BATON ROUGE LA - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Les Miles of the Louisiana State University Tigers is congratulated by Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium on November 6 2010 in Baton Rouge Louisiana. The Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 24-21. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Looking at the SEC cluster atop Week 13's BCS rankings, it's time to learn a thing or two about how the SEC settles its scores.
If you think using the BCS standings is an awful way to decide who plays for the national championship, you have no idea. There's something far worse: Using the BCS Standings to decide who plays for the conference championship.
Here are the complete Week 13 BCS standings.
We're faced with just this scenario if top-ranked LSU loses to No. 3 Arkansas on the day after Thanksgiving. That outcome would produce a three-way tie atop of the SEC West, and would exhaust every step in the SEC tiebreaker until it's decided by the BCS standings.
What's wrong with this picture?
It's a huge conflict of interest made worse by a lack of transparency. Consider this:
LSU's Les Miles and Alabama's Nick Saban each has a vote in the coaches poll, as does Auburn coach Gene Chizik. But not Bobby Petrino, the Arkansas coach. Also, another party with a vested interest, Georgia's Mark Richt, whose team will play the division winner in the SEC title game, also has a vote.
It took lengthy negotiations, with the coaches kicking and screaming, to allow their final votes to be made public. The rest of the season, it's a secret ballot and not disclosed to the public. Well, the balloting from the penultimate BCS Standings - used to resolve just such ties for conference title games - is not made public. The same goes for the Harris Poll as well.
This is not to accuse any of those coaches of a willingness to commit certain chicanery. But unless they make their ballots public on their own, how would we ever know how they voted? Just the possibility itself of impropriety is a problem.
The coaches shouldn't have been put into this position in the first place. The BCS standings were originally created for the sole purpose of creating a 1-vs.-2 matchup, nothing else. Then it was used to select BCS bowl participants. And now, all six BCS conferences use the standings somewhere in their respective tiebreakers to determine either the conference champion or the division champion.
But that's exactly what we're left with - if (and keep in mind that this is a big IF) LSU loses to Arkansas. When the coaches and Harris Poll voters sit down to mull over their ballots next Saturday night, they'll know they're essentially voting for the SEC West champion, and with it, who gets to skip an extra game and advance directly to the BCS title game.
I'm sure that's exactly what Roy Kramer, the former SEC commissioner, had in mind when he invented the standings.
While we're on the subject of tiebreakers, here's a look at the BCS prospects for each conference:
SEC: Georgia has clinched the East, and LSU can do a lot of people a favor by beating Arkansas and put this now tired topic to bed. The conference is assured of two BCS bids and can actually gain a third one through a little-known BCS loophole, hastily put together in 2007 when a similar situation surfaced in the Big 12: If the 1-vs.-2 matchup is between two at-large teams from the same conference, that conference's champion still gets a BCS bid.
Big 12: If Oklahoma beats Iowa State, the conference title goes to the Bedlam winner. If OU loses, Oklahoma State clinches before Bedlam. A two-loss OSU might get an at-large BCS bid, but a three-loss OU won't.
Big Ten: Michigan State is in the conference title game as the Legends Division winner and the Leaders winner will be the Wisconsin-Penn State winner. The Big Ten champion goes to the Rose Bowl, of course, but the loser of the title game probably won't get a BCS bid, with three losses. Michigan can finish 10-2 by beating Ohio State and it will be the Big Ten's only candidate for an at-large bid. As of now, though, the Wolverines are not yet in the top 14, needed to be eligible for at-large consideration.
Pac-12: Oregon can clinch the North title by winning the Civil War. If the Ducks lose to Oregon State, then Stanford wins the North. The South is in UCLA's hands - a win over USC puts the Bruins in the title game. If UCLA loses and Arizona State beats Cal, ASU goes. If both UCLA and ASU lose and Utah beats Colorado, then it'll be the Utes. If all three (UCLA, ASU and Utah) lose, then it reverts back to UCLA. Stanford is the only team with a shot to earn an at-large BCS bid, but it must beat Notre Dame.
ACC: Clemson already won the Atlantic, and it sure acted like it last week when it got pasted by NC State. The Coastal winner will come from the Virginia-Virginia Tech game. The ACC champion will head to the Orange Bowl. There will be no at-large berth here.
Conference USA: Southern Miss wins the East with a victory over Memphis, otherwise Marshall can win it by beating East Carolina. Houston and Tulsa are in a winner-take-all game for the West title. In order for Houston to earn a BCS bid, it must beat Tulsa and then win the Conference USA game.
Mountain West: TCU already clinched the conference title and has just a home game with UNLV left. The Frogs need a Houston loss - and finish in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings - to earn a BCS bid. Boise State can only earn a berth as an at-large (very unlikely), unless it finishes in the top two of the final BCS Standings (gasp!).
Big East: The highest ranked team is West Virginia, at No. 26 (see complete BCS Standings). Five teams are tied with two losses apiece, so we're not going to waste our valuable time, but especially yours, to run through all the permutations. A Nobel Prize, though, will go to anyone who can adequately explain why the Big East deserves an automatic BCS bid.
Now that we've gone through the list of the usual and unusual suspects, let's go to our BCS bowl projections:
BCS Championship: LSU vs. Alabama - This just looks inevitable at this point. All the speculations aside, LSU should beat Arkansas in Death Valley on Friday and go on to a truly meaningless SEC title game. An LSU loss to Georgia there actually would give the SEC three BCS bids.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon - The Badgers should handle Penn State at home and avenge their Hail Mary loss to Michigan State in Indy. Oregon will take their frustration out on the Beavers and then spank whatever sorry outfit that comes out of the South in Eugene.
Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Oklahoma State - Without an SEC team to choose from but getting a shot at two replacements, the Sugar Bowl grabs the biggest brand name in college football and then the an OSU team that had been hoping to play in the same spot, but a week later.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford - OU salvages some pride by winning Bedlam and then gets to face off against the Heisman winner in Stanford's Andrew Luck.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Rutgers - Another ACC-Big East snoozer. Wake me when this is over.
Samuel Chi is the proprietor of BCSGuru.com and managing editor of RealClearSports. Sam's college football and BCS analysis, exclusively for SB Nation, will appear on Sundays and Mondays throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at BCSGuru.