Mark Clark: With all SEC schedules, it appears there will be a lot of fun ahead

Mark Clark: With all SEC schedules, it appears there will be a lot of fun ahead

Two months ago when the 2020 college football polls began to trickle out, the rankings were a lot different than they are today. The Big 10 and Pac 12 have both decided not to compete on the gridiron this season. By doing so, the rankings got reshuffled – a bit.

Take Athlon’s poll for instance, the Clemson Tigers and Alabama’s Crimson Tide were at the top of the poll. They remain there today. However, No. 3 Ohio State is gone. No. 5 Penn State is gone.  And, No. 10 ranked Oregon is gone. 

Which teams remain? No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 LSU and No. 9 Notre Dame are all still there. 

So, three teams have been removed because they will not play this season – well, right now that is the case. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is trying to pressure the Big 10 into playing. He started a petition last week which I think – and this is just my opinion – will do nothing to sway his conference’s decision. You have seen the last – I believe – of Fields in a college uniform. He will declare for the NFL Draft in 2021 and leave the college ranks with one season as a starter. You might as well say Fields played only one year of college football. He barely got on the field for Georgia in his Freshman season and transferred to Ohio State.

Let’s take a look at which three teams have replaced the three teams that were removed from the Top 10. After you bump every team that remained in the Top 10 up to close the gaps, No. 11 Texas A&M moves in at No. 8, No. 13 Auburn moves to No. 9 and No. 14 Oklahoma State moves to No. 10. There you have what everybody in the Southeastern Conference has said all along. The SEC has the strongest conference in the nation. There are six SEC, two ACC and two Big 12 teams in the Top 10. And I cannot mount an argument against those six teams deserving their new rankings after the two conferences chose not to participate.

Even had the two conferences chosen to play, the Top 10 would have been composed of four SEC teams (Alabama, Florida, LSU and Georgia), two ACC teams (Clemson and Notre Dame), two Big 10 teams (Ohio State and Penn State), a Big 12 team (Oklahoma) and a Pac 12 team (Oregon). The SEC would still be the dominant conference in the Top 10 rankings.

Let’s now take a look at the Top 10. The teams two months ago in order were Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Penn State, Oregon, Florida, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Once again, the SEC dominates the Top 10 with four teams – the same four that Athlon put in its Top 10. There are three Big 10 teams (Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin). One ACC team (Clemson). One Big 12 team (Oklahoma). And, one Big 12 team (Oregon). The only difference in the two polls is the inclusion of Wisconsin in the poll and Notre Dame in the Athlon poll.

After taking out Ohio State, Penn State, Oregon and Wisconsin from the poll and moving up the other teams to fill the empty gaps, the next four teams to move into this Top 10 poll are Auburn, Notre Dame, Texas and Texas A&M. So, once again, the SEC has six teams in the Top 10, the ACC has two and the Big 12 has two.

ESPN’s preseason poll had the following listed as its Top 10 teams: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida, Oregon and Notre Dame. Take out Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon. Replace those three with the next three eligible teams in the ESPN poll and you add Auburn, Texas A&M and Texas. Once more you have six SEC teams, two ACC teams and two Big 12 teams in this Top 10.

The Sporting News originally had, in order, Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida and Penn State. Take out the usual suspects – Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State – and replace them with Auburn, Texas and Texas A&M. Six SEC teams, two ACC teams and two Big 12 teams. 

And finally, the Amway/Coaches poll listed its original Top 10 as follows: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida, Oregon and Notre Dame. If you remove the ineligible teams and move the other teams up to fill the gaps, the No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10 teams would become Auburn, Texas A&M and Texas. So, again, there are six SEC teams, two ACC teams and two Big 12 teams in this Top 10. 

I would certainly like to see two SEC teams face-off for the National Championship, but that is highly unlikely with the league opting to play a 10-game conference teams only schedule. The top two teams, according to the above polls, Alabama and Georgia will face each other in the regular season and likely will see each other again in the SEC Championship game. If they split a pair of close games, there might be a chance for both to make the playoffs. Alabama also has to get past LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn during the regular season to get to the SEC title game. Georgia has to get past Florida and, of course, Alabama. 

So, the Bulldogs have the easier road to the SEC Championship game. A loss to Alabama will hurt Georgia less than an Alabama loss to Georgia. If Georgia lost to Alabama and beats Florida, things could be really interesting if Florida wins all its other games and ties the Bulldogs in the Eastern Division of the SEC. If that happens – and no past rules have been changed – Florida would gain the Eastern Division slot in the conference championship game. Of course, Georgia could argue it belongs in the playoffs as a second SEC team behind either Alabama or Florida. And even more interesting, Alabama could go 10-0 in the regular season, lose to Florida in the SEC championship which would leave all three teams with a loss – Alabama 10-1, Florida 10-1 and Georgia at 9-1. Yikes, the SEC could legibility argue for three teams to play in the playoffs along with Clemson. Of course, there are a lot of other scenarios that could play out as well. If this season is played from Game 1 to the National Championship game, it appears there is a lot of fun ahead.

 Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.