- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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The winds of conference expansion have blown through college football, and the landscape will have a different look in 2011.
Most notably, the Big Ten welcomes Nebraska. The new Pac-12 has added Colorado and Utah, and the Big 12 is now down to 10 teams with Nebraska and Colorado both jumping ship.
What’s all the shuffling do to the SEC’s quest to make it six BCS national championships in a row?
It certainly doesn’t hurt.
For one, the Big Ten just got a lot tougher with the addition of Nebraska, meaning the grind will be even more daunting in that league.
What’s more, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 both implementing championship games, that means both of the champions from those leagues will have to win one extra game to put themselves into the BCS National Championship Game mix.
It’s been that way in the SEC since 1992 when the league expanded and split into two divisions.
When former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer announced two decades ago that the SEC was going to a championship game, the coaches in the league were up in arms. They hated the idea and were convinced that it was going to put the SEC at a huge disadvantage.
As it’s turned out, having that extra game to play has actually helped a lot more than it’s hurt.
Florida got some extra pop with the pollsters in both 2006 and 2008 by winning the SEC championship game and was able to jump into the top two spots in the final BCS standings.
LSU certainly needed another chance to impress in 2007 after losing the regular-season finale to Arkansas, the Tigers’ second loss of the season. They navigated their way into the BCS National Championship Game after holding off Tennessee that next week in the SEC championship game and benefited from just about everybody else losing that day.
When you look at the 2011 national championship race, it could be that No. 1-ranked Oklahoma gets a break. The Big 12 is dropping down to 10 teams and will not play a league championship game this season.
However, the Big 12 is adding a ninth league game, which means the Sooners will have to face everybody in the regular season. Of course, even in the old divisional format, they would have faced the other two Big 12 teams that will start this season in the top 10 -- No. 8-ranked Oklahoma State and No. 9-ranked Texas A&M.
At the end of the day, adding league championship games in the Big Ten and Pac-12 probably reduces the chances that there will be more than two unbeaten teams at the end of the season from the six BCS conferences, and that's good news for the SEC.
Even though history’s not supposed to matter when filling out that final ballot, it doesn’t hurt the SEC any that the league is 7-0 all-time in BCS National Championship Games.
In other words, a one-loss SEC champion is probably going to get the benefit of the doubt from the voters when choosing between one-loss champions from other conferences.
Six out of the past eight years, the SEC championship game winner has gone on to play in the BCS National Championship Game. That’s a 75 percent clip.
Don't look for those odds to change much with the recent conference expansion, and if anything, they may go up.
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