By Kevin McGuire
The race to Pasadena, California is officially on. The BCS Championship race, that is. The two-time defending BCS champions from Alabama are once again sitting in front of the pack and Florida State, on the heels of one of the most impressive single-game performances witnessed around college football so far this season, has surged into second place, jumping ahead of Oregon while leaving Clemson to lick its wounds this weekend. As the BCS era draws to a close, it would be somewhat fitting to see Alabama take on Florida State in the championship game, but will they be sitting in the top two spots at the end of the regular season?
Alabama has silenced a number of critics in recent weeks. This may not be as good of an Alabama team as we have seen over the last couple of seasons, but it has become devastatingly clear it is the best team in the country this season. Fortunately for Alabama, the Crimson Tide do not need to be better than last year’s team or the year before that. Until some team can knock off Alabama, it has earned the top spot in the polls and rankings. If all goes according to plan, Alabama will be making another trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship, a game that has become a rest stop on the way to a BCS Championship game appearance over the better part of the last decade. That could very well be the case once again, but the SEC has been beating up on each other this season. Alabama has avoided taking a whack to this point but there are some challenges in its way before a potential trip to Atlanta. This weekend, Alabama hosts Tennessee, fresh off an upset over South Carolina. LSU comes to town in a few weeks and the Tigers, when playing its best, is one of the most complete teams in the SEC. All of a sudden, the Iron Bowl appears to be a rather significant game as well, with Auburn coming off a win at Texas A&M to improve to 6-1 overall and sit one game behind Alabama in the SEC West.
Florida State may have the easier path to an undefeated season, but will that end up being enough to hold off an undefeated Oregon Ducks team, or perhaps an undefeated Ohio State? Florida State will have games against Miami and Florida, as well as a potential match-up with a defensively sound Virginia Tech team in the ACC Championship game, so the overall profile of Florida State has a chance to add some noteworthy victories. The question is whether or not this will be enough to hold off an Oregon team that has an advantage in the polls. Florida State’s big advantage right now is in the computer rankings, with the Seminoles ranked first according to the computers and Oregon ranked fourth (Ohio State is fifth, Missouri is third). But those numbers could change quickly with Oregon playing upcoming games against a well-respected UCLA team and Stanford. Oregon has the advantage in the human polls as well, so closing the gap on Florida State may not be too much of an obstacle for the Ducks.
Next year, these debates will cease to exist. The four-team playoff model will have a selection committee choose the top four teams to compete for a national championship. Alabama would be a lock right now, and so would Oregon and Florida State. The fourth spot would be up for grabs, with Ohio State and Missouri each having a legitimate case for claiming it if that decision had to be made today.
There are still seven weeks of college football to be played. There are still some upsets ready to boil over that could shake up the way we look at the championship picture. Will Alabama be the next, and most significant victim of the SEC’s internal battle royal? Can Florida State avoid a letdown and represent the ACC in the biggest game of the year? This is what makes college football so interesting. The entire scope of a season can change in one afternoon or evening. This is why college football packs the best drama in any sport out there.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.