Fire the cannons, sound the trumpets. For the first time since 2007, the SEC isn't in control of its own championship destiny, and that's wonderful news for college football.
To be sure, the BIG can't take advantage of the seismic shift at the top of the BCS rankings, but that's not the point. For the first time in as long as I can remember the national title race isn't shaping up to be the SEC champion versus the field. If Kansas State and Oregon win out, they'll be locks for Miami. If one of them slips, Notre Dame is right there to pick up the slack. Of course, there's no guarantee that the Wildcats, Ducks, and (gasp) Fighting Irish won't crap the bed down the stretch. If just two of the putative Top 3 drop a game -- and if past results are any indication, odds are good that they will -- the SEC Champion (read: Alabama) will be right back in the mix.
But for everyone who isn't living vicariously through a rebellion that was squashed 150 years ago, today's results are a reminder that while the SEC has been the class of college football for half a decade, it's not the only game in town. The Big 12 and Pac-12 both currently boast championship caliber programs, and it's completely plausible that the two best teams in the country aren't located in Mike Slive's conference.
That shouldn't be that much of a surprise (after all, the SEC makes up less than 12 percent of the FBS). It only feels that way because we've been spoon fed SEC superiority for the better part of a decade. The BCS "Top 10" is practically another way of saying "SEC conference standings." To be sure, the South has earned the benefit of the doubt with its performances on the big stage over the past six years, but I think it's only fair that for the rest of this season we approach the SEC with a healthy degree of skepticism.
Before you say blasphemy, keep in mind that "No. 1" Alabama, the program some people thought could beat an NFL squad, was just completely outclassed by a former Big-12 middle-weight and "No. 5" Florida, who just a few weeks ago was ranked second in the country, was taken to the brink by Louisiana-Layafette, a team that's currently 3-2 in the Sun Belt.
Of course, everyone is entitled to an off day, but it seems to me that SEC teams are enjoying the fruits of an "inSECtuous" cycle in the rankings that sees them benefit more from conference wins and suffer less from conference losses than programs in comparable conferences. After all, a win over a "Top 5" opponent is more impressive than a win over a "Top 15" opponent, and a loss to a "Top 5" opponent is less damning than a loss to an unranked challenger. Because teams in other BCS conferences are afforded few opportunities to play SEC teams out of conference, the SEC really only has to show up in a select few bowl games in January (in which it has the benefit of home field advantage) and its superiority is self-perpetuating.
It's nothing revolutionary, but the only way to stop the inSECtuous bias is for one of the "other" 110 teams in the FBS to win a title. Do that, and the coaches and sportswriters whose votes form the human element of the polls will be forced to acknowledge the cyclical nature of college football. Don't, and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.
For once, the field is in the driver's seat.