TUSCALOOSA — The Associated Press poll loves Alabama. So do the USA Today coaches rankings. Paint the Harris poll crimson, too.
But the six computers that combine to help decide the BCS standings? They’re not on board.
Of the 234 voters in the AP, Harris and coaches polls, 229 are ranking Alabama No. 1. The BCS counts the Harris and coaches polls as two-thirds of its formula, which means the Crimson Tide was rock solid in the standings released Sunday night.
Of the six computer rating systems used by the BCS, only two go for Bama as the best team in the country. They say the Crimson Tide is No. 3 nationally, with Florida first and Notre Dame second.
The sticking point? Alabama’s strength of schedule, although that’s not the Crimson Tide’s fault, and it isn’t something Bama fans should worry about. Obviously, if Alabama goes unbeaten, it doesn’t matter what the computers say — after all, this isn’t 2004 when the poll voters weren’t absolutely convinced the BCS National Championship Game had to include the SEC winner.
But in the end, Alabama’s strength of schedule won’t be that bad, and even a one-loss Crimson Tide possibly could slide into the national title contest if it makes the SEC Championship Game and wins.
Let’s go back to the start of the season. At the time, the Tide schedule looked almost impossible. It appeared Alabama would have to play three teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10 at the time of their regular-season meeting: Michigan, Arkansas and LSU.
According to the Alabama record book, only one Tide team has won three regular-season meetings against squads ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game. The 1964 national title team beat No. 9 Florida, No. 8 LSU and No. 10 Georgia Tech.
But it wouldn’t end there for this year’s team. Alabama likely would face another top 10 team in the SEC Championship Game.
Only one Alabama squad has beaten four top 10 teams in one year, including postseason games. The 2009 Tide beat No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 9 LSU, No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Texas. The 1978 team beat four top 11 teams, but only three in the top 10, including its Sugar Bowl showdown that year with Penn State.
On top of that, a possible BCS Championship Game appearance would give this season’s Tide a fifth top 10 opponent.
However, Michigan turned out to be mediocre, Arkansas was absolutely awful, and conference contender LSU didn’t look like it was all that. Who was left to challenge Alabama, besides a possible power team out of the SEC East Division?
The Crimson Tide’s schedule was declared pathetic, and this national opinion showered down on Tuscaloosa: This isn’t going to be like last year, so if you stub your toe just once you’re out and there’s no way back in.
But Michigan isn’t that bad. The Wolverines are 4-2, and the record will improve now that they are in Big Ten play. Their losses have come to Alabama and Notre Dame — two top five teams. Nobody thought Michigan was a top five team to begin with, so what’s so devastating about losing those games? The Wolverines have a shot at finishing the year about where they were predicted, which was No. 8 in the opening polls.
Arkansas isn’t a top 10 team, but the Razorbacks aren’t bottom feeders, either. Wins over Auburn and Kentucky show they’re a mid-level SEC team, which is probably where they should’ve been considered from the start. Alabama’s 52-0 win in Fayetteville four weeks ago still carries a little bit of weight.
Ole Miss and Saturday’s victim, Missouri, still are considered top 50 teams by the computers. Mississippi State might be unbeaten when it visits Alabama on Oct. 27. Texas A&M will play in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10 and could be a top 10 team by then, if the Aggies can beat LSU on Saturday.
If they don’t, then LSU might be back in the top five by the time it hosts Alabama on Nov. 3.
And a top 10 team from the SEC East will be waiting in the league title game, if the Tide makes it that far.
Does that schedule look pathetic? What’s pathetic about it? If everyone really is in love with the SEC, then you have to respect the schedule of anyone who wins the league. You can’t have it both ways.
Contact Mark Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at @DailyEdwards
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