Greg Jayne: The king is dead? Not yet

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

Well, that was interesting, wasn't it?

Interesting and compelling and surprising, if not entirely shocking.

Oregon lost a heartbreaker Saturday, falling 17-14 in overtime to Stanford and falling from its perch as the top-ranked team in the polls.

Why, the only fate worse than that which befell the Ducks was what happened Kansas State, which was No. 1 in the BCS standings until being pounded, pummeled and pureed by Baylor.

Oregon was upset; Kansas State was exposed.

And while the notion of Notre Dame now being the No. 1 team in the land might be unpalatable for some, in one sense the axis of the college football world has been righted.

Now, barring some convergence of stars and moons and celestial beings, an SEC team will land in the BCS title game.

I know, I know, the pundits were chortling when it appeared that the Southeastern Conference might be shut out of the title contest. But let's be honest: It wouldn't seem like a legitimate finale if the SEC was not involved.

There's a certain entitlement that should come with six straight national championships, and for the SEC that entitlement should be an automatic berth into the championship game.

It's not as if the conference doesn't have worthy contenders. Alabama was ranked No. 1 and was unbeatable until Texas A&M did the beating a week ago. Georgia has one loss. Florida has one loss.

Never mind that those three ran the ever-difficult gauntlet of Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and Jacksonville State on Saturday. Some team is likely to walk out of the SEC title game with one loss on the season, and that should be enough to play for the national championship.

This, of course, makes me sound like an SEC honk. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why, I would be the first to wryly observe that Alabama's loss to Texas A&M, a first-year member of the conference, suggests that the Crimson Tide would have had two or three losses a year if they had been in the Big 12 in recent seasons. Doesn't it? Isn't that the kind of absurd logic that SEC Fan uses to denigrate Oregon or Ohio State or Texas when one of those teams dares to challenge the throne?

In fact, Oregon would have fared quite well in the Southeastern Conference in recent years. Heck, the Ducks traveled to Tennessee two seasons ago and laid a 48-13 shellacking on the Volunteers (UT's worst loss of the season), and then were tied with Auburn with three seconds to play in the national-title game.

But in the end, the SEC has a mantle full of crystal footballs to support this argument. Those six consecutive national titles have come from four different schools, representing a ridiculous breadth of talent.

In college football, that matters. There is a well-defined pecking order that makes it the least egalitarian of sports, a game in which pedigree is rewarded as frequently as merit.

As often as that results in unfounded inequities, this is one instance in which it makes sense. Because if Notre Dame or somebody else ends up winning a title without going through the SEC, the victor forever will be confronted by a "But …"

But you didn't beat an SEC team.

But Alabama was the best team throughout the season.

But the SEC teams beat each other up during the season.

Notre Dame might well be the best team in the country, and there will be no need for excuses should the Irish end up hoisting the trophy in Miami. But there could be questions about their legitimacy as the ruler of college football.

Let's face it — to be recognize as the true king, you first must dethrone the reigning monarch.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by email at greg.jayne@columbian.com.