LSU in the title game? It could happen

They say the grass is always greener, but in Baton Rouge these days, the grass appears to be tastier, too. It’s been the unlikeliest of seasons for LSU, but after Saturday’s 24-21 win over Alabama, the 8-1 Tigers hover over college football’s four remaining unbeaten teams, perched above in the No. 5 spot of this week’s latest BCS standings.

The CBS cameras caught Les Miles eating blades of grass on the sidelines of Saturday’s game. If the chips somehow fall his way — and from what we’ve seen this season, there’s nothing that would make us think they won’t — Miles could be eating a lot more than just grass come Jan. 10. He could be eating the hearts and dreams of college football fans across the country, leading the third team that didn’t win its conference — and just the second to not win its division — into a BCS National Championship Game.

Impossible? No.

Ludicrous? Not at all.

Unlikely? Perhaps.

But crazier things have happened. And with Miles at the wheel? Crazier things seem to happen on a weekly basis.

Ranked No. 5 in this week’s BCS standings, the Tigers find themselves seated in the front car of a loaded train of one-loss teams that includes Stanford (sixth), Wisconsin (seventh), Nebraska (eighth), Ohio State (ninth), Oklahoma State (10th) and Michigan State (11th). With current No. 15 Arkansas still remaining on the schedule, LSU — owners of the nation’s 90th-ranked offense — is in a rather unexpected, but quite advantageous position, in college football’s weekly BCS rat race.

LSU’s National Championship Game scenario is unique in that the Tigers could conceivably finish in the top two of the final BCS standings, with not only failing to win their conference title, but without winning their division, too.

Such a scenario would also send critics of the BCS into a frenzy unlike one we’ve ever seen. Folks, I’m preparing you for that BCS doomsday scenario now. It’s not that absurd.

What LSU needs to hope for is an Auburn loss somewhere along the way, as well as an Oregon loss. If Auburn beats Georgia this Saturday, but loses to Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26, one-loss Auburn would own the SEC West tiebreaker over one-loss LSU, based on its 24-17 victory at Jordan Hare on Oct. 23 and would represent the SEC West division in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 4.

Regardless of what Auburn does in that game, though, LSU would likely jump Auburn in the polls with a Tigers’ Iron Bowl loss and an LSU win over Arkansas on Thanksgiving weekend. The Alabama win over Auburn on Nov. 26 would only make LSU’s victory over the Tide on Saturday look more impressive. With a loss to Alabama, Auburn could finish the 2010 SEC season as the SEC champions, but behind LSU in the final BCS polls.

"But they beat LSU head-to-head when they played earlier this season!" C’mon. If we’ve learned anything from 12 years of the BCS, it’s that in the BCS, logic takes a backseat to "what have you done for me lately?" Look back to last year when to the great frustration of Hawkeyes Nation, one-loss Iowa trailed one-loss Penn State for much of the season in the BCS standings, despite an Iowa victory in Happy Valley in October.

So that’s step one — Alabama beats Auburn.

Step two? Let’s look to Eugene. Oregon’s got a tough slate ahead, with a home game versus Arizona sandwiched in between two difficult road tests at Cal and Oregon State. If the Ducks are undefeated with a spot in the BCS Championship Game on the line, though, that scene in Corvallis for the Civil War on Dec. 4 will be unlike anything the Ducks have encountered in Chip Kelly’s two years as coach.

Regardless of their record heading into the game, the Beavers (and their fans) will be hyped up beyond belief and more than happy to ruin any green and yellow national title dreams on the final Saturday of the season. Even with a loss in that one, though, Oregon would win the Pac-10, based on their early season victory over Stanford. But they’d slip in the polls, presumably behind one-loss LSU.

So, then what?

Well, one-loss LSU could, amazingly enough, find itself as the top ranked BCS-conference team at the end of the season without winning its conference or division.

And do you really think we’re getting a TCU vs. Boise State in the National Championship Game? That’s funny.

The way I see it, it’d be one of the two non-AQ’s — if they each finish the season unbeaten, of course — versus one-loss LSU, despite not having a division nor conference title on its resume —  for the national championship on Jan. 10.

Too many hypotheticals? Too improbable? Too — how would a Big Ten fan describe this scenario — ”*%#’d up?" Perhaps.

But think back to the final weekend of the 2007 season when not only No. 2 West Virginia fell to freshman running back LeSean McCoy and unranked Pitt on Dec. 3, but No. 1 Missouri also fell to No. 9 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. LSU, despite losing to Arkansas over Thanksgiving weekend, found its way into the BCS National Championship Game.

Top teams lose in November and December. The BCS standings get shaken up. These things happen. Hell, grown men eat grass.

Of course, a LSU title game berth under the aforementioned circumstances would bring out the system’s harshest criticisms to date. Of all the BCS’s many rules and components, there’s absolutely nothing in the guidelines that require a team to win its conference — or in this case, its division — to qualify for the National Championship Game. Can you even begin to imagine the fans of a one-loss Big Ten champion squad being sent to the Rose Bowl to play Oregon, while an LSU team that failed to even win its division plays for a national title? The way things are shaping up, it’s quite possible.

Two teams — the ‘01 Nebraska Cornhuskers and ‘03 Oklahoma Sooners — played in the National Championship Game despite losing in the Big 12 Championship Game, and thus not winning their conference titles. Nebraska actually didn’t win its division, either. Those squads were each smoked in their national title bouts a month later by a combined score of 58-28.

There was public outcry both years, leading up to and following the title game losses, over the BCS rewarding teams that hadn’t won their conference titles. And yet, a rule was never put in place prohibiting it from happening again. If you thought the outcry was loud and vitriolic in ‘01 and ‘03, just wait for the national reaction to an LSU team that finishes in second place in the SEC West suiting up for a shot at the national title on Jan. 10.

For all its flaws, warts and peculiarities, the BCS system gets points for keeping college football fans engaged from August to December. But if LSU gets the opportunity to play for a national title without winning its division, even the most ardent of BCS supporters would have trouble defending the process.

LSU’s had as unlikely an 8-1 start to a season as perhaps any team in recent college football history. There’s been wacky fourth-quarter fake field goals, bizarre fourth down reverse plays, and heinous clock management. There’s been a head coach getting booed in the third and fourth quarters of wins, inept play at quarterback, and a whole bunch of ridicule.

It’s all been part of what’s been nothing short of a magical 2010 season.

Amazingly, though, there could be a whole lot more “magic” on the way for these Tigers.

A National Championship Game berth despite a second-place finish in the SEC West? Hotels and flights to Glendale without ones ever booked in Atlanta?

If anyone can pull this one off, it’s the guy who eats blades of grass on the sideline.

In truth, it’d just be the grand finale in what’s appearing to be an act made of a bottomless bag of tricks.