The SEC takes pride in being the best football league in the land. Indeed, in the BCS era, with teams like Florida, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Tennessee all having won championships, it is tough to argue.
All of that success has fed into that moniker the conference, its programs and fans wear so proudly. And for those on the outside of that SEC fraternity, it probably has gotten a bit old.
But if you thought it was bad in the first 14 years of the BCS, think again. Because if Alabama and LSU maintain their positions and face off against each other in the national title game, well, Team SEC may never stop talking about it.
"All I know is that after being in this league for 10 years, there are a lot of good football players, teams and programs. Competition in this league is very difficult,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It's something great to be a part of. Anywhere you go it is going to be a difficult place to play in this conference. I would think that people would think that this is a very good conference.”
No one is disputing that these days. And it’s why, with apologies to Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech, we have to project a title tilt in the Superdome between the Tigers and Crimson Tide on Jan. 9.
Of course, LSU still has a contest to play -- the SEC title game vs. Georgia Saturday -- and that’s where coach Les Miles’ focus is. But the fact remains, even if they lose that game, the rankings are such that the Tigers would still likely seal a spot in New Orleans.
"I want you to know something,” Miles said with ferocity Monday in his SEC pre-championship press conference. “There was never a thought in our minds what the next game holds. This was very specifically about this championship and this conference is where we compete year in and year out. We intend to make a great showing for our self and prepare and play well.”
But as they do that, we’ll jump ahead, and take a look at Alabama-LSU, Part II.
“Whether you like this matchup for the national championship or not,” John Avello, director of race and sports operations for the Wynn Las Vegas told Covers.com, “these are the two best teams based on yearlong performance without having a playoff.”
Avello took it further. Forget projections, he simply established LSU as a 2-point favorite already.
“This line,” he said, “is up to take action at Wynn Las Vegas.”
And with that, let's take a look at the other BCS projections, as we head into Week 14:
ROSE BOWL, JAN. 2
Wisconsin Badgers (+2) vs. Oregon Ducks
Both teams got off the mat last week and punished conference foes Penn State and Oregon State. And while the Badgers and Ducks certainly had bigger plans this season, the fact is the Rose Bowl still means something in this day and age, and playing in front of the nation on New Year’s Day should hardly be considered a consolation prize.
“Wisconsin teams are usually built for Big Ten play and are too slow to compete,” Avello said. “That's not the case for this group.”
FIESTA BOWL, JAN. 2
Oklahoma State Cowboys (+1) vs. Stanford Cardinal
The questions will linger about the Cowboys defense for a good bit and it’s tough to think that will change with Oklahoma on deck this weekend. But Oklahoma State can score at an unbelievable pace and figures to be a tough test for the Cardinal defense. The Cowboys’ best strategy against Stanford might be to slow down drives, so that Andrew Luck sits on the sidelines.
“It's Brandon Weeden versus Andrew Luck in what could be a four-hour football game,” Avello said. “Bettors also won't be passing up their opportunity to make a wager on the over for total points scored.”
SUGAR BOWL, JAN. 3
Michigan Wolverines (+4.5) vs. Houston Cougars
We pontificated last week just how difficult it will be for any conference to get a third team in the mix, even the mighty SEC. So, that truly leaves the Sugar Bowl in a bind.
But hope springs eternal. Houston has paid its dues and is ready to take the mantle from previous small wonders like TCU and Boise State. The Wolverines are 10-2, and they are quite marketable to the New Orleans chamber of commerce. Big Blue fans, with big wallets, would love nothing more than a January trip to Louisiana.
“The Cougar football program gets center stage for the first time,” Avello said. “The Wolverines have struggled in bowl games losing eight of their last 10.”
ORANGE BOWL, JAN. 4
West Virginia Mountaineers (+9) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
It’s very possible that the Mountaineers lose out on this spot due to a whacky Big East tiebreaker system. But with the other options being Cincinnati and Louisville, we figured throw West Virginia in the mix here with the thinking that the program is best suited to at least make this a game here in Miami. The Hokies aren’t anything special, either, but they’re better than anything the Big East can offer.
“West Virginia is not evaluated very high in my power ratings,” Avello said. “But no Big East team is.”