BCS Bowl Projections: The All-SEC National Championship Game, And Other Scenarios

With a slew of important games this weekend, breaking down the teams still in the running for automatic BCS bids and looking at some of the more interesting BCS scenarios that remain possible seemed like a good way to make sense of the chaos.

The 2011 college football season is rivaled only by only 2007's nuttiness when it comes to wild, wide-open seasons. A two-loss LSU team won the BCS National Championship that year, and Illinois, Kansas, and Hawai'i all ended up in BCS bowls -- the Jayhawks even won theirs. But 2011's BCS scenarios could be even weirder, given the current BCS rankings, with an all-SEC BCS National Championship Game seeming likely, a scenario with three teams from one conference in the BCS for the first time still possible and Boise State's national title hopes still alive, if on life support.

And so, you need a guide to who is alive, who is playing for what, and how, exactly, Utah could be in a BCS bowl. Don't worry, we've got you.

First, a breakdown of the teams still in the running for automatic BCS bids as conference champions. (Before you get upset, teams are listed alphabetically.)

SEC

Teams Remaining: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU

The Tigers, Crimson Tide, and Razorbacks could all end up in the BCS National Championship Game if things break right. All three teams should get there by winning out, though LSU may only need to beat Arkansas this week to solidify a top-two BCS ranking. LSU can win the SEC West outright with a win over Arkansas Thursday, while the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide need an Arkansas win over LSU that would likely throw the division to a BCS rankings tiebreaker.

Georgia must beat the SEC West champion in the SEC Championship Game to head to a BCS bowl; the Bulldogs would be the SEC champions and tied to the Sugar Bowl as a result.

Big 12

Teams Remaining: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Essentially, the Big 12 comes down to a de facto title game in these two teams' annual Bedlam rivalry. If Oklahoma can get past Iowa State this weekend, the winner of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State will head to a BCS bowl.

If the Cowboys win, though, there's a chance that they could end up in the BCS Championship Game; their win over Oklahoma may be enough to vault them over an SEC team to No. 2 in the BCS, or they could benefit from an Auburn upset of Alabama this weekend.

Pac-12

Teams Remaining: Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah

If the Ducks can avoid an upset in the Civil War to Oregon State this weekend, they will be headed to the Pac-12 Championship Game; if not, Stanford's going to hold the North Division's banner high. But the Cardinal could still, weirdly, be in BCS National Championship Game contention without a Pac-12 title: if LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma State all lose, Stanford would, logically, move up the polls. Whether it would be enough to counteract the computer rankings' low opinion of the Pac-12 remains to be seen.

In any case, the Pac-12 South is where the most hell could break loose on the Left Coast. UCLA is in the driver's seat in the division — USC leads the South, but is ineligible for postseason play — but won't clinch unless Arizona State and Utah both lose Thursday. (If the Sun Devils and Utes do, UCLA could conceivably be a 7-6 BCS conference champion with a loss to USC on Saturday and a massive Pac-12 Championship Game upset.) Meanwhile, Arizona State needs a three-way tie between itself, UCLA, and Utah, because it lost to UCLA, and Utah wants a two-way tie with UCLA, because it fell to Arizona State. All of those things are still possible, and thus, there's a chance that Utah could end up in the Rose Bowl.

Big Ten

Teams Remaining: Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin

The Spartans are already the Legends Division's champions, and will be headed to the first Big Ten Championship Game.

This weekend's Penn State-Wisconsin matchup will be a pseudo-Leaders Division Championship Game; the winner plays Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.

ACC

Teams Remaining: Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Clemson had earned its berth to the ACC Championship Game when it clinched the Atlantic Division two weeks ago. A Tigers loss to North Carolina State last week likely knocked them out of national championship contention, however.

The Coastal Division comes down to this weekend's Virginia-Virginia Tech showdown. The winner will represent the division in the ACC Championship Game, and that means that the Virginia Cavaliers could be playing in a BCS bowl game. But the Hokies could, improbably, play for a BCS National Championship — all they need is losses by LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, and probably Oklahoma State and Stanford to be safe.

Big East

Teams Remaining: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia

No, really: all of those teams can still win the Big East. Louisville and Rutgers are the favorites, but no team controls its own destiny, and while Connecticut — currently 4-6, mind you — is theoretically alive, the Huskies would need a seismic BCS reversal to win the BCS rankings tiebreaker they would likely need. West Virginia is probably going to be the conference champion if it comes down to such a tiebreaker. SB Nation's Voodoo Five breaks down the Big East's BCS scenarios in more detail, and laments Louisville's win over Kentucky; had the Cardinals lost that game, they could have been 5-7 and won the Big East.

Houston

The Cougars play Tulsa on Friday in what amounts to a play-in game for the Conference USA Championship Game. The Cougars would win C-USA's West Division with a win, and head to the conference title game against Southern Miss, East Carolina, or Marshall, where they would need a win to secure the conference championship. That, along with the top-12 ranking an undefeated Cougars squad is assured of having, would get Houston to its first BCS bowl.

Boise State

Boise State, on the other hand, needs help, and not on the football field. The Broncos can't win the Mountain West outright: the best they can do is tie with TCU, which holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Boise State. So they must rely the Mountain West finding a way to declare Boise State its champion over TCU, which would be screwing over outgoing member TCU in favor of likely outgoing member Boise State — and screwing over fellow non-BCS automatic qualifier conference champion Houston, which would be left looking for an at-large bid if Boise State earned an automatic bid — in the the name of getting a BCS bowl share for the conference. This is probably too good slimy to come true, but, hey, if you really want chaos...

Now, a look at some of the more interesting BCS scenarios that remain possible.

BCS Scenarios

The All-SEC National Championship Scenario With Three SEC Teams

  • BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2)
  • Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Wisconsin (SEC champion vs. at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Houston (Big 12 champion vs. at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion)
  • Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Louisville (ACC champion vs. Big East champion)

Honestly, this isn't as hard as you might think: LSU just needs to beat Arkansas and lose to Georgia, giving the Bulldogs the SEC's automatic berth and sending the Tigers and Crimson Tide to a rematch for the national title. And before you chirp too loudly about LSU not even dropping a spot with a loss: the Bayou Bengals would have three wins over teams in the BCS top nine with a win over Arkansas, and there's just no way voters and SEC-loving computers won't reward even a one-loss team with those credentials.

The All-SEC National Championship Scenario With Two SEC Teams, Or The Most Likely Scenario

  • BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama (BCS No. 1/SEC champion vs. BCS No. 2)
  • Sugar Bowl: Stanford vs. Houston (at-large vs. Conference USA champion)
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Michigan (Big 12 champion vs. at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon (Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion)
  • Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Louisville (ACC champion vs. Big East champion)

Here's what happens when you assume favorites win for the rest of the regular season: the Sugar Bowl is left with a major issue on its hands. The Fiesta Bowl gets first pick of at-large teams and takes the huge Michigan fan base. With its SEC champion playing for a national title, the Sugar has the second and third picks of at-large teams (and the Big East champion, not tethered to any BCS bowl), no local SEC team, and no massive Big Ten fan base. So it takes Andrew Luck's Cardinal and Case Keenum's Cougars, in the hopes of an avalanche of points and a great game, and leaves the Orange Bowl with its Big East booby prize.

The "I Like These Games!" Scenario

  • BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2)
  • Sugar Bowl: West Virginia vs. Michigan (Big East champion vs. at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Houston (Big 12 champion vs. at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon (Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion)
  • Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford (ACC champion vs. at-large)

That's a titanic BCS National Championship Game rematch, a weird echo of Rich Rodriguez' past that could see 90 points, a weird echo of Dana Holgorsen's past that could see 100 points, a strength-on-speed Rose Bowl, and a rematch of an Orange Bowl that was weirdly compelling last January. There's plenty of intrigue for everyone here, a lot of value for the bowls, and points for the casual college football fan.

The "Ugh, These Games?"/LSU Gets Left Out Scenario

  • BCS National Championship Game: Arkansas vs. Alabama (BCS No. 1 vs. SEC champion/BCS No. 2)
  • Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Michigan State (at-large vs. at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford (Big 12 champion vs. at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Utah (Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion)
  • Orange Bowl: Virginia vs. Rutgers (ACC champion vs. Big East champion)

To believe this one, you're going to have to believe that Arkansas will blow out LSU by some obscene margin Thursday, causing the Tigers to fall past Alabama in the BCS rankings and allow the Crimson Tide to head to Atlanta as a result of the BCS tiebreaker. One model says that LSU will fall to No. 4 with a loss, period, but I wouldn't be surprised to see spin beginning seconds after the final whistle of a close LSU loss that would rationalize a 1-2-3 of Arkansas-LSU-Alabama for most voters.

You will also need to believe that Penn State beats Wisconsin and Michigan State, Virginia beats Virginia Tech and Clemson, Oklahoma tops Oklahoma State, Utah gets a ton of Pac-12 help, Houston loses, and the Fiesta Bowl passes up the no-brainer rematch of its classic Oklahoma vs. Boise State thriller. Given the season to date, is that really all that unbelievable?

The "Wait, BOISE STATE Is Playing For A National Title!?" Scenario

  • BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Boise State (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2)
  • Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan (SEC champion vs. at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Oregon (Big 12 champion vs. at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. UCLA (Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion)
  • Orange Bowl: Virginia vs. West Virginia (ACC champion vs. Big East champion)

Losses necessary for this scenario: LSU to Georgia by a significant margin in the SEC Championship Game; Alabama to Auburn; Arkansas to LSU; Virginia Tech to Virginia; Oklahoma State to Oklahoma; Oklahoma to Iowa State; Stanford to Notre Dame and/or Pac-12 South team in Pac-12 Championship Game; Houston to Tulsa; Oregon to Oregon State. And all that could happen, but it would be the luckiest road to a shot at the national title in recent memory, and perhaps ever.

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