The Iron Bowl has been hashed and debated and plucked to unforeseen levels -- it was the topic of the first 30 minutes of the Sunday morning "SportsCenter" with a full day of NFL on tap, for crying out loud.
Still the questions are as numerous as the "Oh. My. Goodness. -- copyright Verne Lundquist" moments from Auburn's 34-28 win over the unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
The lasting images -- the realization that Auburn actually was going to win; the stunned looked of confusion on the stoic face of Nick Saban, who has been perfection's guardian and looked positively unsure how to react when his team imperfectly handled Auburn's perfect return; the scene on the Jordan-Hare turf afterward that served as the postcard for the complete and improbable 180 degrees Gus Malzahn has turned the Auburn program. which was 0-8 in the SEC this time last year and is headed to the SEC title game, et al -- will forever be a part of the latest installment in the greatest rivalry in college sports. It was unbelievable and still somewhat expected in a rivalry -- and a magical Auburn run in 2013 -- that has been defined by expecting the unbelievable.
The lasting ripples still can be felt through this week and will reach high tide Sunday when the final BCS standings reveal the two teams that will play for the national title.
Currently, Florida State and Ohio State have the inside track for the invitations to the final BCS.
Before we go much further, let's examine how mucked up the future playoff that starts next year would be in this same scenario. Next year, the top four according to the selection committee make the field, and this year's top four would appear to be FSU, Ohio State, the SEC champion and Alabama. It can be reasoned that those are, at least by resume, the best four in the country.
But what would happen if the Auburn magic that carried the Tigers to late come-from-behind wins with an Immaculate Deflection and Returning Back the Tide runs out against Missouri? That means the Iron Bowl would have meant very little in determining the national title, and if the new system is going to devalue the best regular season in all of sports, then we are against it. So against it in fact, I'd prefer the old-school bowl matchups from the mid-1980s to anything that would potentially damage the magic and purity that is and has been Saturday like this past one.
In truth, the desired, "fixed" system that is slated for next year would put the No. 1 team against the No. 4 team in a national semifinal, something that just happened when fourth-ranked Auburn beat top-ranked Alabama. But that's for next year.
We are dealing with the here and now, and the now means the polls and the computers claim that Ohio State is better and more deserving a title shot than Auburn. Hogwash.
What's Ohio State's best win? A sluggish seven-point win over Wisconsin, which lost to Penn State on Saturday? Ohio State surrendered 600-plus yards Saturday to a Michigan team that has lost five games and failed to top 250 yards of total offense in three of its previous four. If you are saying, "Yeah, well, Ohio State is unbeaten and Auburn lost at LSU at night in a monsoon in September," then where is unbeaten Nothern Illinois on your ballot? (And we can all agree that LSU would be favored over every team this side of Alabama and FSU in Baton Rouge at night, right?)
Granted, the final Saturday will have a lot to say about this because of the challenges ahead and the fact that the final impression is almost always the strongest. Plus, with the SEC's run of dominance, you can just as easily make the argument that Missouri beating Auburn should be enough to get it to the title game. Missouri likely would fall short because, despite its amazing run -- Mizzou's only loss was in overtime to South Carolina after leading 17-0 in the fourth quarter, and the Tigers have led every opponent except Texas A&M by at least 17 points in the fourth quarter -- Mizzou does not have the resume-clinching win over Alabama. Auburn does.
Ohio State will face Michigan State in the Big Ten title game Saturday night, right about the time the Tigers and the Tigers decide who wins the SEC.
Man, magical meets maniacal. Pure joy meets pure speculation. In a lot of ways, it's fitting that the BCS leaves this mess in its wake, right?
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...