If LSU and Alabama win, it will be status quo at the top of the standings next week. If Arkansas and Auburn win, Arkansas is the SEC West champ - and presumably No. 1 in the BCS next week. But if Arkansas and Alabama win, things become much cloudier. Because Alabama, Arkansas and LSU each would be 7-1 in the division and 1-1 against each other, the tiebreaker would be broken by the BCS standings. But it's not quite that simple: If the highest and second-highest team among the trio are within five spots of each other in the BCS standings - which seems an absolute given - the tiebreaker goes to the team that won the head-to-head meeting between those two. In other words, there's no way to tell about the tiebreaker yet.
The upside is that Friday's upcoming showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Arkansas suddenly takes on even greater importance. Whichever of the three emerges from the cluster to reach Atlanta the following weekend will face another challenge from surging Georgia (9-2) in the SEC title game. The downside is that, in one of those only-in-the-BCS scenarios, the second-ranked Crimson Tide would be better off not winning their division. Despite losing at home in its biggest game of the season (9-6 to No. 1 LSU) and despite boasting victories over just three teams with winning records (10-1 Arkansas, 9-2 Penn State and 6-5 Florida), Nick Saban's team will likely cruise into the BCS championship game with a win Saturday over 7-4 Auburn and an LSU win over Arkansas. The same unwritten axioms pollsters have used to dismiss contenders in the past -- that a team must win its conference championship and that regular-season rematches are frowned upon -- might go out the window for lack of a better option.
Sure, beating the Crimson Tide twice in the same season is a magnificent thought to the purple and gold homers, but it's not the smartest plan if the ultimate goal is truly to win the national title. When the Tigers and Tide squared off Nov. 5, it was like trying to tell the difference between identical twins. There are small distinctions that give one away from the other, but by-and-large they look the same. LSU has already beaten the best — on its home field. There's nothing for LSU to gain by pulling for the two teams to play again.
The Crimson Tide rolls into Saturday’s visit to Auburn for a game that figures in the BCS title equation for the fourth straight year. It’s almost as though Bear Bryant was calling the shots from above to set the stage for ‘Bama: Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Oregon have all fallen the past two weeks to upgrade Bryant’s former team from wishin’ and hopin’ to likely win-and-in status. Of course, such talk leads to what Tide coach Nick Saban calls scoreboard watching. He preaches to keep the eyes forward not looking up or around, and said that philosophy applies off the field, as well — lest his team get distracted. "We really don’t want that," Saban told reporters after Saturday’s 45-21 win over Georgia Southern. "I know that that’s hard for you all to understand, because that’s all you think about and that’s all I get asked about. All I care about is how our team plays, because I have no control over any of that stuff. I’ve got one vote (in the coaches poll)."
LSU, Alabama and Arkansas head into the final week of the regular season at 1-2-3 in the latest BCS standings with the Tigers playing host to the Razorbacks on Friday in a game whose magnitude is no less than the No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting between LSU and Alabama on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. An LSU victory against Arkansas sends the Tigers to the Southeastern Conference championship game Dec. 3 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where even losing to SEC East champion Georgia might not be enough to knock them out of the national title game. "That's a definite possibility," BCS expert Jerry Palm of CBS Sports said. "LSU has built up enough credibility to the top two, even with a loss."
What a miserable time to be an SEC hater. If you hate the Yankees, you root for the Tigers. If you hate LeBron, you pull for Dirk. If you hate Tiger Woods, you cheer for the field. If you hate the SEC, you do what now? Pray for vacated titles? It's hard to envision there not being an SEC rematch for the national championship. Not only that, it's quite possible the SEC will end up with split national champions. The nation may have a stroke if it has to recognize two more SEC national champions in one season after five straight.
"It's still on our minds what happened last year," Alabama senior center William Vlachos said. "It's something I probably think about every day." That's what happens when a team makes school history by blowing a 24-0 lead on its home field to its archrival. If Alabama can't completely erase that memory, it at least can ease its suffering when it pays a 2:30 p.m. CST visit Saturday to Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.
"Will Lowery had an MRI Sunday which confirmed that he has a torn ACL that will require surgery," Saban said in a statement. "Will has been a very good player for us and an outstanding person in terms of his contributions to the team and the program. We are confident he will make a full recovery and he has the support of everyone in the organization as he goes through the rehab process."
AJ McCarron snapped a streak of three straight game with an interception Saturday guiding Alabama to a 45-21 win over Georgia Southern. Always referred to as a game manager by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, the sophomore quarterback completed 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns. McCarron completed 74 percent of his passes, which marked the fifth time this season he completed at least 70 percent of his throws. "AJ McCarron played extremely well for us," Saban said.
Alabama remained No. 1 in all major defensive categories Sunday after its 45-21 win over Georgia State. Yes, that also includes rushing defense. Georgia Southern compiled 302 rushing yards against the Crimson Tide's top-ranked rushing defense thanks to a well executed triple-option offense that challenged Alabama's mental preparation. Eagles freshman Dominique Swope, who had 15 carries for 153 yards and touchdown. The last time Alabama allowed more than 300 yards rushing was Sept. 15, 2007 when Arkansas ran for 301 yards in a 41-38 victory for the Tide.
There seems to be a school of thought, more prevalent outside the state than within its borders, that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is "too heated" or "too ugly" and needs to "cool down." Frankly, I don't think most rational fans want that because the rivalry, for 99.95 per cent of the people involved on both sides, is fine the way it is. Even if there was some reason for wanting to de-emphasize the game, though, external events in the college football world just will not cooperate. For the fourth year in a row, the final regular season game has serious BCS Championship implications for one team or the other. Neither team made it through undefeated this time, but Alabama is squarely in the middle of the BCS picture, certainly to the extent that this game is, once again, BCS relevant. Saturday's results against Georgia Southern and Samford, respectively, don't change anything.
It could be because of the recently released ESPN documentary "Roll Tide/War Eagle." It could be because ESPN will broadcast "College Gameday" in Auburn on Saturday morning. It could be because this is the fourth consecutive Iron Bowl that has direct implications on who plays in the BCS title game. Or it could be because Alabama and Auburn have claimed the last two national championships. Whatever the reason, there is no mistaking that this year's Iron Bowl will have the attention of every college football fan in the country. If No. 2 Alabama beats Auburn on Saturday, it is more than likely that the Crimson Tide will play for its second BCS title in three seasons. If Auburn tops Alabama, Tiger fans will boast with almost as much pride as they did when Auburn hoisted the trophy last year.
"We're not worried about style points," UA center William Vlachos said after last Saturday's victory over Georgia Southern. "We're worried about doing what we do." Alabama head coach Nick Saban doesn't want visions of BCS glory or LSU rematches clouding his team's focus. "It's about how we play in the games, how we prepare, how we get ready to play and us going and playing our best football," Saban said. "That's what we control. That's what we need to do. None of that other stuff really matters. It really doesn't matter, because if you don't do that ... what happens? You don't have the opportunity."
With 20 commitments to date, Alabama is getting close to putting the finishing touches on its 2012 signing class. Some elite high school seniors remain targets, but three of the remaining scholarships could go to junior college transfers Travell Dixon, Daniel McCullers and Deion Belue.