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Monday, November 21, 2011
Best-case scenarios for Hogs, Tide, Tigers

By Chris Low

You’ve heard of “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel.

Well, this is “SEC Week” in the world of the BCS standings.

For the first time ever, the top three teams in the BCS are not only from the same conference, but the same division.

LSU is No. 1, Alabama No. 2 and Arkansas No. 3, making it extremely likely that we’ll have an all-Western Division matchup (and a rematch) in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

With that in mind, here’s a best-case scenario for all three teams after consulting with my ESPN colleague Brad Edwards:

LSU

By winning Friday over Arkansas, LSU would go a long way toward locking up a berth in the BCS National Championship Game even if the Tigers were to turn around and lose to Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Now, if LSU were to lose badly to Georgia in the SEC title game, that could conceivably change things.

But LSU’s entire body of work is impressive enough, and the Tigers are so strong in the computers component of the BCS standings that a win over the Hogs would probably be enough to get them to New Orleans even if they tripped up against the Bulldogs on Dec. 3.

The most obvious way for LSU to reach the national title game is to win Friday over Arkansas and then defeat Georgia in the SEC championship game.

ALABAMA

If Alabama can win comfortably over Auburn on Saturday, Edwards thinks the Crimson Tide are about as close as it gets to being a lock for the BCS National Championship Game, especially if LSU wins Friday over Arkansas.

In that scenario, LSU would be the Western Division champion and go to the SEC championship game, while Alabama would stay at home and face very little risk, if any, of dropping any lower than the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings.

Again, this is provided that Alabama plays well against Auburn and doesn’t just squeak by with a win.

Edwards thinks there’s about a 90- to 95-percent chance that Alabama and LSU would meet in a rematch for the national title if the Crimson Tide and Tigers both win their games this week. And that’s even if LSU were to be upset by Georgia in the SEC championship game.

The reason it’s 90 to 95 percent is because there’s a slim possibility that Oklahoma State could enter the picture should LSU lose in the SEC title game by enough points. The Cowboys are the only other team strong enough in the computers to be in that position, although they still have to face Oklahoma on Dec. 3.

In short, Alabama is in great shape if it wins its game comfortably over Auburn, and it really doesn’t matter at that point what anybody else does.

ARKANSAS

Of the three SEC teams, Arkansas probably has the most cluttered path to the BCS National Championship Game.

The ideal scenario for the Hogs is to win Friday at LSU and have Auburn upset Alabama. Then, Arkansas would go to the SEC championship game with a chance to play its way into the national title game by beating Georgia.

It gets dicey for the Hogs if they win Friday and the Crimson Tide also win Saturday.

At that point, Edwards thinks Arkansas would pass LSU in the two human polls, but that LSU’s high computer ranking would keep the Tigers ahead of the Hogs in the BCS standings.

And if that happens, LSU would be No. 2 in the BCS standings and Alabama No. 1, meaning the Tigers would win the tiebreaker in the West and go to the SEC championship game based on their head-to-head victory over the Crimson Tide during the regular season.

Should LSU go on to lose to Georgia at that point in the SEC title game for its second loss of the season, then it would probably be Alabama and Arkansas in the national title game. But if LSU were to beat Georgia, Edwards thinks the Tigers would edge the Hogs for the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings.

Again, it would come down to the computers, and there would still be enough of a window for Arkansas to climb into that No. 2 spot over Alabama if the Hogs win impressively enough over LSU and the Crimson Tide aren’t overly impressive against Auburn.

Maybe, then, enough voters would move Arkansas to No. 1 in the two human polls, which could help make up the deficit in the computers.