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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
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(RNN) – If there's anyone who is the position to make the case for the SEC champion making the BCS national championship game regardless of record, it's Gary Danielson.
Danielson has broadcast SEC games for CBS since 2006, and in that time the conference has produced every national champion. Danielson is an ambassador for the SEC like no one else and his opinion on the matter is as strong as his belief in the conference's quality.
But, even so, his answer is no.
"The SEC should get the tie-breaker if they both have one loss, but I could not in good conscience jump them over an undefeated team," Danielson said Tuesday in a conference call in advance of Saturday's conference championship game between Auburn and Missouri.
Currently both versions of the Tigers are on the outside looking in with undefeated Florida State and Ohio State taking the top two spots in the BCS standings. Auburn is third and Missouri is fifth with Alabama sandwiched between them.
Should either the Seminoles or Buckeyes lose, the argument is moot as the SEC champion would almost certainly take their place, but if both stay undefeated, the argument will resurface over whether the winner deserves the bid over Ohio State, which has played a weaker schedule despite being in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.
Danielson's broadcast partner, Verne Lundquist, avoided the topic directly, but did address comments made by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs that the SEC champion not making the BCS title game would be "un-American."
"I think Jay was caught up in the moment," Lundquist said. "He's an advocate for his team and his conference. I don't think it would be un-American. He was passionate about a team who won a sensational football game."
As much as they love the SEC, their support lies with Ohio State.
"I believe the SEC has earned the reputation of being the best conference in college football – that's not an opinion, they've earned it," Danielson said. "But I don't believe it's a Grand Canyon (gap between other major conferences). We're not talking about Boise State or Fresno State. (Ohio State) went undefeated two years in a row and deserve to be there."
It doesn't, however, mean he thinks the Buckeyes are better.
"The only thing I know is that I don't know," Danielson said. "I've been around football a long time and watched a lot of film, and I never say publicly who I think is better because I don't know."
It's worth noting that in 2006 when a rematch between Ohio State and Michigan was a possibility instead of Florida edging the Wolverines, Danielson was supportive of Florida's bid.
While he didn't make an official statement, Lundquist did acknowledge the issue and it seemed clear the broadcast partners were on the same page.
"I am curious to see, in the aftermath of Auburn's (Iron Bowl) win, what value a one-loss team has over an undefeated one," Lundquist said.
That sentiment was prevalent during the interview with Lundquist himself having stated the Iron Bowl was tied with Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters when he was 46 years old for the best sporting event he's ever broadcast.
"The stakes were just so high," Lundquist said. "The farther I get away from it, the higher my estimation may go."
With a berth in the national championship game not on the line as in past years, the game has a different angle. There is some concern on CBS' part that the game could be an anticlimactic conclusion to the season after Auburn's dramatic finishes in wins over Georgia and Alabama – both of which were broadcast by Lundquist and Danielson.
That doesn't mean the game is any less intriguing. Both Florida State and Ohio State will play after the SEC championship game has ended, so the national championship implications won't be known until after the Georgia Dome has long since gone silent, but it doesn't mean the game won't have the same type of impact.
"This is the SEC championship. We've got a wonderful story to tell on both sides of the ball," Lundquist said. "This is a big game with a lot at stake. It could be anticlimactic if one team or the other surges out to a big lead, but I do not expect that happen."
His voice slowed and rose for emphasis in his familiar style on the words "do not."
If anything, Danielson thinks it might make for a better game. A theme early in the Iron Bowl that Danielson harped on repeatedly was Alabama having something to protect and playing tight while Auburn was the underdog and was free play fearlessly.
He pointed it out when the Alabama's receivers dropped passes, on the Tide's three missed field goals and when Alabama almost botched a punt with disastrous effects. Saturday, he expects both teams to be loose since the stakes are equal.
"Neither of these teams is ranked No. 1 and not defending their place in the national championship, so they'll be loose," Danielson said. "These two fan bases are all in on this. You get fired up to do competition. I love to broadcast games with great competition, and this will be a competitive game."
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