The SEC West tiebreakers: Hold your breath and count to five

"If I'm so great, how come I keep losing to Leslie Miles?" (AP photo)

"If I'm the world's greatest coach, how come I keep losing to Leslie Miles?" (AP photo)

The most intriguing team in the land isn’t the one that won The Greatest Game Ever Played If You Don’t Care About Touchdowns. It’s the one that lost. As it stands, Alabama has a better chance of winning the national championship than it does the SEC crown, and wasn’t it only 2007 — help me on this, Georgia fans — when we were told a team that doesn’t win its conference doesn’t deserve to play for the BCS title?

That was the reason given then for elevating two-loss LSU, which had lost its final regular-season game at home, ahead of two-loss Georgia, which hadn’t lost since Oct. 6, in the final BCS poll. Never mind that the Bulldogs entered the final weekend ranked ahead of the Tigers. But the same thinking mightn’t apply if it comes to a choice between one-loss Alabama and one-loss Anybody Else. (Oklahoma, Oregon, Arkansas, even Clemson.)

Alabama, see, has the aura of a champion, if not necessarily the results. (It has Nick Saban, who somehow remained the world’s greatest coach after finishing fourth in a six-team division in 2010.) It was ranked No. 1 in preseason despite having lost four Round 1 NFL draftees plus its starting quarterback, and it fell only one spot  in the BCS rankings after losing at home on a night when all Nick’s men couldn’t muster a TD.

The calls for an LSU-Alabama weren’t just immediate in the aftermath; they’d been raised even before the game began. (The thinking being that, since an SEC team is going to win the BCS anyway, why not make the title game at least interesting?) After prevailing in Tuscaloosa, LSU  shouldn’t need to prove it can beat Bama twice to be national champ, but that could well be its assignment. Which would be grossly unfair, but when has big-time college football even been fair?

Even more confusing: LSU can lose to Arkansas in Baton Rouge on Nov. 25 and still represent the SEC West in the Georgia Dome. This is because of a complicated-but-sensible SEC tiebreaker. Were LSU to lose that game and finish in a three-way tie with the Tide and the Razorbacks, the Tigers would still get the West nod as long as they don’t fall more than five BCS spots behind Alabama. The SEC rule in question:

The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC championship game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC championship game.

You might recall that Texas beat Oklahoma in 2008 but couldn’t play for the Big 12 title and was omitted from the BCS title game because the Sooners finished first in the BCS rankings to the Longhorns’ third. That wasn’t right: When teams are tied, head-to-head should be the determinant. The five-or-fewer rule comes close to making that a reality. But there are loopholes within this loophole.

If Alabama is No. 1 in the Nov. 27 BCS standings to LSU’s No. 7, Alabama would represent the West, head-to-head be hanged. If Arkansas should beat LSU and nose ahead of the Tigers in the rankings, Alabama would likewise prevail. Because Arkansas would then be the second-place SEC team in the BCS standings, and Alabama beat the Hogs on Sept. 24.

Here we pause to consider Arkansas’ possible plight. Should they beat LSU, the Razorbacks could make the case that they’re playing the best football in the nation’s best league, but they’d surely be blocked from playing for the SEC title. And the team Arkansas just upset would not, provided LSU stays ahead of Arkansas in the BCS standings, which could well happen. (As we speak, the Tigers are No. 1 to the Hogs’ No. 6.)

Yeah, a nice eight-team playoff would come close to solving all this, but I’ve abandoned hope of that. But at least we in the Eastern time zone are facing a welcome bit of clarity, championship-wise. If Georgia beats Kentucky on Saturday, the Bulldogs will play for the conference title. If they lose to Kentucky, the Georgia athletic association will announce Sunday that it has dropped the sport.

By Mark Bradley

351 comments Add your comment

SouthJaxBeach Bulldawg Fan

November 16th, 2011
8:41 am

Mark Bradley

November 16th, 2011
8:46 am

With the mostus, SouthJax. Kudosus.

funny...

November 16th, 2011
8:49 am

Let’s just have an 8 team playoff and be done with it.

funny...

November 16th, 2011
8:50 am

…and Mark how dare you question St. Nick.

;-)

Bama in Atlanta

November 16th, 2011
8:50 am

It could turn into one big fuster cluck if Arkansas beats LSU and OK beats OK State.

sansho1

November 16th, 2011
8:52 am

If Alabama is one of the two teams with the best body of work come BCS time, then they should be in. If LSU and Oklahoma State don’t like it — well, all they have to do is win out. I find it difficult in an atmosphere in which the SEC has won the last five titles to muster much sympathy for the old argument that the SEC title game lessens the league’s chances at getting a team into the game.

T-Bone

November 16th, 2011
8:54 am

I really hope that OU beats OSU and Ark beats LSU. Watching the chaos will be fun, especially with an unbeaten Houston in the mix.

JAWJeRDAWG

November 16th, 2011
8:56 am

Not saying either will happen and it’s still a coupe of weeks down the road for consideration, but IF AR beats LSU and IF UGA gets to and wins the SECCG, chosing the teams for the BCS title game will create some interesting and controversial blog conversation.

Diggitydawg

November 16th, 2011
8:57 am

Even with one loss lsu’s body of work is better than bama’s

Jeff in G-ville

November 16th, 2011
8:58 am

All year, I’ve heard the question “should a 1 loss SEC team jump an undefeated team from another conference?” Say the upset happens and UGA beats LSU. Say every team except Ok State has a loss. Should the 2-loss SEC champ, who in this case would have won 11 games in a row, jump 1 loss teams from other conferences? Say UGA beats LSU. Oregon couldn’t do it. Alabama couldn’t do it. Just food for thought.

Diggitydawg

November 16th, 2011
8:58 am

But I digress because uga will win the seccg and throw a fly into ointment.

DawgFan

November 16th, 2011
9:00 am

I’ve been saying for a while that if Alabama reaches the BCS Title Game without playing in the SEC Title Game then I’ll turn away from college football. Not forever, but at elast for a while, if only on prinicple.

Big Enos Burdette

November 16th, 2011
9:01 am

Mark,
Isn’t it odd that after 15 years the Sandusky indictment occurred the week after Paterno got his all-time wins record? The cops were in on it too.

Bo Duke

November 16th, 2011
9:03 am

Bradley, why do you hate Bama so much?? Did a Crimson Tide fan routinely kick your butt while you werew growing up? Or was it because you grew up in Ky where real football is not played?
Watching you jump on and off the UGA bandwagon has been funny/pathetic. You are a butt kiss of the highest order. No matter whom UGA plays from the west they will get curb stomped and then you will jump ship…………………just like the rat ******* that you have always been

KoKoPuf

November 16th, 2011
9:03 am

Unfair to have to play a team you have already beaten for a title? Happens all the time in Basketball and Pro Football.

Andy

November 16th, 2011
9:04 am

Any team that has not won its conference (however that is decided within the conference) should not have the opportunity to play in the BCS national title game. The two best conference champions, as determined by voters, should play each other, plain and simple. Hopefully the voters will make this happen even if there isn’t actually a rule that mandates it.

DawgFan

November 16th, 2011
9:05 am

sansho – So think back to 2007. UGA was playing arguably the best football in the country at the end of the year. They hadn’t lost since early October, and yet they were told that, by virtue of not winning the SEC, they could not play in the BCS Title Game. It’s a really easy argument to say that UGA’s body of work was impressive enough to get them in. But LSU jumped the Dawgs and both UGA and LSU went to BCS games (Sugar and National Championship, respectively) and dismantled their opponents. I’d like to know why it was okay to leave UGA out in 2007, but in 2011 it’s okay to talk about LSU-Alabama rematching, or ‘Bama making it to the Title Game without winning the conference. I think it all comes down to four letters: E S P N

DC

November 16th, 2011
9:06 am

Mark,

Admit it…deep down inside you are hoping UGA loses…you gotta cheer on your own school yes?

dean

November 16th, 2011
9:08 am

Bo Duke. You mad bro?

Mike

November 16th, 2011
9:08 am

Mark, that 2008 Texas team didnt finish ahead of OU because the voters pushed OU up in the polls. OU was actually ranked ahead of Texas even in the human polls. That was a total travesty. In 2007, UGA was widely considered the best team on the field by all media outlets, but are not a perceived power program. They got voted down for it.

That aura you talk about being around Bama is that same false perception of a power program that saw Ohio St. play for that 2007 NC without having beaten a single team that could hold a ranking more than a week. Its the same false perception that urged voters to vote OU in over Colt McCoy and the Texas team that beat them on the neutral field.

If Bama plays in the NC after the voters having voted down UGA for not having a conference title in 2007, the system will be again exposed as the complete fraud that it is. Nothing but a system designed to line the pockets of “power programs” whenever possible.

Joey

November 16th, 2011
9:08 am

Nice read, Jeff. Could get interesting.

I’m just waiting for the inevitable GTBoob or Still@theFoolsBar to tell us again that “UGA WILL GET DESTROYED IN THE SECCG!!”

And then, if we should happen to upset somebody in that game, they will immediately proclaim that “UGA WILL GET DESTROYED BY TEAM_____________(fill in the black) IN THE SUGAR BOWL!!”

Chi Town

November 16th, 2011
9:09 am

Respect, Saban.

Mark Bradley

November 16th, 2011
9:10 am

I don’t root for anybody, DC. I get paid not to root.

All Cupcake Conference

November 16th, 2011
9:11 am

I thought Paul Johnson was the worlds greatest coach ?????

OneMoreDawg

November 16th, 2011
9:11 am

Would it not be totally ironic if a two loss UGA were to beat the 1-loss West champ…. thus leaveing the other two West “wannabes” in the best position to be invited play for the NC.

Mike

November 16th, 2011
9:12 am

Bottom line, the Tide should not play for the National Championship without a conference title. If they can vote down 2007 UGA for that exact reason, they can vote down the Tide. UGA never played LSU that year. The Tide has already lost to them. Both Bama and Oregon have had their shot and blew it. So if indeed we have “the best regular season in sports” as most playoff opponents say, then maybe the voters should start honoring its results and honoring recent decisions even when dealing with their media darling programs like Bama.

Mash

November 16th, 2011
9:12 am

Since this has come up every few years in the BCS’ existence, I’m surprised they haven’t put in a requirement of being a conference champion. We’re always told of some mythological, unwritten rule that participants in the big game must be conference champions. (As you pointed out, in 2007 Georgia got burned). But no such official rule has ever been made. Why?

I think Georgia has a pretty good chance of knocking off LSU or Alabama in the SEC Championship. This will only benefit which ever one doesn’t make it. So, the team that doesn’t even win it’s division is likely headed to the BCS Championship, and Georgia’s reward for winning “the toughest conference” in the world would be a Sugar Bowl date with freaking Houston.

All because one team’s pre-season rankings were higher, college football is definitely not fair.

Frank Lane

November 16th, 2011
9:13 am

Good article.

trupert

November 16th, 2011
9:15 am

Mark, glad you brought up the ESPN rule of ” a team that doesn’t win its conference doesn’t deserve to play for the BCS title”. Who in the Bulldog nation thinks that unwritten rule will apply now?……. I hear crickets!!!

I hope LSU takes care of business. Nothing against Arkansas, I just don’t wan’t to see Alabama get in on a voter wave of over inflated value. Alabama has a great defense, but team quality falls off quickly after that, not to mention that Nick Saban is vastly overrated as a coach.

Alabama had their chance and Saban blew it!!! Time to move on.

It’s great to be a UGA bulldog!!!

Whatever happened to Chip Towers?

November 16th, 2011
9:17 am

If UGA wins out and beats LSU in the SEC Championship game then according to the ESPN Rule implemented in 2007 (if you don’t win your conference title you should not play for the NC) only UGA would be eligible from the SEC to play for the BCS title. With UGA being 11-2 and a eleven game winning streak including a victory over the No. 1 ranked team then UGA should be considered the top team in the country and play for the championship. Under this scenario (created by the mighty ESPN) Ala and LSU would not be eligible to play in the BCS.

Richard

November 16th, 2011
9:17 am

Mark,

One thing: you’re wrong about the Texas/OU scenario. Texas and Oklahoma were in a three way tie, not a two way.

Herschel Talker

November 16th, 2011
9:18 am

MB:

I am proud of Mark Richt for that performance against Auburn. He needs more of those, but that was a heck of a start to his revitalization.

HT

daddo

November 16th, 2011
9:18 am

The reason Georgia didn’t get to play in the big game in 2007 was because you were DESTROYED by Tennessee…..stomped…..while Alabama lost to the Number One team in overtime. Yall just kill me with your revisionist history.

ESPN has ruined college football

November 16th, 2011
9:19 am

I liked it better when several schools could argue who had the best team. ESPN has ruined that fun. We now have to settle for who they choose. They are the worst thing to happen to major college football in the past 15 years. Boycott ESPN.

Joey

November 16th, 2011
9:19 am

“I get paid not to root.”
***************************
Well said, MB.

But the team you used to root for looked mighty good last night vs Kansas, huh?

Billy

November 16th, 2011
9:19 am

Uga can beat LSU and put bama in the NC game

The Hedge

November 16th, 2011
9:20 am

Bradley – Keep waiting for you to say something positive about Georgia’s performance against Auburn saturday. Imagine that!!

JackDennis

November 16th, 2011
9:21 am

No team squanders more 4*-5* talent than the dawgs. No team.

Joey

November 16th, 2011
9:21 am

Well, Mark, the team you used to root for, back before you started getting paid not to root, looked really good last night vs Kansas, didn’t they?

Andy

November 16th, 2011
9:21 am

Here’s another thought: since the SEC champion has won the BCS national title for the last 6 or whatever years, is there even any need to play the game? Let’s call a spade a spade–the SEC champ is the de facto national champ. The BCS title is just a media hoopla.

Nick Saban

November 16th, 2011
9:21 am

waa waa waa !! cry me a river !! Get over it already !! Roll Tide Roll !!

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

November 16th, 2011
9:22 am

If you want a playoff in college football, everyone boycott the first home game in 2012. It is usually a

cream puff anyway. Money talks.

Mark Bradley

November 16th, 2011
9:24 am

I didn’t think Kentucky played very well at all against Kansas. Terrible game, IMHO.

perk

November 16th, 2011
9:24 am

Mark: was wondering if you would bring this topic up – great article. I really think Ark can out score LSU. No way ANY team not playing in a conference championship should play for the National Title. . . . just saying

ESPN has ruined college football

November 16th, 2011
9:25 am

Alabama didn’t play in the 2007 BCS, so I fail to see your argument. LSU’s body of work makes the Tide’s pale in comparison this year, AND you already lost to LSU. You had your chance – give someone else theirs. Alabama is not only the only team in NCAA football, they aren’t the best, either. Not even second best.

Mike

November 16th, 2011
9:25 am

@daddo – talk about revisionist history…your leaving out a whole lot when talking about 2007. Kentucky and Arkansas beat LSU remember? The UT loss wasnt the reason UGA got voted down. They got voted down for the simple fact they didnt win their conference. It was never about who they lost to. Everyone but Ohio St., Kansas, and Hawaii had two losses that year.

Billy

November 16th, 2011
9:26 am

Dawgfan I get your point and it is a stupid rule. I know we got screwed but the rule needs to be changed. It could happen to us again. Some conferences don’t play a championship game so the sec should not be penalized for not winning one. It was a dumb unfair rule in 2007 and it is still dumb. I hope for the future of sec teams that if the highest ranked team in sec does not win the conderence they should still be eligible for the championship game. The rule is simply an unfair ploy to try to stop the sec from dominating the champion ships.

DawgFan

November 16th, 2011
9:26 am

daddo – didn’t that Georgia team in 2007, the one that was “DESTROYED by Tennessee…..stomped…..” go in to Bryant-Denny Stadium and beat Alabama on their home turf?

Dabo and The Real Dream Team.

November 16th, 2011
9:26 am

The Real Dream Team plays in Clemson!

Mark Bradley

November 16th, 2011
9:28 am

Actually, there’s no rule that says a team that doesn’t play for its conference title can’t be in the BCS title game. There wasn’t in 2007, either.