The first Bowl Championship Series rankings of the season were released Sunday night, and it basically reminded us what we already knew: An undefeated team from the Southeastern Conference is pretty much a lock to play for it all Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium. Heck, even a one-loss SEC championship-winning team has a pretty good shot at getting in.
Home of the past six national champions, the SEC debuted with six of the top 12 teams in the first BCS rankings, with unbeaten Florida sitting pretty at No. 2 — thanks to the computers — right behind No. 1-ranked and defending champion Alabama.
Could the Gators still end up playing for it all even if they stumble once down the stretch and rally to win the SEC? Jerry Palm, a BCS Expert at CBSSports.com, definitely thinks that’s a strong possibility for any SEC team — as long as there are not two remaining undefeated teams out there.
“If for whatever reason the SEC doesn’t produce an undefeated champion and say you’ve got Oregon and Notre Dame out there undefeated, or Kansas State, the SEC is going to be out,” Palm said. “But if the SEC produces an undefeated national champion, that team is not just in the title game, but No. 1.
“The thing about the first BCS rankings is that it doesn’t really set the whole season up where if you’re not No. 1 or 2 you’re in trouble. It’s really more of a reintroduction to the process and how it all works. Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State — everybody still undefeated has a shot to finish in the top two. It really doesn’t matter where they rank right now unless we end up with three or four of them that are undefeated. Then there’s going to be a problem and it’s not going to matter how it is sorted out. Then, there is going to be chaos.”
Because two undefeated SEC teams could meet in the conference title game and knock the other out, Palm believes Oregon has the inside track among the remaining unbeaten schools to get into the title game.
“They’re in the driver’s seat with the voters,” Palm said of the Ducks. “I also like Notre Dame. Their defense is really good. They’ll get really tested when they play USC and Oklahoma and they have problems at quarterback with a young guy who plays like a young guy at times. But I think you need to have a really good defense to win, and Notre Dame has that part of it covered.”
With seven weeks of regular-season action and conference title games still to be played, the Gators hardly seemed concerned about their BCS position after Saturday’s 31-17 win over Vanderbilt. With ninth-ranked South Carolina and 13th-ranked Georgia set to visit The Swamp over the next two weeks, quarterback Jeff Driskel said he didn’t think he would be tuning into Sunday night’s BCS show to see where his team was ranked.
“If I happen to be sitting down watching TV, I’ll probably watch it,” Driskel said. “But I’m not going to record it on DVR or anything like that.
“It’s still early. We’re undefeated. We’ve got a long way to go.”
The Gators surprised some by leapfrogging the Oregon Ducks — ranked ahead of them in both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches Polls — into the No. 2 slot. UF did so because it was the No. 1-ranked team according to the computers. But that’s not necessarily a good omen. Each of the previous two times the Gators reached the BCS title game — including when they last won it all at Sun Life Stadium in 2008 — they weren’t ranked in the top five of the BCS’ initial poll.
“It’s great to look at because of where we’ve been the last two years not being ranked that high,” safety Josh Evans said. “It’s definitely something that excites you, but it’s not something you take to your head. Any given day in the SEC, you can go from three to seven to nine to not even ranked.”
As for Florida State, which debuted at No. 14 in the BCS rankings, Palm said the Seminoles still have “an outside shot” of getting into the BCS title game, but they are way down the list of one-loss teams who could build a strong enough résumé to get in. About all that could really help the Seminoles now, Palm said, would be knocking off an undefeated Gators team at home in their regular-season finale Nov. 24.
“If there is a one-loss SEC team, even one that is not in the championship game, they might be ahead of Florida State at the end,” Palm said. “A one-loss USC, Oklahoma, Oregon are all probably going to be ahead of Florida State. I just don’t think they’re going to get enough respect from the voters because of their league and I don’t think they’ll get much in terms of the computers. You can’t rule them out with one loss — you can’t really rule anybody out. But I don’t like their chances.”