Alabama has opened as a 7.5-point favorite over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. If the contest is close, then CBS will get what it has always wanted in that game: a tight game with direct national title implications between two historical powers with large fan bases. Viewers remains glued to their sets, ratings are high, advertisers are thrilled, and Mike Slive grins to himself.
However, if the game is a blowout and Gary Danielson finds himself needing material to occupy the fourth quarter, we should all prepare for a huckster spending an extended period of time advocating for another all-SEC national title game. Florida put themselves into that position by winning impressively in Tallahassee on Saturday, changing their impression from a punchless team that won a series of close games to a wily team that saved its best performances for its biggest games, save for one turnover-fest in Jacksonville. In truth, Florida deserves to be ahead of Georgia at this stage and, depending on how much value one places on the quality of opponents beaten as opposed to margin of victory, possibly Alabama, as well. Now, if Alabama wins on Saturday, then the Tide will have a fairly solid case to pass Florida. If Georgia wins, they will also have a case, although not quite as strong as Bama’s.
The major point is that even after Saturday, there won’t be a whole heck of a lot to separate those three teams. Since Danielson operates from the presumption that the SEC is the best conference in the country by leaps and bounds (despite the fact that this is not at all clear-cut this year) and he has clearly reached a decision at some point that pandering to his viewers is the way to security and popularity, I’d bet that he looks at Florida being on par with Bama and Georgia and decides that the SEC Championship Game should be a play-in game to meet the Gators in Miami. The chart comparing the quality of opponents beaten – a tactic that Danielson used in 2006 when it was convenient to argue for Florida over Michigan and then ignored last year when that metric supported Oklahoma State over Alabama – very well might make a reappearance. Notre Dame’s repeated close wins will get prominent discussion, as will the fact that the Irish’s schedule looked tougher before the season than it actually played out. And in the end, Danielson will achieve that most unlikely of results: he’ll make me sympathetic to Notre Dame.