If Missouri’s players believe they deserve a shot at the BCS championship game with a win Saturday against Auburn, they aren’t exactly shouting it from the rooftops.
Exhibit A: “I’m not going to go into that,” junior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. “We’re just focused on Auburn.”
Exhibit B: “We’ve got to win (the SEC championship) first,” senior linebacker Andrew Wilson said. “We’ve got a long way to go until we get there.”
Exhibit C: “I don’t care,” senior left guard Max Copeland said. “I want that to be my only response to that question — ‘I don’t care.’ All we care about is this weekend. Beyond that, the chips will fall where they may.”
Tigers coach Gary Pinkel wasn’t ready to make his case, either.
“I’m not very good at beating drums,” he joked during Monday’s media day.
Still, it’s a fair question considering college football’s recent landscape.
Seven years in a row, the national champion has come from the Southeastern Conference, but there’s a distinct possibility this year’s SEC champion won’t even get the chance to extend that streak.
No. 5 Missouri, 11-1, meets No. 3 Auburn, 11-1, to settle the SEC crown at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The winner gets the conference’s automatic BCS berth.
However, unless unbeaten Florida State loses in the ACC championship game against Duke or undefeated Ohio State falters in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State, the Missouri-Auburn winner seems destined to finish third in the final BCS standings.
That ranking — an aggregate of the USA Today Coaches poll, the Harris poll and six computer rankings — determines the two teams that square off Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., for the national title. The final BCS standings will be released Sunday.
The politicking already has started.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs told reporters it “would be a disservice to the nation” if a one-loss Auburn team were left out of the national championship game.
Jacobs’ hyperbole aside, few debate that Florida State and Ohio State have played inferior schedules in inferior conferences compared to the SEC.
“Any one-loss team in the SEC, strength of schedule, hopefully that will be taken into consideration for it,” Pinkel said. “That's one thing. I've been in the Big 12, now I'm in the SEC. It didn't take me to be in the league to appreciate and understand the league. I understand the league. I think people should look at that and they should take strong consideration because of strength of schedule.”
It might be a tough sell to voters, especially for a Missouri team without a national championship pedigree, but if any conference’s champion — one loss or not — deserves a title shot, the SEC is that conference.
“It’s been happening for years and years,” junior defensive end Kony Ealy said, “but my opinion really doesn’t matter. My job is to try to go out there and perform in a way that puts our team in a situation to be in a position to play for a national championship.”
History suggests it’s possible. An SEC team with at least one loss has played in — and won — five of the seven BCS title games (Florida, 2007, 2009; LSU, 2008; Alabama, 2012, 2013).
History also suggests a unbeaten team from one of the nation’s power conferences won’t be left in the cold for a team with a loss on the ledger.
Of course, it becomes a moot point for Missouri without a win against Auburn.
“We’ve made a pretty good resume going into the game, but we have to finish this week,” senior wide receiver Marcus Lucas said. “It’s about Auburn. It’s not really about a national championship right now. We’ve just got one game to focus on.”