COLUMBIA — What do the SEC and Michael Myers of “Halloween” fame have in common?
Both are impossible to kill.
One week after gleeful analysts and fans beyond the region where college football and life are essentially the same thing dared to dream of an SEC-free national championship, their optimism was quickly shattered when Kansas State and Oregon, the top two teams in the BCS standings, lost to Baylor and Stanford, respectively.
The aftermath? Notre Dame ascended to No. 1 in the BCS standings. The next three teams are all from the SEC - Alabama, Georgia and Florida, virtually guaranteeing a school from the most powerful - and hated - conference in the country will participate in the BCS National Championship Game for the seventh straight year.
By the way, the SEC has won six national championships in a row. Somewhere, Jim Delaney is crying.
Alabama and Georgia should cruise to victories over in-state rivals (Auburn and Georgia Tech) this weekend, setting up the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta as a BCS national championship play-in game.
The nightmare of nightmare scenarios for the rest of the country? Notre Dame loses to Southern Cal in Los Angeles (the Trojans won’t have the injured Matt Barkley at quarterback) and Florida beats Florida State in Tallahassee on Saturday, an outcome dependent on whether the struggling Gators’ offense can consistently move the ball on the stellar Seminoles defense.
But should both games fall the SEC’s way, we could have another all-SEC championship game between the Alabama-Georgia winner and Florida. Anger, angst and bitterness from the rest of the country? Oh, yeah.
However, the most likely scenario is Alabama crushes Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Georgia beats Georgia Tech and the Florida State defense shackles the Gators, setting the stage for a national championship game between the Alabama-Georgia winner and Notre Dame/Oregon/Kansas State.
If Alabama wins the SEC championship, the Sugar Bowl faces a difficult decision. Does it take LSU (a likely win over Arkansas on Friday), Texas A&M (a likely win over Missouri), Florida (unlikely if it loses to FSU), Georgia or a South Carolina team possibly coming off a huge road win over rival Clemson?
All five teams could have 10 or more wins on their resumes.
However, if Florida prevails in the Sunshine State battle, it will head to New Orleans with an 11-1 record and a top-three ranking in the BCS, as long as it’s not in the national title game.
Since Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel remains the most marketable player in college football, the guess here is the Sugar Bowl will seek to set up a Big 12 reunion game between Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
After that, the Capital One Bowl selects LSU instead of Florida because the Gators’ offense is rated R (or PG-13 at best). But the Outback Bowl won’t let Florida slip past, and takes the Gators.
Where will Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks land for bowl season when the bids are announced on Dec. 2?
So, we’re back to where we’ve been the past couple of weeks – the Cotton Bowl deciding between USC and Georgia.
Petrified that the conference championship game loser could fall all the way to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the SEC office might engage in some serious arm-twisting of the folks in Dallas to get them to pick the Bulldogs.
If Cotton Bowl officials succumb to the pain, the Gamecocks, which have been told they are still in the running for a BCS at-large berth, could find themselves in Atlanta for the second time in three seasons. But the Chick-fil-A Bowl would certainly perform cartwheels over a Georgia-Clemson match-up, so maybe a compromise is reached between the respective bowl games and the SEC office.
But what happens if the Cotton Bowl takes Georgia and the people in Atlanta insist on taking Clemson, if the Tigers lose to the Gamecocks, since bowl games are reluctant to host rematches? Then USC could fall to the Gator Bowl.