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Need to Know

Three SEC Teams Bound for the B.C.S.?

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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  1. [...] to popular belief, there is a way for three SEC teams to play in BCS games.  It sure is convoluted, [...]

  2. Lee says:

    My Head hurts.

    I need some Plus One Medication to make it go away.

  3. PowercatRyan says:

    There is still a decent outside chance that KSU wins out, OU wins out and OSU goes 1-1 and the Big 12 might get 3 in the BCS. Would require at least LSU to lose a game if not Bama as well.

  4. Hogfan says:

    If Arkansas beats LSU and Bama wins SECCG, couldn’t the Sugar Bowl take Arkansas over LSU? Both would be 11-1 with Arkansas having just won head-to-head.

  5. Parker says:

    Hi Paul

    Wow – good catch.

    As long as we only have a 1-2 game and not a playoff, however, the rule is silly. Only conference champions should be allowed in the 1-2 game. If you can’t win your division, much less your conference, then you don’t deserve to play for a national title. I don’t care who you are.

  6. The General says:

    Not even a h/t, eh, Paulie? Yeesh.

    I think Hogfan is right that the Sugar would not be required to take the highest ranked at-large SEC team, and could take Arkansas if Bama wins the SECCG.

    I think your final scenario where everyone LSU and Bama have 1 loss and everyone else (except Houston and Stanford) has 2 would be the only definite scenario for the SEC to get 3 teams in, but I’m not sure it’s necessary for all other teams to have 2 losses. If it comes down to comparing, say, a close LSU loss to a surging UGA team at a neutral site to a home OU loss to a flagging Texas Tech team, I’d say LSU gets the nod. If you are comparing a 1-loss LSU to a 1-loss Oregon, you have the head-to-head. Bama’s only loss still looks as good as anybody’s.

    If you have 5-6 one-loss teams and nobody undefeated, the voters may be so split over who deserves to go that the random jumble could cause the formula to spit out LSU-Bama.

    Can’t tell if PowercatRyan is being sarcastic, but the scenario he proposes would not put 3 Big XII teams into the BCS. It would only work if K-State wins the conference and OU and OSU play for the national title. K-State cannot win the conference. If Iowa State sweeps the Oklahoma teams, KSU could force a three-way tie with OU and OSU each having two confernce losses, but K-State lost to the other two, so the Wildcats are eliminated. Your scenario has OU winning the conference.

  7. DMK says:

    No need to win your division to be one of the top 2 teams in the country! You can be number 2. Easily.

    It’s logic.

    Or, in the real world, LSU wins out, USC beats Oregon, USCe beats Clempsen, Clepmsen beats Va Tech, Baylor beats Oklahoma, OkSt loses last two, Notre Dame does Stanford, Boise and Houston disband their teams.

    Then no one would then argue against a Bama-LSU rematch.

    Let’s just stop with all the back-of-the-napkin rules of thumb and quit pretending that there’s any logic to it beyond human people voting in the teams they think are best.

    Anyway, Bama will win the U.P.I. title. Easy.

  8. Lee says:


    Nail on the head son. Everyone just makes up reasons for why certain team should be in and others left out. This is what the BCS gives us. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

    Let’s hope Ok St plays LSU or Bama plays LSU. The first scenario leaves everyone relatively happy and the latter brings about a PLAYOFF. Can’t go wrong either way. Oregon or OU versus LSU will just leave a sour taste in your mouth. 1 team got beat at home by a 5 win team..the other got their tails kicked by a team that would have to do spank it again. Crappy.

    Note- The only reason I would rather see Bama is it would blow up the BCS and usher in a PLus One.

  9. Dave says:

    Set forth whatever reasons you want – the winner of Bedlam will play in the BCS title game. Bank on it.

    ‘Bama’s only hope is for LSU to lose to Arkansas or Georgia. Voters don’t like rematches.

  10. The General says:

    Time to revamp your scenario, Paul. The miracle in Ames just might be all that was needed for the SEC to cash in on triple BCS money and a guaranteed 6th SEC national title in a row. If LSU beats Arkansas and UGA beats LSU at the Ga Dome (and Bama cruises over Ga Southern and Auburn), who has a better argument for #1 and #2 than LSU and Bama? Regardless of the Bedlam outcome, both teams from OK have an awful loss. Oregon lost to LSU worse than Bama did. Stanford has the same knock as Bama in that they didn’t win their division, but it was a PAC TWELVE division. Dawgs get the Sugary sweet auto-bid to Bourbon Street and the two SEC West Division non-conference-winners duke it out in the same MercedesDome a week later. Still a longshot for UGA in the SECCG, but the realm of possibility just had a growth spurt.

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