As we discussed in this space last week, Alabama might not play for the conference title even if Arkansas beats LSU on Friday. For Alabama to win the tiebreaker and qualify for the SEC championship game, No. 3 Arkansas would have to pass No. 1 LSU in the BCS standings, and there’s no guarantee the Hogs will do that.
And if I’m Alabama, I’m thinking I’d just as soon not play for the SEC title. If I’m the Tide, I’ve already got what I need.
Assuming Alabama beats Auburn on Saturday, the Tide would surely be sitting No. 2 in the BCS rankings with one week to go. But the team that represents the West in the SEC championship game would have to face Georgia, which hasn’t lost since Sept. 10, and would have to do it in the Georgia Dome. If you’re all but assured of a berth in the BCS title game, why risk losing?
Yes, we’ve come 180 degrees since 2007, when Georgia led LSU in the next-to-last BCS standings but was passed by the Tigers at the wire. LSU beat Tennessee in the SEC championship game while the Bulldogs sat in Athens and watched, and immediately the ESPN-led cry went up: “You can’t play for the BCS title if you don’t even win your conference!”
Funny how almost nobody is saying that anymore. With the losses suffered by Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Oregon over the weekend, the SEC West now holds the top three spots in the BCS standings. Provided Alabama beats Auburn, it’s all but certain that SEC teams will finish 1-2 in the final rankings. And Alabama, which lost to LSU on Nov. 7, sits in the best spot of the three.
Arkansas probably can’t get to the SEC championship game no matter what it does. LSU could lose to Arkansas and still play for the SEC title, and a lot of numbers-crunchers think the Tigers could lose to Georgia — but not to both Arkansas and Georgia — and drop no lower than No. 2. But if Alabama beats Auburn it could be locked in at No. 2 without another game to play and that, all things considered, would have to be Position A.
Let’s say Arkansas beats LSU and passes the Tigers in the BCS rankings. Let’s say Alabama beats Auburn and moves to No. 1. Now let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Georgia upsets Alabama in our fair city. That would leave Alabama with two losses and LSU and Arkansas with only one, and the all-SEC BCS title game would surely be staged without the Tide. (Can’t imagine a one-loss Oklahoma State or Virginia Tech nosing ahead of a one-loss LSU or a one-loss Arkansas that just beat LSU.)
Back in 2007, Georgia was blocked from the BCS title game because it didn’t play for its conference championship. For Alabama in 2011, playing for the conference championship wouldn’t seem essential — and it might even be injurious to the Tide’s health. Weird season, huh?
By Mark Bradley