Its long, Dixie-induced nightmare seemed over.
Of course, everything flipped again seven days later.
Oregon lost. Kansas State lost. Just like that, Alabama and Georgia were right back in the prime positions.
The Tide and the Bulldogs closed the deal Saturday against overmatched opponents, proving once again the SEC has, if nothing else, an impeccable sense of timing. Outside of Notre Dame, every team in the mix had one loss. But Oregon and Kansas State lost last, so they get shortchanged.
Ohio State might have messed things up, finishing off a 12-0 debut season for coach Urban Meyer with a victory over Michigan. But the Buckeyes are on NCAA probation because of Tattoo-gate, the championship dreams pushed off into the future by some shady ink. They look like the sort of program that can challenge the SEC's dominance, but not this year.
Maybe the new four-team playoff will stir things up a bit. Surely, it can't hurt, because the SEC clearly has this system all figured out.
"I knew the way the SEC works," Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings said, savoring his team's position in the locker room beneath Sanford Stadium. "I knew we could beat everybody else on our schedule. I was like, 'Man, we've just got to win out.'"
There will be those who say the SEC is living on its reputation, that the league isn't nearly as strong from top-to-bottom this season as it's been in other years. That's a pretty compelling argument, too. Neither Auburn nor Kentucky won an SEC game. Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas are looking for new coaches, and Auburn will surely be joining the list of schools with a vacancy.
But, for those at the top, there's another chance to play for a national title.
For the rest of the nation, that playoff system can't get here fast enough.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org and www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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