A berth in BCS title game on the line, Auburn’s AD starts lobbying

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, consoling kicker Cade Foster after one of his three misses against Auburn, considers football "only a game." To hardcore SEC fans, though, an unbeaten team losing to a one-loss rival might not mean a rematch in the BCS title game.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Leave it to Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron to put everything in perspective.

“Football is just a game,” he said after Saturday’s last-play loss to Auburn. “It’s not life.”


Leave it to senior Auburn administrator Jay Jacobs to boil the Southeastern Conference down to the ruthless, political blood sport that it is.

Jacobs, the school’s athletic director, told USA Today it would be a “disservice to the nation” if the SEC champion is left out of this season’s Bowl Championship Series title game.

So there you have it.

It took only minutes after Auburn’s incredible win over No. 1 Alabama to understand: The game would go down as an instant classic as it also struck a frontal blow to the SEC’s winning its eighth straight BCS crown.

With no selection committee yet in place to sort out the subtle nuances separating conferences and schools, Jacobs knew he had to mount an immediate propaganda campaign for Auburn Nation’s greater benefit.

This, in essence, is what has been so ugly-wrong about 16 years of the BCS. It’s the fact that grown men would be put in the shameless positions of shilling their cases to a voting electorate.

Don’t blame Jacobs for this — blame the system. He has no choice but to lobby for his school even if the argument is partisan, suspect and duplicitous.

The SEC, in its bylaws, simply cannot accept the fact it might not have a team in any BCS title game.

Brokers for the conference will not allow that the last BCS season may actually work out as it was intended.

If Florida State and Ohio State win this week, the system will be left with two undefeated major-conference champions playing for the national title.

There would no debate if not for the fact the teams ranked third, fourth and fifth in Sunday’s BCS standings are all from the SEC.

The BCS top five are Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri.

Auburn had a better case in 2004 when it actually finished undefeated but ended up No. 3 behind USC and Oklahoma.

This Auburn team is not undefeated. It lost by 14 points to Louisiana State and needed a miracle tip play to beat unranked Georgia.

Auburn nearly lost its home opener to 6-6 Washington State.

Jacobs’ argument is that the champion of the SEC, the nation’s top conference, must be in the championship game.

He doesn’t make the same argument for the champion of the Pac-12, considered the best or second-best conference this year.

Stanford, should it win the Pac-12, would have come closer to an undefeated season than Auburn.

The Cardinal came within six yards of victory at Utah and lost to USC by a field goal.

Missouri has also come closer to going undefeated than Auburn, suffering its only loss in double overtime, to South Carolina.

Also lost in the noise is the preposterous luck involved in Auburn’s win over Georgia two weeks ago.

A win is a win, any way you get it, but voters who saw the game know Auburn should have two losses.

Jacobs doesn’t mention past injustices involving non-SEC schools. USC didn’t make the 2003 game despite being No. 1 in both polls used in the formula.

Oregon missed out in 2001 despite being second in the polls.

But when Alabama made the title game two years ago without winning its own division … that was fine.

In fact, Alabama has won more national titles the last three years than SEC titles (two to one).

Jacobs graciously expands his SEC-beats-all theory to include one-loss Missouri, should those Tigers defeat Auburn’s Tigers in this week’s SEC title game.

He doesn’t say Missouri played Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State before it started SEC play. He doesn’t mention that Missouri has one victory against a team currently ranked in the USA Today’s coaches’ poll.

That win came Saturday against No. 25 Texas A&M; (8-4).

How is that possible for a divisional winner of the nation’s best conference?

The SEC won’t even wait to see how the BCS might play out because it needs to begin now the swaying of Harris and USA Today poll voters.

That’s the way the system, regrettably, has always worked.

Never mind there is a good possibility the SEC will get its champion to the BCS game.

That will require Florida State’s or Ohio State’s losing this weekend.

The Seminoles will be huge favorites against Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, but Michigan State seems to have a very strong chance against Ohio State in the Big Ten Conference title game.

If Florida State and Ohio State lose, the SEC might get two teams in the game. That hasn’t happened since way, way back in 2011, when LSU and Alabama met in a rematch.

If Florida State and Ohio State do finish undefeated, however, the SEC just might have to endure a “disservice to the nation.”

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel, a newcomer to SEC politics, was more tempered in his assessment.

He said Sunday a one-loss SEC champion should be strongly considered for a title-game spot.

He also said he wished the four-team playoff started this year.

“Yeah, if we could do that, that would be great,” Pinkel joked on a conference call.

It is true the ACC and Big Ten are not as strong as the SEC, particularly this year.

It’s also true it is easier to go undefeated in a weaker conference.

A one-loss team might even be better than an undefeated team, but you can say that a lot of years.

The BCS has always been a flawed, three-pronged mess.

You can’t lobby the computer component, which spits out a verdict based on an amalgam of factors no one has ever understood.

You can lobby humans, though, so that’s what Auburn’s AD is doing.

Everyone understands that’s his job, even if his comments were over the top.

If Jacobs has a problem, however, he should complain to the people who devised, created and sold the BCS in 1998.

What kind of anti-Southern think tank would concoct a system that could leave the SEC champion out of the title game?

Answer: the SEC.