Thank you all for your comments and participation on facebook over the last few weeks. Ya’ll are the best Hog Fans around! Because my schedule ramped up, my little time spent on stats has turned into short, in-game observations instead of posts. Correct predictions on points that neither the television announcers nor Mr. Barrett and Mr. Jackson have are a blast to dole out during the game. You all have a standing ovation from me on Your Player of the Game comments! Maybe we have stumbled on a really fun niche! Come join us!
Arkansas’ path to the BCS is not completely within its control, but the Hogs’ reliance on others only needs other football teams to hold form, which is good. “Holding form” simply means that we need Auburn to play as it has played all year, and we do not need any unlikely upsets for things to work our way. Any Razorback path to the Sugar Bowl starts with the Hogs winning their remaining games. Additionally, Auburn must make it to the BCS Championship Game, and for all practical purposes, Auburn needs to win-out. Thus, Auburn’s fate is our concern.
Without a really detailed explanation, losing teams in the BCS Top 10 are losing roughly two-tenths of a point from their BCS ratings, some a little more and some a little less. The system is set up on a one-point system so that all ratings are fractions of one point. The closer number to one is the better number. For instance, when LSU lost to Auburn for LSU’s first loss of the season, its BCS rating fell from .8245 to .6219. Missouri suffered almost the same decrease, .8006 down to .5940, with its first loss to Nebraska. Other examples exist for the curious. By contrast, increases in points are not nearly as dramatic. A victory over No. 6 LSU vaulted No. 4 Auburn to BCS No. 1 with an additional .0730 points, and not all moves are that large, though. When TCU beat Utah this week, the Horned Frogs gained an additional .0348 points, less than half of Auburn’s point increase over an LSU team ranked lower than Utah.
An Auburn loss to Georgia, Alabama or to the SEC East Champion is a fatal blow to Auburn BCS Championship Game aspirations in all but the most extreme circumstances. Aubie will not likely have time to regain lost BCS rating points. Even with relatively large point increases with wins, the Tigers will need about 3 weeks which they will not have.
However unlikely, Arkansas’ door to the Sugar Bowl may narrow from the outside because of the BCS automatic qualifier system. Just understand that as of right now, only three at-large spots are available with six conference champions plus either TCU or Boise St. holding automatically qualifying positions. Remote scenarios are possible with Big 10 or Big 12 teams, which are not the conference champions, reaching a BCS No. 3 or BCS No. 4 ranking. One scenario to pay attention to is a potential three-way tie for the Big 10 Championship excluding Ohio St. and Wisconsin potentially rising to BCS No. 4.
Off the football field, the Razorbacks must rely on Sugar Bowl officials. BCS rules say that bowl officials choose a team to replace a tie-in representative lost to the BCS Championship Game. The bowl which loses the No. 1 team choses first. While bowl officials may choose to take the winner of Arkansas and LSU game, they are not required to do so and can even be compelled to take a non-SEC representative in unlikely BCS scenarios involving nine or ten automatic qualifiers. Instead of having the representative decided by head-to-head competition, Sugar Bowl representatives could decide to select the team with the second highest conference record and the higher BCS rating. In our scenario, both Arkansas and LSU would have 10-2 records. The BCS ratings, however, may cause uncertainty for the Razorbacks.
If anyone on the Hill is reading, the time is now to begin lobbying to have this matter resolved on the field!
Currently, LSU’s BCS rating is .8170 with three games remaining against Louisiana Monroe, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. The Hogs have UTEP, Mississippi State and LSU still to play on their schedule. However, the Hogs’ current BCS rating is .4569 which is .3601 points lower than LSU’s BCS rating. Even if Arkansas beats LSU, LSU may easily rank higher in the BCS standings despite an Arkansas victory. Suppose that the current ratings difference between LSU and Arkansas remains at .3601 up to the Thanksgiving weekend. Even a .2000 reduction in LSU’s rating along with a whopping increase of .1000 to Arkansas’ BCS rating will not put Arkansas with a higher BCS rating. Unless this issue is deemed to be resolved on the field, Louisiana/New Orleans politics and SEC politics may help Sugar Bowl officials determine the SEC representative.
As a side note, some will ask about the SEC East representative in the SEC Championship game going to the Sugar Bowl. In 2000, the East sent two teams to the BCS where the East’s second team’s record and ranking were higher than anyone in the West. We are approaching the same scenario now.
If Arkansas and Auburn win out, and football fans in the front offices are honest with themselves that the winner on the field should determine the ultimate Sugar Bowl representative, then Arkansas’ chances are good. But for Cam Newton, Arkansas would dominate Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State as it did last year. This year Arkansas plays LSU at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock and unlike last year, Zach Hocker has kicked long field goals at War Memorial if needed. I’ve seen him do it.
As written in this space at the beginning of the season, the most important game on Arkansas’ schedule continues to be the next SEC game. Go Hogs!