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NCAA Football: Six Teams Still Have a Chance to Get to the BCS Championship

Right now, there are a total of six teams could get to the BCS championship game, even at this late point in the season.  A lot of things have to go wrong for a lot of teams, but it could happen, and it is way complicated.

BCS Guru (aka Samuel Chi) has this post at SB Nation explaining part of the scenario.  The SEC has a complicated tiebreaker that allows for this to happen.  You can read all about it here, but I must warn you -- it is really a mental exercise to go through that thing and come out on the other side with your sanity intact.

Obviously, getting teams past Stanford (currently 4th) into the BCS title game requires LSU to lose to Arkansas, and not just by a little:

A close victory by Arkansas likely will still send LSU to the BCS title game, because that outcome should produce Alabama-LSU-Arkansas on top of the BCS Standings. Per the SEC's quirky tiebreaker, the Tigers will still win the West, though now they will have to beat Georgia to get to the BCS title rematch against Alabama. 

Now, an Arkansas blowout win will make it a bit wild. The Hogs still don't get to the SEC title game because it doesn't matter if they end up first or second in the BCS Standings; as long as LSU is third or lower, Alabama wins the division. In that case, if 'Bama beats Georgia, it will face Arkansas in the BCS title game, for a replay of its 38-14 rout on Sept. 24. If 'Bama loses, then it might be an Arkansas-LSU rematch.

The above does assume Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, which is likely but not a slam dunk. You might wonder why the margin of victory matters, since it shows up nowhere in the SEC tie breaker scenario.  Well, read on and I'll explain.

First of all, if Arkansas beats LSU, we are looking at the 3-team tiebreaker, so you can skip the brain damage of the 2-team process.

The first 7 tiebreakers result in a tie.  You can trust me, or you can work it out for yourself, but make sure you have some analgesics handy for the headache.  Tiebreaker #8 determines the winner.

The assumption would be that a blowout victory for Arkansas against LSU would drop them to #3 or lower in the BCS rankings.  That would place Alabama first and Arkansas second in the rankings, which eliminates LSU from the tiebreaker.  Because Alabama and Arkansas would still be tied (within 5 spots of each other), you then have to go to the head-to-head record.  Alabama beat Arkansas 38-14 on Sept. 24th, which means they win the SEC West after the tie break.  As I mentioned before, this assumes an Alabama victory vs. Auburn.

But even all that chaos above will not get you a non-SEC championship.  That requires even more to go wrong, namely, a loss by Alabama in the Iron Bowl along with other improbable blowouts:

  • Alabama must lose to Auburn by enough to drop them to #5.
  • Arkansas must defeat LSU big, moving them to fourth or fifth.  A narrow victory, as Chi explains above, won't do the job.  Arkansas wins the West if the blowout happens and Alabama loses to Auburn.
  • Arkansas must lose to Georgia big in the SEC Championship, moving them to third or fourth.  A narrow Georgia victory might not be enough to move them past second.

If all this happens, it opens the door for Stanford, Oklahoma St. and Virginia Tech to move in.  Of course, at least two of them have to win out through very tough games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Virginia respectively.  VaTech would then have to defeat Clemson in the conference championship to win the ACC.

Depending on who wins, who loses and by how much, any combination of one or two of the three above above could wind up in the BCS championship, and the scenario above could potentially move all the SEC top teams behind teams that sit now in BCS positions 4-6, and those teams up into 1-3.

The odd man out is Boise St., and as a founding member of the Boise St. Deniers Association, I can tell you that I am not surprised, and even a little pleased that they have no path to the title game, although I do feel a pang of regret that they have no realistic path even to a BCS game.

This weekend is setting up to be interesting.  Probably, things will go mostly to form with 'Bama and LSU winning, in which case the discussion will be over early.