If Arkansas goes undefeated in the SEC, wins the SEC championship game, and doesn't play in the BCS national championship game, it would be the second time the SEC has a team go undefeated in the conference but is denied a trip to the BCS national championship game. Since USC is seen as the 2004 champion even though they didn't play in the BCS championship game, and despite LSU being undefeated and winner of the BCS championship game, it will finally prove something never thought possible; the SEC isn't over rated. At that point it would be clear voters see no value in a SEC conference champion that remains unbeaten; the voters see no value in a Conference Championship Game, and quite bluntly, no respect for the legendary SEC and the myth of its conference superiority.
You would then have both sides of the non conference schedule argument, on one side Auburn didn't play enough tough teams on their schedule to earn the trip to the national championship game in 2004, and in 2006 Arkansas would have played too tough of competition to earn the trip.
One side of the argument suggests the system discourages big-time non-conference games during the regular season. Texas, California, and Arkansas would all be in the mix as a 0 or 1 loss team without those difficult non conference losses. After all, if we follow that line of thinking, Rutgers remains undefeated and is still in the discussion because they defeated North Carolina and Illinois as their big non conference games. hmm...
The Big East as a whole supposedly can't get any respect for their collective non-conference schedule, with the best win being Louisville over Kansas State at Kansas State, something Texas failed to do. This perception of a weak conference because of a weak schedule somehow fails to match expectations though, because as it turns out, the SEC and the Big East have the same number of teams in the AP top 10, but the Big East has more teams than the SEC in the current BCS poll. In fact, the Big East is the model for how to schedule non conference games, how else can you explain the fact the Big East has 2 more teams in the BCS top 10 than the Big 12, ACC, and PAC-10 combined, and could very easily finish the season that way.
In other words, no matter what propaganda is being thrown out of the Leader and your local sports editorial, in the BCS weaker schedules are rewarded, and big conferences are penalized.
Notre Dame is the exception. It does fit this model, but as an independent it doesn't have to. The Notre Dame schedule breaks down like this:
Georgia Tech (8-2)
Penn State (7-4)
Air Force (4-5)
Michigan State (4-7)
North Carolina (1-9)
That is a respectable schedule, for every team in a NCAA division 1 BCS conference. The non-conference schedule would basically be Army, Navy, Air Force, and Stanford. Basically, the Big East teams with supposedly bad non-conference schedules have tougher non-conference schedules than Notre Dame.
However there is a flip side of the non conference schedule argument that is equally compelling. When it is all said and done, there will be 5 big time non conference games of consequence this season. Arkansas vs USC, Ohio State vs Texas, and Tennessee vs California, Michigan vs Notre Dame, and Notre Dame vs USC.
My hope is voters find a way to insure the two teams in the National Championship Game comes from the short list above. I think teams that play tough non-conference games, win or lose, need to be rewarded over teams that don't play tough non-conference. Otherwise in the future, Notre Dame will be the last hope for a compelling non-conference game, something that would almost certainly hurt college football as the dollars of the BCS trump the entertainment of the games that makes it both successful, and profitable, during the regular season.
This scenario still will not solve the big issue though. If USC runs the table, and I think they will, the Big 10 and Big East, arguably the 2 weaker of the 6 major BCS conferences, have a better chance to get 2 teams in BCS bowls based on games remaining and current BCS rankings than the 4 major conferences do. How pathetic is the BCS that California, the Florida/Arkansas loser, Oklahoma, and whomever finishes second in the ACC will probably watch Ohio State/Michigan loser and Louisville in a BCS bowl, not despite, rather because of their weak schedules, and because the Big 10 and Big East are weaker conferences this year.
Let the media and fan hype for the power of the Big Ten and Big East begin, because the other conferences are down if Arkansas, Texas, Wake Forest, and USC turn out to be as good as we think they are and win thier remaining games. Time to schedule cup cakes in September, to not do so will cost your school millions in January.
So SMQ, how can the SEC not split up, how can the PAC-10 tolerate, how can the Big 12 and ACC justify 12 team conferences if it is their strength that hurts those conferences the most in making money under the BCS system? This is the BCS without the Boise State rule in effect, not to mention without the Notre Dame exception, god forbid Boise State makes the BCS top 10 by seasons end and Notre Dame gets selected for no other reason than, they are Notre Dame.