Relax, SEC haters.
As aghast as you must have been to see the College Football Playoff selection committee cram three SEC teams into the top four of its initial rankings last week, and narrow that number to two only because of a head-to-head loss between them, the chances of the SEC occupying two Playoff spots is now somewhere between slim and nil.
The committee's professed lending of weight to conference championships, once they're decided, makes it highly unlikely. And the attrition forthcoming from battles between the SEC West's top teams makes it close to impossible.
For any conference, in any year, the most credible path to two Playoff representatives is if two division winners meet in a conference title game, each with strong cases for a Playoff spot already in place. Think 2009 SEC title game, Florida and Alabama, both entering unbeaten. Or even the 2008 game, in which the same teams met with a 23-1 record between them. That's how one conference's stars might have to align in order to compel the selection committee.
On Saturday, Georgia's embarrassing loss to Florida ensured that the SEC East winner will enter the SEC title game with a minimum of two losses and no hope of a Playoff berth. That means a second SEC playoff team would have to be the West runner-up.
Lest anyone forget, Alabama's berth in the BCS National Championship Game after the 2011 season, having failed to win not only the SEC but the SEC West, was something of an impetus for college football's power brokers to first entertain the idea of a playoff. And the fact that the Crimson Tide dominated division rival LSU in the title game that year did nothing to appease those fundamentally convinced that the nation's two best teams couldn't possibly come from the same half of one conference.
So what is the best potential Playoff case that an SEC West runner-up could make?
If Mississippi State and Auburn both win out, the Tigers will have an impressive 11-1 resume against a tough schedule, but they'll be on the couch Dec. 6, the day conference champions are crowned. That's not a good day to not make an impression on the committee. If Alabama or Auburn manages to win the West, the runner-up will be in the same unenviable position.
Of course, the Big 12 champion and Notre Dame will face the same predicament of being idle Dec. 6. But both will be viewed in a better light because neither has an opportunity to win a conference title game.
Bottom line: The selection committee is going to have to snub a strong resume or two when it names the playoff field. And if you're Mississippi State, Alabama, or Auburn, you don't want to make yourself an easier target by losing the division race.