Three SEC Teams Bound for the B.C.S.?
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 16, 2011
Officially, there is no rule against one conference sending more than two teams to B.C.S. bowl play. There’s a misconception that the cap is at two teams, meaning, according to popular thought, that an Arkansas — at 11-1, let’s say — would get left out in the cold this January despite being one of the top four or five teams in the final B.C.S. standings. Well, that’s wrong: a B.C.S. conference can, in fact, send three teams to B.C.S. play. It’s just so unlikely as to be impossible, and the fact that the B.C.S. doesn’t simply keep the cap at two teams, as most believe to be the case, says quite a bit about the amount of red tape that surround the bylaws and procedures that surround the B.C.S. and the way its bowls are filled.
The B.C.S. selection procedures clearly state the following regarding at-large eligibility:
No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final B.C.S. Standings.
What, that’s not clear enough for you? After asking the B.C.S. for some clarification — because that paragraph was Greek to me at first — I received the following explanation:
Basically, the only way a conference can send three teams to B.C.S. play is if two of those three play in the B.C.S. National Championship Game. In addition, neither one of those two teams can have won the conference title. To use 2011 as an example, the SEC could send three teams to the B.C.S. if both Alabama and L.S.U. go another round in the B.C.S. title game — and neither wins the SEC title.
So in one sense, the misconception holds true: there really is no way for Arkansas to reach a B.C.S. bowl in 2011. Well, there’s a way, but it so much of a stretch as to be an impossibility — Arkansas would have to beat L.S.U., L.S.U. would have to lose to Georgia in the SEC title game and Arkansas would then have to finish ahead of Alabama in the final B.C.S. standings.
That’s a major stretch; even if the Razorbacks beat the Tigers in Baton Rouge, moving ahead of the Tide would entail many voters ignoring the fact that when push came to shove, the Razorbacks were manhandled in Tuscaloosa. The far more likely scenario involves the following:
L.S.U. beats Arkansas to end the regular season. Alabama wins out. L.S.U. loses to Georgia in the SEC title game. L.S.U., No. 1 in the final B.C.S. standings, and Alabama, No. 2, meet in the national championship game while Georgia earns the SEC’s automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl. There you go — three teams. And how could we get there?
Oklahoma loses to Baylor. Oklahoma State loses to Iowa State. Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State. The Sooners win the Big 12 with a final record of 10-2; the Cowboys, 10-2, finish second in the Big 12.
Clemson loses to South Carolina. Clemson beats Virginia Tech in the A.C.C. Championship Game. Clemson, 11-2, heads to the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech, 11-2, lands an invite to one of the better non-B.C.S. bowl games.
Houston loses to one of S.M.U., Tulsa or Southern Mississippi. That would leave the Cougars, 12-1, in line for an at-large B.C.S. bid — depending on their final B.C.S. ranking — but removes the push for a national title bid for the lone undefeated team in the country.
Oregon wins the Pac-12 title to land a second Rose Bowl trip in three years; unfortunately, the Ducks trip up against U.S.C. this weekend. That leaves Oregon at 11-2, out of the national title picture.
Where would that leave us? It’s a convoluted scenario, but the end result if all this came to pass is clear: L.S.U. would remain No. 1 in the B.C.S. while Alabama’s one-loss resume is far stronger than that of Stanford, the only other one-loss B.C.S. conference team still on the map.
Convoluted. And near impossible, seeing that at least five teams in the national title hunt would need to choke down the stretch to even make the above scenario even the slightest bit possible. So why not have a two-team limit altogether? Because the chance does exist, far-fetched as it may seem. And no one — absolutely no one — has ever said that the B.C.S. keeps things simple.
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