Auburn and the SEC are No. 1, just as they believe they should be

Despite the fact Oregon didn't lose a game, the Ducks are passed in the final regular-season rankings by the Tigers. And the Southeastern Conference again rises to the top, deserved or not.

December 08, 2010|Chris Dufresne

Oregon sitting on top never did quite sit right, but order has been fully and faithfully restored.

Someone down at the sanity office got wind before it was too late and priority-rushed Auburn to the fore, while simultaneously returning the Southeastern Conference Network to regularly-scheduled deprogramming.

Whew, that was close.

Only days ago, the Oregon Ducks were college football's jet-set juggernauts and Auburn was the team trailing Georgia, 21-7.

The Pacific 10 Conference, for weeks, was rated as the nation's top conference.

Then, someone apparently ordered saliva tests.

Without Oregon losing a game, Auburn jumped the Ducks in the polls and the Bowl Championship Series standings and the SEC used its gravitational gravitas to pull ahead of the Pac-10 in this week's Sagarin Ratings.

What a relief.

The early betting lines for the Jan. 10 BCS title game have established Auburn as the favorite, which is exactly the way it should be and the way Oregon should want it.

Oregon was hatched to be the under duck.

No respectable public was going to buy the SEC in a subservient role. The SEC has captured four straight BCS titles and six of the 12 played. The conference is so tough that golden coach Urban Meyer has decided — again — he should spend more time with the family. The SEC is 6-0 in title games while Oregon is the first Pac-10 team other than USC to play in one.

Cam Newton vs. Darron Thomas at quarterback?

That's a lineup introduction maybe, not an argument.

The SEC, after a shaky start, strong-armed the season's second half. It got back on message and even wished the Newton scandal into the corn field like creepy Billy Mumy did in that "Twilight Zone" episode.

Oregon became a "good as they got out there" left-coast team with the Pac-10 begging for one more ladle of soup before returning to second in line.

With a month of story lines to go before the big event, we at least now have a plausible, workable premise, and Oregon can start game planning with Auburn as the ogre.

Nick Aliotti, the Ducks' defensive coordinator, is already on the appropriate defensive.

Sunday, in the lobby of Oregon's Casanova Center, after the BCS pairings announcement, Aliotti sized up the challenge of stopping all 6 feet 6 and 247 pounds of Newton.

"I think he's bigger than eight of our defensive starters," Aliotti said.

That's not even an exaggeration.

Thomas, the Ducks' quarterback, has passed for 28 touchdowns and is averaging 5.8 yards per run.

Yet, he knows he's a web-footed mallard compared to Newton, who has passed for 28 touchdowns and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Wait … never mind.

"Ah, he's a big-time player," Thomas gushed of Newton. "I've just got to worry about their defense, not Cam Newton."

Now that we've established the distinction between team No. 1 and team No. 2, it's difficult to say how Oregon's scoring average of 49.3 points per game and No. 25 defense is going to compete with Auburn's 42.7 points per game and No. 54 defense.

Oregon may have a national pass efficiency defense rating of No. 6 compared to 75 for Auburn, but you have to look at the relative competition. Oregon is seventh in turnover margin (plus 1.08) to Auburn's No. 33 (plus 0.38), but those are just numbers some guy in a cubicle came up with at the NCAA.

"Oregon favored over Auburn" was about to become this year's "Man Bites Duck."

Thank grit-ness the headline was aborted — just in time.

Blitz package

Go figure: In the final USA Today coaches' poll, Florida's Meyer, who announced he was stepping down Wednesday, voted Oregon No. 1 over Auburn. (Note: he said it was nothing against Newton, the former Gators quarterback.) Idaho's Robb Akey voted Texas Christian No. 1 and Boise State No. 14. (Note: Bitter rival Boise State led Idaho, 38-0, at the half en route to a 52-14 win.)

Illinois Coach Ron Zook voted TCU No. 6 two days after losing to Fresno State. Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini voted his three-loss team, which lost to 5-7 Texas at home, No. 8 on his final ballot. Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio voted his own team No. 4, five spots better than the Spartans' final BCS ranking.

New Mexico Coach Mike Locksley voted Virginia Tech No. 10, six spots ahead of Boise State. He was among 19 of the 59 (32.2%) coaches in the USA Today poll who ranked two-loss Virginia Tech ahead of one-loss Boise State. Twenty-six out of 114 (22.8%) Harris Poll voters also had Virginia Tech ahead. Boise State had a 2-1 record against the Harris top 25 while Virginia Tech was 1-1. The Hokies' losses this year were to Boise State and James Madison. Boise State's lone defeat was in overtime at Nevada, ranked No.14 in Harris and No. 15 in USA Today.

Transparency please: "Once again, the BCS has delivered," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock proclaimed Sunday. The next day, the BCS had to apologize for a standings mistake made by computer operator Wes Colley that resulted in Boise State moving to 10th and Louisiana State to 11th.

The error was discovered by independent BCS expert Jerry Palm, and only because Colley's rankings are public. The five other BCS computers refuse to divulge their calculations. Who knows how many innocent mistakes have been made?

Hancock said he was "deeply disturbed" by the error and ensured the process will be reviewed at next spring's commissioners meetings. Voters in the USA Today and Harris polls have to reveal their final ballots. It is time for all BCS computers to open their formulas to public inspection.

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