Playing the 'what if' game in the SEC


This is the time of year we all play the “what if” game.

It’s especially popular right now among the Auburn and LSU fan bases.

The best thing Auburn can do is win Friday at Alabama and then Dec. 4 against South Carolina in the SEC championship game. If the Tigers do that, they can punch their ticket to the BCS National Championship Game, and it doesn't matter what anybody else does.

But with the publicity Boise State and TCU have received this season, and really with the national push that seems to be out there for one of the non-BCS schools to get a shot at a national championship if they’re unbeaten, I think Auburn will be on the outside looking in if the Tigers lose Friday to the Crimson Tide.

That’s even if they come back and beat South Carolina in the SEC championship game and finish 12-1.

For those of us in SEC land, I realize that seems warped, but I simply don’t think enough of the voters in the human polls would rank a one-loss Auburn team that wins the SEC championship ahead of Boise State and TCU, assuming they both win out.

Now, if Oregon should lose one of its last two games against Arizona or Oregon State, I think Auburn would still have a chance to slide into one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings if the Tigers were to lose a close game to Alabama and then rebound to win the SEC championship game.

If it’s the other way around, and Auburn beats Alabama and then loses to South Carolina in the SEC championship game, I think the Tigers are out of the national championship equation no matter what.

In the case of LSU, the Tigers need just about everybody to lose, and even then it might not be enough.

The best-case scenario for LSU, which was No. 5 this week in the BCS standings, would be for Auburn to lose to both Alabama and South Carolina and Oregon to lose that Dec. 4 game at Oregon State.

Then, LSU might have a chance to work its way up into one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings if the Tigers can beat Arkansas on Saturday and finish 11-1.

That would be a fifth win over a nationally ranked opponent for LSU, which would have also won its last four games. So the Tigers' résumé would certainly make them deserving.

However, if Auburn were to lose this Friday at Alabama and then win the SEC championship game, I think Auburn would still be ranked ahead of LSU in the final polls because Auburn won the head-to-head matchup earlier this season.

Historically, voters have been hesitant to rank one team that didn’t win its conference ahead of another team that did, especially when the conference champion won the regular-season meeting. I can't say I disagree with that line of thinking.

Georgia faced a similar plight in 2007. The Bulldogs, though, had two losses that season and didn’t win their division. When the final polls came out, they actually dropped even though they were playing some of the best football in the conference at that time.

Les Miles' club has that same mountain to climb this season.