Alabama's loss to South Carolina officially ended the SEC's four-year reign of the BCS.
That's it. It's over. Take it to the bank.
Don't be deceived that there are still three SEC teams in the top 10 of the coaches poll and Harris poll, as well as the latest Simulated BCS Standings. None of them is in the top six. And even if one of them gets to the end of the season without another loss, that team won't finish in the top 2 of the final BCS standings.
The circumstances are conspiring against the SEC, consider:
1) Ohio State does not play Michigan State, possibly the second-best Big Ten team this season. The Buckeyes' only difficult remaining game appears to be a trip to Iowa in their penultimate game.
2) Oklahoma and Nebraska do not face each other in the regular season. It's possible that both team could be unbeaten heading into the Big 12 title game.
3) Oregon has already played, and mauled, the second-best team in the Pac-10.
4) Both Boise State and TCU are on course for an unbeaten regular season. Boise State has a testy road game at Nevada, TCU one at Utah. Both Nevada and Utah are also unbeaten, and are potential darkhorses for BCS bowl bids.
But the bigger issue is that the SEC is not as good as its hype, which played a significant role in getting an SEC team to the BCS title game in 2006-08. Alabama is still by far the best team in the conference, but there's a chance that the Tide now won't even reach the SEC title game.
Auburn and LSU, both in the SEC West, may be in the top 10 now, but both are fatally flawed teams that won't get through the season unscathed. The War Eagles barely scraped by Mississippi State, Clemson and just this week, Kentucky. LSU has survived two consecutive weekends while Les Miles played with the clock as if it were a live hand grenade.
But both of those teams may be able to upset Alabama, which is fortunate to stay in the top 10 after losing by double digits in a game that it was thoroughly outplayed. Even if Alabama manages to get through the rest of its schedule without a loss, including a road trip to Death Valley, it won't be enough to catapult it into the top 2 in the BCS standings. It's entirely possible that there might be only one SEC team in the top 10 at the end of the regular season.
The demise of SEC is not going to elicit much sympathy from the rest of the BCS conferences, which has been seething with SEC's perceived reputation as "the toughest conference," something that's at best equal parts marketing and performance (nothing new, as we've covered this extensively last year).
Really, don't feel bad for the SEC. It's been by far the top beneficiary of the BCS system. It's transformed from a regional conference to a national powerhouse with massive revenues from its television deals. Its national profile is only rivaled by the Big Ten, with many broadcasters and commentators as allies to influence the all-important votes.
To be fair, the SEC has performed when given the chance. It has six crystal balls from the 12-year BCS era. It just won't be getting a seventh this year.