If the first wave of BCS standings teach us anything it's that the SEC is still king of college football. They play by their own rules and quite frankly -- rule college football.
2011 delivered a national championship matchup between two teams from the same division of the SEC (Alabama and LSU from the West). The initial offering of the BCS for this season doesn't exactly eliminate a repeat performance with Alabama at number one, Florida at two, LSU at six, and South Carolina seventh. The SEC has earned their top billing due to six consecutive national championships, but is their success being blown out of proportion to the detriment of the present?
Moving forward it's clear to see that the rest of the nation is playing by a different set of requirements than the SEC as a loss means more to everyone else outside of that tight inner circle. The question may now become: How will we ever know when the SEC has lost its edge?
The conference home to the past six BCS titles is riddled with top-ten teams. But if they are good due to their rankings -- and conversely ranked highly due to their solid reputation -- what will it take to bring it to and end? When a supposed #12 beats #2 and they change places, we assume they were appropriately rated. Have we created a self-serving reciprocal relationship that has no end?
Quite frankly, the SEC's hold on the nation is reaching a point where the 2014 playoff format is going to arrive just in time. With over 120 teams in FBS (and growing yearly) there is no way that teams can prove their worth directly. Instead, we're stuck making inferences and relying on illogical and hypothetical number-crunching that amounts to subjective conjecture.
The BCS proved this flaw by ignoring a one-loss Oklahoma State team in 2011. We should have been given a chance to see how an LSU or Alabama defense would perform against the likes of the Cowboys' spread attack. Instead, the computers took that away; tying together distant ends by filling in non-compatible components.
There is no way that the SEC will be left out this year. The only question is whether they'll get two teams in again or only one. The winner of the Alabama/LSU contest will have the toughest argument going into postseason play. If the SEC East representative should take down either the Tigers or Crimson Tide, they'll automatically receive the bump necessary to square off in the national title game. And the winner of South Carolina and Florida this week has just as tough a grip out of the East.
With all these ranked teams scattered across the top squads of the SEC, it's becoming less a hypothetical question of "Does the SEC deserve an automatic bid?" and more an informal reality that someone in the conference will get a spot in the national championship.
Throughout the rest of the nation, #5 Notre Dame's schedule looks too daunting, #3 Oregon must survive Stanford and USC (possibly twice), #4 Kansas State is a "boring" product that voters likely hope will fall to Geno Smith and West Virginia; meanwhile #11 Florida State is praying that Florida stays in the top two for their season ending matchup.
The bottom line for everyone outside of the SEC is that too many things have to go perfectly for even a hack at the championship. A loss by any non-SEC team is devastating and requires extensive argument in defense of inclusion. A loss by the SEC's elite means something completely different.
It means a shrug, a point to the schedule, and a back-pat from the BCS standings.
Sound Off: What are your thoughts on the initial BCS standings of 2012?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @long_snapper