Like a dying relative you don’t really like but have to see a few times before the end, the BCS standings returned Sunday night.
If you’re in SEC country, you have to love the look of things. If you’re in Nike country, probably not so much.
Any doubt about the SEC's strength was quashed by the standings, which have SEC teams on the top two lines and on four of the first seven.
The initial standings got it right with Alabama at No. 1. The unanimous No. 1 in the coaches’ poll and nearly unanimous No. 1 in the Harris Poll was the clear and only choice for the pole position. Although Alabama lacks a true signature win -- its beatdown of Michigan could look a bit better in December -- the computers likely won’t be an impediment for Nick Saban’s team. And they shouldn’t be.
The debate nationally, one that Sunday’s standings only will fuel, is who should be No. 2. Oregon has looked the part on the field, averaging 52.3 points and winning its games by an average margin of 32.3 points. Yet Chip Kelly’s Ducks are behind Florida at No. 3 because of the Pac-12’s perceived weakness, even though the Pac-12 has three teams in the top 10 (No. 8 Oregon State and No. 10 USC). That’s hard to understand.
While the meat of Oregon’s schedule is still ahead -- November dates with USC (road), Stanford (home) and Oregon State (road) -- the Ducks are getting punished for playing a first-half schedule that isn’t all that unlike Alabama’s. Doesn’t seem fair.
Then again, Oregon’s first-half résumé doesn’t stack up to Florida’s in terms of competition. The Gators already boast three road wins, including one at No. 18 Texas A&M, plus a solid home win against No. 6 LSU. Oregon can’t match that yet, and even if the Ducks keep winning with style points, they’ll need the Pac-12 to start resonating more in the computers.
The concern for Oregon is that its current résumé also doesn’t stack up well next to Kansas State’s and Notre Dame’s. If Kansas State records another signature road win this week against West Virginia -- to go along with its Sept. 22 triumph at Oklahoma -- it could get the computer boost needed to leapfrog Oregon. Notre Dame already has the computer pull (No. 2) and has two more signature road opportunities at both Oklahoma and USC.
The problem for all the non-SEC teams in the mix is that one loss likely eliminates them from contention. As expected, LSU looks like the best bet to reach the BCS title game with just one blemish. And if the Tigers go on to beat Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State -- and then potentially Florida in a rematch at the SEC championship game -- it's tough to say Les Miles’ crew doesn’t belong in Miami on Jan. 7. South Carolina isn’t out of it, either, but needs a little more help. Bottom line: Another all-SEC title game looks very much in play.
The initial standings shine a bright light on the oft-battered Big East, which boasts three teams. That’s three more than the Big Ten, incredibly shut out of the standings (Ohio State isn’t included because of NCAA sanctions) after a horrific first half. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany can’t wait for the playoff to get here.
The Big 12 also looks strong with seven entries, while the Pac-12 has four.
But Sunday’s standings reaffirmed it’s still very much the SEC’s world. Entering it will be very tough for all outsiders the rest of the way.