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Making sense of another BCS mess

Watch highlights of USC's 38-35 win over Oregon.
Watch highlights of USC's 38-35 win over Oregon.
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Pete Fiutak

   
 

And you thought this was going to be a dull weekend.

Just when it seemed like the season couldn’t throw a bigger curveball than Iowa State’s double-overtime win over BCS No. 2 Oklahoma State on Friday night, the BCS championship race got even more interesting on Saturday.

Especially for Arkansas and Alabama.

With No. 4 Oregon bowing out of the national title chase with a 38-35 home loss to USC; and with No. 7 Clemson getting destroyed by North Carolina State 37-13; and with Robert Griffin III getting back in the Heisman Trophy hunt with his epic performance in Baylor’s 45-38 win over No. 5 Oklahoma; the Saturday upsets cemented the SEC’s top teams in the BCS penthouse, and it got Oklahoma State back in picture.

The Cowboys are alive again, but more importantly after Friday night, the main part of the equation — the SEC West — became solidified.

After Iowa State’s win over OSU, No. 3 Alabama appeared to have a clear shot to finish in the top two as long as it won its final two games. After beating Georgia Southern, and after all the upsets, the Tide is unlikely to fall out of the top two if they beat Auburn.

However, the biggest winner is Arkansas, who before this weekend needed to beat LSU and win the wacky three-team SEC tiebreaker to play for the national title. Now, the Hogs might be in the BCS championship picture even if they don’t represent the West in the SEC title game.

If Arkansas beats LSU, then the SEC tiebreaker goes to a combination of BCS standings and head-to-head results. To make it as simple as possible, if there’s a three-way tie in the West, here are the most likely scenarios:

• If LSU drops behind Alabama and Arkansas in the BCS standings, Alabama would play in the SEC championship. This would be most likely to happen.

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And here’s where it gets interesting. If LSU falls to No. 3 in the BCS standings, Alabama would move up to the No. 1 slot and would play for the BCS championship with a win over Georgia in the SEC title game.

But how far up would Arkansas move? Let’s assume the Hogs are No. 3 in the BCS standings on Sunday night — moving past Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma — then they’d probably move up to No. 2 with a win over LSU and would be assured of a spot in the BCS championship no matter what happens in the SEC title game.

To make this even more bizarre, let’s say Arkansas beats LSU and moves up to No. 1, Alabama stays at No. 2 and LSU drops to No. 3. Then Alabama would STILL win the tiebreaker and play for the SEC championship with a chance to go to the BCS championship to play the Hogs in a rematch of the Tide's 38-14 thumping on September 24.

• If both Arkansas and LSU finish ahead of Alabama in the BCS standings as of next Sunday night, Arkansas would play in the SEC championship and No. 2 LSU would be all but assured of a spot in the BCS championship unless Oklahoma State makes a huge jump up after playing Oklahoma on December 3. Don’t expect this scenario to happen; the human pollsters aren’t going to drop Alabama lower than No. 2.

• If Arkansas doesn’t jump past LSU and Alabama and finishes third in the BCS standings (regardless of whom is higher in the BCS standings between the Tigers and Tide), LSU would play in the SEC championship. Don’t expect this to happen, either. Projected BCS No. 3 Arkansas would almost certainly move up with a win over LSU.

But LSU is probably going to beat Arkansas.

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So what if Tigers beat the Hogs, but lose to Georgia in the SEC championship? It’s because of that possibility that the most interesting part of Sunday night’s BCS standings will be who’s behind the SEC teams.

Assuming it’ll be LSU, Alabama and Arkansas 1-2-3, the No. 4 team would be the only one left with an outside hope of breaking up the SEC national title party.

No. 8 Virginia Tech could move up fast with the showdown at Virginia on Saturday before facing off against Clemson in the ACC championship. If the Hokies are impressive in their final two games, and if LSU loses, they could have an outside shot at moving into the top two, but it would also take an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma and a Stanford loss to Notre Dame to have any chance. It's not going to happen.

Stanford is in the picture as one of five one-loss BCS conference teams left, but even if Oregon gags against Oregon State and the Cardinal plays in and wins the Pac-12 championship, it's still going to take a miracle. The human pollsters aren’t going to move Stanford ahead of a one-loss LSU, Alabama or Oklahoma State.

However, if LSU beats Arkansas and Auburn beats Alabama, Stanford will move up to No. 3 with a win over Notre Dame. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State on December 3, then the Cardinal would be the only one-loss BCS conference team left and would move up to No. 2. Again, though, a lot of big things have to happen.

Which means this whole wild and crazy weekend could end up coming full circle.

Welcome back, Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys only have the one double-overtime loss to Iowa State, and it came on the road on the same day the school had to deal with the tragic deaths of two women’s basketball coaches in a plane crash. The human pollsters will be reminded of this over the next two weeks before the Oklahoma game, and the stage is set for Oklahoma State to come back with a big performance on the national stage.

If LSU beats Arkansas this weekend, Oklahoma State — likely the No. 4 team in Sunday night’s BCS standings — would move up to No. 3. If Alabama also loses to Auburn, the Cowboys would move up to No. 2 before the game against Oklahoma.

Got all that?

Enjoy the Alabama-LSU rematch on January 9.

Tagged: Iowa, Stanford, Oregon, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State

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