The regular season may be drawing to a close Friday for the No. 1-ranked LSU Tigers, but the scenarios regarding LSU’s hopes to reach the BCS and Southeastern Conference championship games — and whom it might play for the BCS title — remain numerous going into this showdown with No. 3 Arkansas.
We thought it would be a good time to check in with Brad Edwards — ESPN’s Mississippi-born, Alabama-educated BCS guru (who said he has family ties to Louisiana) — about his thoughts on the Tigers’ and their immediate future:
Everyone wants to know where LSU would fall if it loses to Arkansas on Friday. What do you think?
“When the (BCS) standings first came out and I had a look at the actual rankings in the computers, I didn’t have the same perspective I had once the computers posted their rankings on their respective sites and you see the point gaps between the teams.
“My belief is that after a loss to Arkansas, LSU would still be two to three spots ahead of Arkansas in most of the computers. That means if Arkansas beats LSU and Alabama beats Auburn, Alabama moves to No. 1, Arkansas moves to No. 2 and LSU to No. 3 (in the human polls), I think the computer advantage for LSU would keep them in the top two of the BCS. That would not only keep Arkansas from winning the tiebreaker over LSU (for a berth in the SEC title game) but allow LSU to win it over Alabama.”
You feel that strongly about the computer rankings?
“The more I look at it, the more I’m convinced that it would take a pretty unlikely scenario for LSU to fall out of the (BCS) top two with a loss.
“The computer advantage for LSU over Arkansas would be enormous. Arkansas would need to beat LSU so convincingly that most of the voters would move Arkansas to No. 1 over an Alabama team that beat them by 24 points (38-14 on Sept. 24), and almost every single voter would have to drop LSU to No. 3. If Arkansas is on average one spot better than LSU in the polls, I don’t think that would be enough for them to hold on because of LSU’s computer edge.”
So in terms of the SEC championship game, you think LSU’s chances are good?
“I expect LSU to go to the SEC Championship Game win or lose — obviously win — unless Alabama loses. It’s hard for me to see LSU losing a three-way tie to Arkansas.”
It’s not all rosy, though, for LSU in terms of the BCS, is it?
“Let’s say Alabama rolled Auburn and Arkansas beat LSU by 10. If Alabama was No. 1 and Arkansas No. 2 and LSU No. 3, Arkansas is not going to win that tiebreaker (for the SEC title game) either, but at least it would have an opportunity to make it to the BCS championship game.
“Arkansas is more realistically playing for national championship survival than hopes for SEC West survival.”
Not too many LSU fans are crazy for a rematch with Alabama. Is there anything that keeps Alabama out of the BCS title game if it beats Auburn?
“I don’t think so. Most people around the country don’t want to see a rematch. They wanted to see someone else get a shot, and there were several teams with a shot. They all blew it. Now it’s back to Alabama getting a second chance.”
LSU fans are less than thrilled about that.
“I can totally understand LSU fans who are upset about this. It’s unfair that you can go into Tuscaloosa and beat that team, and when it’s all said and done it didn’t do anything but help you win the SEC. But there’s no question in my mind that if Alabama had won in overtime we’d be in the same spot. Alabama would be No. 1 and LSU would be No. 2 and nobody would have an argument against LSU.
“LSU fans are also realistic enough to know they caught some big breaks with the BCS and have two national titles to show for it. This time the breaks didn’t go their way. There’s maybe one team in the country good enough to beat them, and that’s the team they may have to play.”
What if 10-1 Oklahoma State, currently No. 4 In the BCS, wins the Big 12?
“If LSU and Alabama both win out, Oklahoma State has a better chance than anyone because of the computer numbers (Oklahoma State is still No. 2 in BCS computer average behind LSU). But it would have to get pretty close to Alabama in the polls with a significant number of people voting them No. 2. There’s only a guarantee that one team ahead of them will lose. And Virginia Tech and Stanford are ahead of them in the polls, and they can both win out.
“Both (Oklahoma State and Alabama) lost in overtime, one by three to LSU when it was a four-point favorite, the other as a four-touchdown favorite to Iowa State. The voters won’t forget that. On top of that, I don’t think many people feel Oklahoma State is better than Alabama, anyway.”
Aside from losing to Arkansas then Georgia in the SEC championship game, is there a ‘nightmare scenario’ for LSU?
“Under normal circumstances, win one of those games and you’re in, as long as the loss is not bad.
“But if I were to lay out a disaster scenario for LSU it would be for Georgia to lose to Georgia Tech (Saturday), LSU to beat Arkansas, then go to the SEC Championship Game as a 17-point favorite and lose by double digits. If LSU were to lose its final game by double digits, I would see some voters saying, ‘I can’t reward that.’”
There is a scenario that says the SEC can have three teams in the BCS, right?
“No. 1 and No. 2 are automatically in, and the conference champions are automatically in. So somehow if you have the No. 1 and 2 teams and neither one is the champion, then the third team gets in. That’s more likely to happen if both LSU and Alabama win this week and LSU loses to Georgia, assuming it’s a close loss.
“Can you imagine New Orleans having those three fan bases in town at the same time? Think about what that would be like for the economy.”