SEC fans can take solace in that this immunity only extends to the BCS automatic qualifying conferences. No way does an undefeated Fresno State or Northern Illinois get all the way to the Pasadena on Jan. 6. A BCS bowl? Sure. Just not the championship.

To take it a step further, a one-loss Alabama trumps all other one-loss teams teams nationwide. Although a vicious debate will rage if Stanford, Auburn or Missouri are the only one-loss teams that remain standing.

If the streak is to continue, SEC fans had better hope Alabama doesn't lose, or at least hope all other teams lose at least one regular-season game too.

 

Where College GameDay Is At

ESPN's pre-game show originates from outside Doak Campbell Stadium on the campus of Florida State as the Seminoles get ready to face the Miami Hurricanes at 7:00 p.m. CT on ABC.

You'd think a match-up of undefeated teams in the month of November would make for the best game of the year, but that hardly expects to be the case on Saturday evening.

"Florida State is a three-touchdown favorite, the largest spread ever between two undefeated top-10 teams," writes Rece Davis at ESPN.com.

The way quarterback Jameis Winston is playing, there's no stopping Florida State right now. The redshirt freshman oozes confidence and is tossing touchdowns left and right while rarely turning the ball over.

Winston is far from the only reason Florida State is dominating––a punishing defense and effective running game deserve credit too––but if Tajh Boyd and Clemson didn't stand a chance of even staying close with the Seminoles, what hope to Stephen Morris and Miami have?

There's no point in arguing the terrific job Al Golden has done as head coach at Miami, helping them navigate through NCAA sanctions and getting better every year in Coral Gables. He's been assisted by a pair of coaches with Packers ties: former linebacker, now defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and former defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who holds the same position at Miami.

If Miami is to have any chance of hanging with Florida State, it's upon Morris to go toe to toe with Winston, and improve upon his 10-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The Hurricanes have a good one-two running-game combo of Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford. Johnson averages over 100 yards per game and 6.75 yards per carry while Crawford has a team-leading nine touchdowns.

And while the pair should be able to do some damage on the ground, it's still going to be up to Morris to hit on several deep pass plays in order for Miami to keep within striking distance.

Prediction: It's not going to happen. Miami will have a couple turnovers, and Winston and Florida State will capitalize. Seminoles win, 44-23.

 

The Wisconsin Connection

Typically the reverse mirror games aired on ABC and ESPN2 happen in the 2:30 p.m. time slot, but the Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes get special national-television treatment at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, sharing with spotlight with Virginia Tech-Boston College.

It will be the first time since 2010 Iowa and Wisconsin last met when the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams and broke up to two divisions. Once the conference goes to East and West divisions starting next year, the Badgers and Hawkeyes will be yearly rivals once again, playing annually for the right to win the Heartland Trophy.

For Wisconsin, Saturday will mark the return of linebacker Chris Borland from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the Badgers' last game two weeks ago at Illinois.

Fortunately for the Badgers, Borland benefitted from a bye week to buy a little extra recovery time. The job without Borland becomes infinitely harder if the Badgers are forced to play without an All-American candidate and a player who was named a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus Awards this past week.

Wisconsin and Iowa both feature top-notch defenses, neither allowing more than twenty points per game. The Badgers rank second in the Big Ten limiting opponents to 15.9 point per game and Iowa third with just 18.1.

The edge Wisconsin has over Iowa, and it's substantial, is on offense. Mark Weisman is a capable running back for the Hawkeyes, but his 4.9 yards per carry just doesn't compare with 9.5 by Melvin Gordon, the 6.2 by James White or even the 7.4 by Corey Clement.

Prediction: Weisman or quarterback Jake Rudock might hit one home run against the Badgers defense, but the likelihood they hit on two or more long plays is extremely low, especially if Borland it out on the field. Badgers win a low-scoring affair, 24-17.

 

What Happened Before Saturday

On consecutive nights, the South notched wins over the North in Pac-12 action on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Wisconsin can be happy Arizona State took care of business up in the Palouse on Thursday, beating Washington State in convincing fashion 55-21. The more the Sun Devils win, the better the Badgers' résumé looks after that game with the wild ending early in the season.

USC, after firing Lane Kiffin, also remained in contention with a 31-14 victory on the road at Oregon State on Friday night. Ed Oregeron has a good defense to work with and a much more effective offense when wide receiver Maqise Lee is healthy, as he was last night.

Arizona State controls its own destiny with a 4-1 conference record, a game better than USC at 3-2, and the Sun Devils hold the edge with a head-to-head win earlier in the season.

The schedule remains tough for Arizona State, however, with four games left and no gimmes among them. It would appear the biggest game with Pac-12 South implications looks to be at Arizona State at UCLA with the winner perhaps advancing to the conference championship game.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Al Fresco's picture

I'm now a SEC guy. Lets be honest, the big ten over the past 30 years has been downhill, power rating wise. The biggest and easiest reason is the shift in population to warmer climates.
Oregon, Idaho, Utah were all places the big ten scheduled for those easy wins.

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