How the SEC West Will Be Won ... Maybe By Everyone

In the lead. For now.

Second of two; the post looking at the scenarios for the East is here.

Despite the fact that they remain the only teams in control of their own respective destinies, Auburn and Alabama are not the only teams with a chance to win the West. Everyone remains alive in at least some scenario, although some teams are only in contention with a series of events that will likely leave you noticing that the ground has become remarkably frigid in recent days (think about it). And there's one possible outcome -- well, we'll leave that be for just a moment.

The same caveat applies to this post as to the one on the East: I think I have run through most of the scenarios, but it's possible that I have made a slight mistake somewhere. That could make a difference in a league with as many tiebreakers as the SEC. I would welcome any feedback in the comments that proves me wrong.

The Nightmare Scenario. There is an option that would cause absolute chaos: All six teams could end up tied at 5-3. Ole Miss wins out while Auburn loses out. LSU and Mississippi State defeat Alabama, but LSU loses to Arkansas. Arkansas, in turn, loses to Mississippi State but defeats Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Mississippi State beats Kentucky. Tiebreakers eliminate LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State but leave Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss standing. It goes to the BCS. In this scenario, who would look best to the pollsters? An Ole Miss team that lost to an FCS team at the beginning of the year? Auburn, having started strong and then lost three in a row? Alabama, which lost to LSU and Mississippi State but rebounded to beat Auburn? And it could get even more complicated. From the SEC tiebreaking rules:

The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game. [Emphasis added.]

That would be something of a mess. Now that we've had fun, let's get back to things that might actually happen in the real world.

Because that nuclear option exists, it's almost impossible to go through every possible scenario in less than 5,000 words -- though I think I'm at least close. Here are perhaps the easiest paths for each team.

Auburn Tigers (8-0, 5-0 SEC): Of course, the easy one here is to win out against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. Losing either the Ole Miss game or the Georgia game would make the Iron Bowl a winner-take-all division title game UNLESS Alabama has lost both of its remaining conference games, in which case LSU then becomes the most important player. More on that in just a moment.

Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC): The Tide are the other team that simply has to win out to take the conference title. That would knock LSU to two losses and leave the Tide in a tie with Auburn for first place with the head-to-head win. Alabama can also win if they lose the next two as long as Auburn loses out and LSU loses to Ole Miss and Arkansas, setting up a three-team tie that ends with the Tide headed to Atlanta. I can't come up with any scenario that has Alabama winning the division if they can't win the Iron Bowl. Even more than most years, it is a must-win game.

LSU Tigers (7-1, 4-1 SEC): The Bayou Bengals are in a position where they almost have to win out. Alabama and Arkansas are both still on the schedule, and the Bengals have already lost to the "other" Tigers. They are short on tiebreakers and need every one they can get. Even if LSU wins out, though, they need Auburn to lose at least two of its remaining three games.

Arkansas Razorbacks (5-2, 2-2 SEC): Because of the losses to Auburn and Alabama that are already on the books, the Razorbacks need a lot of help. Auburn needs to lose out even if Arkansas wins out, because the next Auburn win means they can't lose more than two games, and Arkansas has already lost two games. If that break happens, the Hogs also need the Tide to lose out except for the win against Auburn. Then, the focus of the SEC shifts from Tuscaloosa to Little Rock, where Arkansas will play LSU. Win that game, and the Razorbacks can call the pigs all the way to the Georgia Dome.

Mississippi St. Bulldogs (6-2, 2-2 SEC): The remaining games for Mississippi State are against Kentucky, at Alabama and and then against Arkansas before the Egg Bowl comes to Oxford. Like Arkansas, the Western Division Bulldogs need a lot of help even if they win out because of losses to Auburn and LSU. Auburn loses out. Alabama loses to Mississippi State but defeats Auburn. LSU loses to Ole Miss and Arkansas. The outcome of the Alabama-LSU game is actually irrelevant here, because an Alabama that wins it still has two losses and loses the tiebreaker to State while a victorious LSU has three losses. However, it's better for Mississippi State if LSU loses because the next loss then knocks the Bengals out instead of the Bulldogs needing to cheer for the Rebels to pull off the upset.

Mississippi Rebels (3-4, 1-3 SEC): Every scenario with the Black Bears Rebels going to the title game begin with this: Ole Miss wins out against Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State and Auburn loses out against Ole Miss, Georgia and Auburn. The only remaining scenario I can find for Ole Miss other than the nuclear option goes this way: Alabama loses to LSU and Mississippi State. LSU loses to Arkansas. Mississippi State defeats Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas. Ole Miss is 3-1 among the rivals and goes to the SEC Championship Game.

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