While it may seem highly unlikely, it is still possible that the No.1 Louisiana State University Tigers wont play in the BCS National Championship Game after all.
It would take a stunning turn of events, but nothing is set in stone yet.
With only one game left in the regular season, if LSU falls to the No.3 Arkansas Razorbacks, it could potentially create a two or three-way tie for first place in the SEC West.
Assuming that No.2 Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the No. 24 Auburn Tigers (which, for our purposes, is still a dangerous assumption), all three teams—LSU, Alabama and Arkansas—could be at the top of the SEC West at 11-1.
So who wins the tie-breaker?
In terms of pure head-to-head evaluation, it would be impossible to decide without the aid of the computers (for once they seem to be useful). Alabama has already beaten Arkansas, and LSU already beat Alabama. If Arkansas beats LSU who is to say which victory is most impressive?
Well, according to ESPN's Brad Edwards the BCS computers still value LSU "two-to-three spots higher" than Arkansas. So unless they deal LSU an absolutely crushing defeat on Saturday, it's unlikely that Arkansas could supersede LSU in the BCS standings.
Possible, but unlikely.
Of course LSU wins the tie-breaker over Alabama, having defeated them head-to-head. So it's likely that even if Arkansas defeats LSU, LSU would still be playing in the SEC Championship Game against the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs.
Here's where it gets interesting.
If Georgia defeats LSU in the SEC title game, or if LSU's victory is somehow unimpressive, the Tigers could actually play their way out of the BCS National Championship Game, whereas Alabama and Arkansas—by virtue of not qualifying for the playoff—would stand to benefit handsomely by omission.
Under this scenario, you would still probably see two SEC teams in the BCS National Championship Game: Arkansas and Alabama.
Other one-loss teams like Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Stanford seem all but finished. Oklahoma State lost to an unranked Iowa team last week, Virginia Tech to a two-loss Clemson team and Stanford to a two-loss Oregon team that LSU had already beaten.
And let's not even broach the subject of No.8 Houston and No.7 Boise State, who have far less margin for error than virtually any other Division I team, regardless of merit.
So there is still a slight, but palpable chance that we could see a BCS Championship Game without LSU, if a few things go right or wrong (depending on your perspective). Arkansas must beat LSU—the more thoroughly the better, LSU must lose or underwhelm against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and Alabama must beat Auburn to maintain at least the No.2 seed.
So, who's feeling improbable? Anything can and will happen on any given Saturday.
Hey, that's why we play the games, after all.