Alright, so this is the question: is this the year that three (3) SEC teams go to BCS Bowls?
Here are the sections from the BCS Selection process that I believe could be relevant to this discussion:
1.The top two teams in the final BCS Standings shall play in the National Championship Game...
2.The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls through the 2013 regular season...
5.If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game...
6.If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game...
If there are fewer than 10 automatic qualifiers, then the bowls will select at-large participants to fill the remaining berths. An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and meets the following requirements:
A. Has won at least nine regular-season games, and
B.Is among the top 14 teams in the final BCS Standings.
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 BCS Standings.
If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following: (1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and (2) from the teams ranked 15-18, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14...
Team selection procedures
The bowls will select their participants from two pools: (1) automatic qualifiers, all of which must be selected, and, (2) at-large teams, if fewer than 10 teams qualify automatically. The following sequence will be used when establishing pairings:
1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings will be placed in the National Championship Game ("NCG").
2. Unless they qualify to play in the NCG, the champions of selected conferences are contractually committed to host selected games:
Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
Pac-12 Conference-Rose Bowl
Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl
3. If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick. If the Rose Bowl loses both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to the NCG, it will receive two replacement picks...
A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select any of the following:
A. A team in the NCG;
B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
C. When two bowls lose host teams, then the bowl losing the number one team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the number two team, unless the bowl losing the number two team consents.
But how could it look?
All of the below is highly speculative, and tremendously dependent on what happens with other teams, particularly Oregon, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, but also conceivably with Clemson, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and whoever else.
The Variables Being Treated as Givens for the Purposes of this Discussion:
I am not saying that all of these things WILL happen; I am simply trying to see how this would play out IF these things all happen.
1. Alabama beats Georgia Southern and the Auburnite.
2. LSU beats Ole Miss.
3. Arkansas beats Mississippi State.
Scenario I: LSU Beats Arkansas, LSU Wins the SECCG
In this case, if we accept the givens above, two SEC teams go to BCS Bowls: LSU and Alabama. According to BCS Selection Procedures, it is very unlikely that this scenario drops Alabama past #3 in the BCS. There are plenty of other posts looking at Alabama's odds of ending the season as the BCS #2 - that is not the point of this post. Under these circumstances, Alabama would almost certainly technically be an automatic qualifier, not an at-large team, because our conference champion was selected for the BCSNCG, and it is difficult to imagine how we'd fall past BCS #4 with our givens. I can also not foresee any other conference with a team who could jump us having a non-champion end up at #3 ahead of us. Either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State will have two losses, Stanford has too much ground to make up should Oregon win the Pac-12, and Oregon would have to have two losses for anyone else to win the Pac-12. Maybe I'm missing something...
Conclusion: LSU goes to the BCSNCG, Alabama either goes to the BCSNCG in the rematch, or to the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas has two losses, and goes to the Capital One Bowl.
Scenario II: Arkansas Beats LSU, Alabama / LSU Wins the SECCG
There are many posts around here discussing SECCG selection procedures: in case of a three-way tie (Alabama, Arkansas, LSU), if the top two teams are within 5 BCS rankings of each other, the team of the top two BCS-ranked teams that won the head to head goes to the championship game. This is being thoroughly and expertly discussed elsewhere, and is not the point of this post. Suffice it to say that for this scenario to play out, LSU would go if Alabama and LSU were still the top-BCS-ranked SEC teams, and Alabama would go if Alabama and Arkansas were the top-BCS-ranked teams.
If the BCS rankings fall out such that either Alabama or LSU go to the SECCG, and win, then it is a given that that SEC Champion goes to a BCS Bowl - either the BCSNCG, or the Sugar Bowl. It would seem most probable that this team would still go to the BCSNCG, and the other would go to the BCSNCG for a rematch, or to the Sugar Bowl. If LSU goes, that means that Alabama is still ranked ahead of Arkansas in the BCS, and the quasi-expected rematch could still be on. If Alabama goes to the SECCG, that means that Arkansas is ranked ahead of LSU, and we could conceivably be looking at a completely different SEC rematch. Unlikely, but it seems possible, with Arkansas's one loss (to likely current #1/#2 and SEC Champion Alabama) and best victory (over #1 at the time, now likely current #3/#4 LSU on the road) looking at least as creditable as Oregon's at least one loss (to current likely #3/#4 LSU on a neutral field) and key victory (over Stanford), and Oklahoma / OSU's one loss (TT / ISU) and key win (each other). This gets more probable with every point that Arkansas beats LSU by.
Either way, one of the SEC BCSNCG contenders would have been the SEC Champ, and the SEC would therefore be capped at two BCS teams.
Conclusion: Alabama / LSU goes to BCSNCG, Alabama / Arkansas/LSU goes to BCSNCG in a rematch, or to the Sugar Bowl. LSU/Arkansas goes to the Capital One Bowl.
Scenario III: Arkansas Beats LSU, Arkansas Wins the SECCG - aka "**** Just Got Real"
This scenario would require Arkansas and LSU to end the season as top-BCS-ranked SEC teams, or else LSU (if LSU and Alabama were the top-BCS-ranked SEC teams) or Alabama (if Arkansas and Alabama were the top-BCS-ranked SEC teams).
This scenario would likely result in Arkansas going to the BCSNCG, having been ranked ahead of Alabama going into the SECCG, and then beating the SEC East representative. Alabama would be left out of the BCSNCG, because there would be no opportunity for us to jump past LSU, who must have been ranked higher at the end of the regular season for us to have gotten to this point in the first place. Once again, the SEC Champion would be going to the BCSNCG, capping the SEC at two BCS teams.
Conclusion: Arkansas goes to BCSNCG, LSU either goes to the BCSNCG in yet another completely unexpected rematch, or to the Sugar Bowl. Alabama goes to the Capital One Bowl.
However, would it be conceivably possible for Arkansas to win in such an ugly fashion over a middling SEC East representative (say if Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, or somehow South Carolina gets in, if that's still possible), that they drop past BOTH LSU AND Alabama? I find this scenario highly, highly unlikely because it would likely require the voters to BOTH: (a) support a BCSNCG rematch between teams, neither of whom won their DIVISION, much less their conference; AND (b) basically publicly admit that they had made a mistake ranking Arkansas ahead of Alabama in the first place.
Conclusion: LSU and Alabama go to BCSNCG for the rematch, Arkansas goes to Sugar Bowl, SEC East representative goes to Capital One Bowl.
Scenario IV: LSU Beats Arkansas, SEC East Team Beats LSU in the SECCG - aka "Repent, sinners, repent! for the hour of your judgment draweth nigh..."
Under this scenario, the SEC East representative would have an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl.
However, depending on who else loses, and to whom, this could conceivably result in LSU only falling from #1 to #2 in the BCS, likely trading places with Alabama. Would LSU's close-fought championship loss to a two-loss and increasingly impressive Georgia team in Atlanta (whose losses were to potentially one-loss Boise State and potentially two-loss South Carolina, who would presumably have just beaten one-loss Clemson) be more egregious that Oklahoma's loss to a bad Texas Tech team, Oklahoma State's loss to a bad Iowa State team, Stanford's embarrassing lopsided loss to Oregon (especially if Oregon lost again), Clemson's embarrasing loss to the Georgia Tech team that Georgia just beat, or the losses of any of the other assorted characters? Especially in light of the fact that LSU would have, by this point, already beaten three of the other top-ten BCS teams (Alabama, Oregon, and Arkansas - who may or may not fall out of the top ten, depending on what else happens)?
If, and I say again IF, Alabama and LSU were #1 and #2 in the BCS, then this would result in three SEC teams going to BCS Bowls.
Conclusion: Alabama and LSU go to the BCSNCG in the rematch, SEC East rep goes to the Sugar Bowl.
Even crazier outlier conclusion: If the LSU / Arkansas game were competitive enough, and enough other BCS chaos reigned, i.e. USC beats Oregon, Cal beats Stanford, Baylor beats Oklahoma, who then beats Oklahoma State, no one comes out of the ACC with fewer than two losses, then would it be possible... I ask again, WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE, for Arkansas to go to a BCS game as well? I haven't read the linked BCS Selection rules closely enough, but I have not seen anywhere it says that four teams canNOT go - it says that "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 BCS Standings." If that condition is met, would the cap simply be out the window, allowing a two-loss Arkansas, finishing third in the SEC West, to go to a BCS Bowl as well? With Arkansas's two losses coming to the #1 and #2 teams in the country, and the moon aligning with mars and the sun to give other teams two losses as well, then is it even possible?
My head hurts. I need a drink.
Edit: I just realized that there are even crazier possibilities, like Arkansas beating LSU, then Alabama going to the SECCG and losing to / playing badly against the SEC East Rep, leading to a potential BCSNCG rematch between LSU and Arkansas and 3 or 4 SEC teams going to BCS Bowls. This is really out of hand, I need to stop this.
Win our games. Convincingly. The rest is out of our control.