Auburn, Ala. Picture this scenario. A one-loss team from perhaps the strongest, most unforgiving division in college football gets shut out of the conference championship game because of a three-way tie.
The result: A potential national title contender gets no shot thanks to the unwritten rule that if you can’t win your division, you can’t be the BCS champ.
“It could definitely happen,” Auburn tight end Tommy Trott said.
Again. The Southeastern Conference Western Division is shaping up as potentially this year’s version of the Big 12 South, where Texas went 11-1 but lost the fifth tiebreaker with Oklahoma — BCS rankings — after both teams tied with Texas Tech in a head-to-head-to-head split. Oklahoma won the league and wound up losing to Florida in the BCS title game.
It’s way too early for fans of SEC West teams to start fretting over tiebreakers and stewing over potential BCS championship game omissions. But for those wishing to clip and save just in case, BCS standing is the No. 7 tiebreaker for three-team logjams in the SEC.
After all, three of major college football’s 13 unbeaten teams reside in the SEC West. No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 LSU and No. 17 Auburn all are 5-0.
A fourth team, No. 20 Mississippi, was ranked as high as No. 4 before losing to now 25th-ranked South Carolina.
The first major episode of How the West Will Be Won airs Saturday. That’s when the Rebels play host to the Crimson Tide. Auburn is facing Bobby Petrino and Arkansas, which is coming off a convincing victory at Texas A&M, a team from the Big 12 South.
And LSU hosts top-ranked Florida from the SEC East. In terms of winning the division and making the league championship game in Atlanta, that could have less of an impact than upcoming games with Auburn (Oct. 24), Alabama (Nov. 7) and Ole Miss (Nov. 21). Don’t you agree, coach Les Miles?
“There is a game after this?” Miles shot back. “The only thing that I’m focused on is this very next opponent.”
Then again, he did say “this division is as competitive as it has ever been.”
There is no shortage of potential pratfalls in the West. LSU barely survived a visit to Mississippi State two weeks ago, winning 30-26 with a goal line stand. Auburn, picked to finish fifth in the division, is a minuscule two-point favorite over the Razorbacks.
“This is what makes this league so good,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “It’s because you have these kind of games, and you probably will for the next three weeks. It’s just a tremendous league and every Saturday for the next 3-4 weeks or really the end of the year, a lot of things are going to be happening.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik must feel as though he never left the Big 12. He watched from Iowa State and the North Division as Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma and their star quarterbacks jockeyed for position last season.
He said goodbye to the Longhorns’ Colt McCoy, but hello to his onetime backup Jevan Snead at Ole Miss.
There’s no Sam Bradford, but Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett is the nation’s No. 12 rated passer — and, incidentally, fifth in the league. Texas Tech’s fancy passing offense? Well, Chizik doesn’t have to face the one led by his own offensive mastermind, Gus Malzahn, but he still has to contend with former Auburn co-worker Bobby Petrino at Arkansas.