SEC West Showdowns
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has no shortage of critics (this lowly writer included), but you have to respect its ability to survive year after year when it constantly finds ways to produce scenarios that essentially invalidate its existence. To butcher a quote from the late, great Rick James: Money is a hell of a drug. The college presidents, conference leadership, bowl commissioners and television executives who devised the BCS have to be blinded by the dollar signs that have flashed in front of their eyes since the system began in 1998 – it’s the only legit explanation for why a playoff system (ideally eight teams over three weeks, but even a four-teamer would do) doesn’t exist.
But this isn’t the time to waste our breath on ways to fix a broken system because an ideal alternative won’t be devised in a day. This is a week to be especially positive and thankful, not cynical and whining. When it comes to sports, you can be grateful for a weekend schedule in the powerful SEC West that promises to keep football fans happy following the NFL’s Thanksgiving Tripleheader. And for college football, the last turns in the road to Conference Championship Saturday and the BCS title game in New Orleans are full of interesting twists and turns.
This weekend, you could see #1 LSU make its road to the championship game more difficult than by earning a win at home versus #3 Arkansas. A victory secures LSU’s spot in the SEC title game against #13 Georgia. If #2 Alabama wins the Iron Bowl at #24 Auburn, they would stay at #2 and be guaranteed a spot in the BCS Championship. Therefore, in order to secure their own spot in the title game, LSU is in a position to have to win two games to get in instead of Alabama’s one game. And why are things this way? Because LSU beat Alabama a few weeks ago. Many fans are upset that Alabama can secure its spot in the national title game without even playing for a conference title.
It’s a slight twist on this scenario that’s really unique, though. You could see Arkansas defeat LSU, rise to #1 in the polls, yet still lose the SEC West title on the 1,023rd tie-breaker to Alabama, should the Crimson Tide be victorious in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. This tiebreaker (the number is approximate, I don’t have an official SEC handbook) is invoked because they’ll be within five spots of one another in the BCS ranking and would give the SEC West bid to Alabama based on their head-to-head win over Arkansas. So now you’d have the #1 team in the nation (Arkansas) headed to New Orleans for the BCS Championship without playing for its conference title, either. WE ARE ALL THANKFUL FOR THE WRONG KINDS OF DRAMA. On to the games!
Arkansas at LSU Tickets
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Following their loss to Alabama earlier in the season, the Razorbacks were able to quickly refocus and have won seven straight games. As they prepare to visit LSU in Baton Rouge, they have welcomed star running back Knile Davis back to the practice field for the first time since he suffered an ugly broken ankle in August. Arkansas fans are on both side of the debate on whether he should play this season given the huge risks, but you cannot blame Davis for attempting to test his limits and play if at all possible.
Arkansas’s #3 ranking in the BCS is its highest ever, and a dynamic offense featuring the program’s two all-time receiving leaders – Joe Adams and Jarius Wright – and talented QB Tyler Wilson could somehow become more dangerous if another skill-position player returns to the mix. Head Coach Bobby Petrino seems to be one of the few “offensive geniuses” in the college game who has not lost any of his luster this year despite losing Heisman finalist Ryan Mallet to the NFL. The defense, however, has been inconsistent and may pose the biggest threat to their chances.
LSU vs Arkansas Fireworks?
LSU’s defense always gets more attention than their offense, and the 9-6 win over Alabama certainly builds on that legend. However, this is an offense that entered that game versus the Crimson Tide averaging over 40 points a game; neither of their quarterbacks may be worthy of a top-round pick for the pros, but they have effective track records and a half-dozen talented running backs to hand it to, as well. Last week’s dismantling of Ole Miss – including taking a knee at the opponent’s five yard line with over five minutes still left on the clock – was not an apparition. They have the firepower to win a shootout, too, and will exploit Arkansas’s weaknesses, but The Mad Hatter probably won’t need to pull out all of the stops because his defense will probably find a way to contain the Razorbacks.
The Tigers’ road to New Orleans may be a bit more difficult as it goes through Atlanta for the SEC title game, but Les Miles and his team won’t turn away from the challenge. Hosting this game in Baton Rouge certainly helps the Bayou Bengals, as well, and there are still some great deals on Arkansas at LSU tickets left as fans look to catch their team at home one final time before the first of two (they hope) postseason games at indoor venues: the Georgia Dome and the Louisiana Superdome. If LSU ends up headlining an all-SEC BCS Championship in New Orleans, well, Mardi Gras is coming twice in 2012.
Iron Bowl 2011
Steeped in enough of its own tradition to warrant an ESPN Films feature last month, the chants of “Roll Tide” will bounce against those of “War Eagle” and echo to every corner of Alabama this weekend. The defending national champion Auburn Tigers will host the Crimson Tide and offer what could be the final challenge to their rival’s bid for a BCS berth of its own. While Auburn is not nearly as talented as the team that went to Tuscaloosa and won last year, losing Heisman-winner Cam Newton and defensive stud Nick Fairley, among others, to the NFL, this young team has been at its best on home turf.
To date, they haven’t faced a team of Jordan-Hare Stadium of Alabama’s caliber, but rivalry games tend to give both sides enough adrenaline to compensate for existing mismatches. The Tigers have scored an average of just over 34 points a game in the six contests they’ve already hosted, but only #16 Mississippi State was ranked on game day when they visited in early September. If you believe the Alabama to be as similar to LSU as their 9-6 loss would indicate and want to use that as a predictor for this year’s Iron Bowl, then you only need to point to Auburn’s 45-10 loss at LSU if you get into an argument with someone promoting an upset. Only time will tell if the home crowd’s “War Eagle!” screams can help them.
Will the Tide come back into Defensive Form?
The Crimson Tide will roll onto the field with their Heisman-finalist running back, Trent Richardson, emerging quarterback and receiver corps, and a defense capable of stopping everything you do best on every down of the game. Coach Nick Saban refocused his team quickly after their loss on November 5, and he received plenty of fuel for his coaching fire with Alabama’s disappointing performance against FCS school Georgia Southern (to be fair, the Eagles are one of the top seeds in the lower division’s playoff). The number one overall scoring defense in the NCAA surrendered 21 points and over 300 rushing yards to GSU, both very uncharacteristic numbers and the highest allowed all season.
Saban, one of the best coaches and motivators in the game, has surely stressed playing with “The System” all week, and you shouldn’t expect a repeat performance of the Alabama defense missing some assignments. Iron Bowl tickets this close to kickoff are expensive as always – the cheapest seats for Alabama-Auburn are $186 – but plenty of fans from both schools will be eager to watch this classic rivalry’s next chapter on Saturday as it closes out a memorable season in the SEC West. If you have questions about Iron Bowl tickets or Arkansas at LSU tickets, contact us on twitter @SeatGeek or write email@example.com.
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Be sure to keep your SEC tiebreakers cheat sheet close by so you can sort out how upsets in either – or both! – of these games may affect the SEC title game and the BCS Championship in New Orleans… Happy Thanksgivign Leftover Weekend!
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