The SEC Championship game is always one of the most highly anticipated showdowns of the entire college football season.
While this year’s game between Auburn and relative newcomer Missouri (imagine what would be said about the Big Ten if it took Missouri all of two seasons to reach the league title game there) lacks that type of star power, it will have a distinct impact on the national title race and who plays in the Sugar Bowl.
There are a couple of possibilities for the BCS' New Orleans matchup.
The cleanest projection after the slate of conference championship games have finished would come if Ohio State and Florida State both win. That would presumably place the Buckeyes and Seminoles in the national title game, shutting out the SEC champion from the event for the first time in years.
If that happens, the winner of the SEC title clash will automatically go to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, plain and simple.
However, the Sugar Bowl’s options become much more muddled if Michigan State upsets Ohio State and the SEC champion goes to Pasadena for the national championship game. Where the loser of the SEC title game is in the final BCS standings will likely determine the SEC participant in the Sugar Bowl.
If Missouri beats Auburn Saturday and is in the title game, who plays in the Sugar Bowl will come down to Auburn and Alabama. The only way the Crimson Tide would not make a BCS game as an at-large selection is if they are not in the top four in the final standings.
If Missouri beats Auburn in a tightly contested game, the argument could theoretically be made that Auburn deserves to be ranked ahead of Alabama. After all, the Tigers just beat the Crimson Tide and won the SEC West and would only have an extra loss because they qualified for the SEC Championship game in the first place.
If a combination of teams including Auburn, Ohio State and Oklahoma State were to keep Saban and company from being in the top four, the Sugar Bowl would take Auburn.
That argument could not be applied to Missouri, though, if Auburn wins the SEC title, since Alabama is already ahead of Gary Pinkel's team as it is.
However, the projection here is that Ohio State, Florida State and Missouri all win their respective conference title games and the Crimson Tide remain in the No. 4 position. It may not be fair to Auburn, but that would put Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the SEC Championship loser in the Capital One Bowl.
At least Orlando is nice this time of year.
For what it's worth, the SEC's opponent in the Sugar Bowl will likely be Central Florida as the automatic qualifier from the American Athletic Conference.