Does anyone really want to see another all-SEC rematch in the BCS national championship game? Except for those in SEC country, the answer is a resounding “no.” Last year’s 21-0 Alabama title victory over LSU was rather dull to everyone but Tide fans.
But after losses by the BCS’s top two teams, Kansas State and Oregon, this past weekend, the possibility remains that two SEC clubs could again play for the national title. Of course, teams from that conference have won an incredible six straight national championships.
Notre Dame can officially put an end to an all-SEC national title game. All the Irish have to do is win at vastly disappointing Southern Cal on Saturday night. Notre Dame may have been a small underdog for the game, but the Trojans lost starting quarterback and former Heisman favorite Matt Barkley to injury in last Saturday’s loss to UCLA. He won’t play against Notre Dame. Freshman Max Wittek, who has thrown nine career collegiate passes, will make his first start.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Wittek does have a big arm, much more so than Barkley’s. But experience can’t be taught, and the Irish have one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. With Wittek in instead of Barkley, Notre Dame will now open as a six-point favorite.
For those who would rather gouge their eyes out than root for Notre Dame, know this: Southern Cal has ended an unbeaten season for the Irish six times. Two of those times, Notre Dame was top-ranked, as it is now. Although the Irish have the clearest path to the national title game, they are just 5-2 second-favorites to win it all. SEC commissioner Mike Slive may be the biggest Trojans fan on the planet this week.
Alabama is again the favorite to take the national championship, now at 4-7. The Tide were favored for most of the season before an upset to Texas A&M, and they jumped back to No. 2 in this week’s BCS standings. It’s probably unrealistic for SEC bashers to expect an Alabama loss this week against Auburn. Yes, the Iron Bowl is one of college football’s most heated rivalries, but the Tigers are winless in the SEC and having one of the worst seasons in school history. Thus Auburn is a 31.5-point underdog.
The Tide would still have to get past Georgia in the SEC championship game to earn a trip to Miami, but they will be favored over the Dawgs barring an injury to starting quarterback A.J. McCarron this week. Alabama would be about a nine-point favorite over the Irish in a national championship matchup.
Georgia’s national title hopes looked finished when it was routed 35-7 by South Carolina earlier this year, but the BCS No. 3 Dawgs should get a title shot with wins this week over Georgia Tech and then over Alabama. Georgia (6-1 to win it all) is a 13-point favorite over the Jackets and is 10-1 under Mark Richt against Tech. The Jackets do enter on a three-game winning streak and are playing their best football of the season. Certainly Georgia and Alabama couldn’t play for the national title, but the Dawgs would open as very slight favorites over Notre Dame.
The SEC team that could be opposite the Alabama-Georgia winner in Miami is BCS No. 4 Florida. The Gators, however, have the toughest challenge of any other contender this week as they visit No. 10 Florida State. The Noles opened as six-point favorites. The Gators have been offensively challenged this season, and FSU has one of the nation’s top defenses. The Seminoles also have won two straight over Florida, holding Florida to 14 combined points.
Florida coach Will Muschamp hasn’t beaten Georgia or Florida State in his 24 games as Florida’s coach. A loss Saturday would make him just the second Florida coach to go winless against the Bulldogs and Seminoles in his first two seasons since Bobby Bowden arrived in Tallahassee in 1976. Florida doesn’t have national title odds at the book, and neither does FSU. However, a Gators win and Irish loss opens the door for them. Florida will no doubt have to win with defense, even with the return of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel from injury. Florida is third in the country in scoring defense, allowing fewer than 12 points per game. The Gators are sixth against the run and fourth in total defense.
Oregon (17-2) and Kansas State (20-1) still have outside shots at playing for the national title but would need chaos this weekend to have a chance.