How the West can be won…again

So it’s clear that the SEC West will be determined on November 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama are 8-0 this season, and unblemished in conference play, but one has to walk away in two weeks with their first overall and conference loss. This will put the winning team in the drivers seat for not only the SEC title, but the BCS title as well.

The October 23 BCS standings brought a new face to the national championship discussion from the same state as the last one – Oklahoma State. Even before Oklahoma and Wisconsin’s collapse this past weekend, the computers have kept a keen eye on Oklahoma State ranking them first last week, and a near unanimous first this week. Only one poll put them second instead of first, but due to the rules, that was thrown out.

LSU and Alabama are the unanimous first and second respectively from the human votes, but Oklahoma State will be there waiting for November 5 to come and pass.

Another interesting scenario is how Stanford falls. The Cardinal are ranked third in the Coaches Poll, and fourth in the Harris Poll, but the computers have them ninth on average. The highest vote they got was 7, and the lowest was 21. This from an undefeated Pac-12 school with the assumed, near unanimous Heisman winner at quarterback.

Boise State, who is ranked fifth in each human poll, is also fifth with the computers. Due to Stanford’s low rating on paper, the Broncos are able to grab the No. 4 spot. Should Oklahoma State lose somewhere along the way, let’s say on December 3 against previous No. 3 Oklahoma, or maybe before that on November 12 against the giant killers from Lubbock – would Boise State really be in the drivers seat against the Alabama/LSU winner?

We can’t forget the other unbeatens, Clemson and Kansas State. For argument’s sake, we’ll leave Houston out. Kansas State has to play Oklahoma State, so assuming the Cowboys take care of business, that will eliminate one team. Clemson has no ranked teams left on their schedule outside of South Carolina, who will have to take care of business in the usual in-state rivalry.

With all of this said, is it possible that the two teams from the SEC West that sit atop the polls now, can once again play each other in the championship? Here are the six stars that have to align to make that dream a reality.

1. The game has to be close.

If either team ends up routing the other, then there is no question that a rematch won’t happen. It’s already bad enough that the game takes place so late in the season, but if it’s not down to the wire, and with two minutes to go, people aren’t still on the edge of their seats – then don’t expect it to happen.

2. Oklahoma State can’t survive their impending schedule.

The Cowboys have to face unbeaten Kansas State on November 5, the same day as Alabama vs. LSU. Should they lose that game, I see them dropping well behind the loser of the Alabama/LSU game, and probably behind Oklahoma for the time being. If they do win, and inevitably move up to second, then they must survive Tubberville’s giant killers, Texas Tech, who knocked off Oklahoma this past weekend, on November 12. Then for the last game of the season, defeat cross-state rivals Oklahoma.

2b. Kansas State can’t beat Oklahoma State, and then run the table.

Before Kansas State gets to the Cowboys, they have to go through the Sooners. K-State has only played one ranked team to this point, and now must face four in a row, including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas. I don’t see them being a problem.

3. Clemson needs to lose to South Carolina November 26.

Clemson is barely hanging on at all, despite being fairly impressive this season. Whoever loses the November 5 SEC showdown needs to become the biggest Gamecock fan ever. South Carolina has to win this game, or else Clemson needs to lose their conference championship, but it doesn’t look like the ACC will be able to stop them this year.

4. Stanford needs to lose to Oregon on November 12.

Oregon has crept back into the national title picture after their opening loss to LSU. Should Alabama defeat the Tigers in a couple of weeks, then I don’t see LSU dropping below Oregon. Should Oregon defeat Stanford, then LSU can have a strong case to remain ahead of any Pac-12 school.

5. People need to continue to hate Boise State.

Boise has done nothing but prove people wrong for years. Last year’s slight blemish against Nevada was all the proof people needed to call them pretenders. However, this season, they are undefeated and back on top again after defeating Georgia in week one. On November 12, the Broncos take on TCU, in what could be a huge deciding factor in whether we even need to think twice about considering them. A less than impressive win over Air Force this past weekend didn’t take well with the voters, as they decided to leap frog Stanford and Oklahoma State over the Broncos. Boise has to earn some major style points in order to get back in the race. They are 5th in every poll right now, but hanging in 4th in the BCS due to Stanford’s weak computer ranking.

6. The voters have to want a rematch.

Once all is said and done, if Alabama is the only undefeated BCS team (sorry Houston, and maybe Boise), then LSU might can garner the publicity to get voted up into second place. If it’s the other way around, then Alabama doesn’t have much to play with to get into second place. LSU can hold the Oregon win over the voter’s heads since if all of this happens, Oregon will most likely be a top five team (they are 7 now). Arkansas has squeaked into the top 10 this week, and Alabama can use that as bait, but most likely, so can LSU (should they win their match up at season’s end).

The best case scenario for this to happen, is if Alabama wins the big game on Nov. 5. LSU still has Arkansas on their schedule, and can already hold the Oregon win as proof they are still the better team compared to the others. Should Alabama lose, their best team left on schedule is No. 23 Auburn, which is a good rivalry, but not enough to move back to second.

I think it’s been proven that a one loss (or even 2-loss) SEC team is better than anyone else in the country, and if you put Alabama and LSU on opposite sides of a bracket right now against the rest of the top 16, they would probably match up in the championship. But when it comes to the polls, some good politics can get you back to where you need to be – just ask the 2-loss LSU team that won the title a few years ago.

So when it comes to the election of a 1-loss SEC team into the title game, I have to place my bets with LSU. So fight on, fight on, fight on Alabama – LSU will see you on January 9 to settle this once and for all.

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Jon Lunceford is a sports media broadcaster and digital professional. Jon is a graduate of the University of Alabama school of journalism, and played football at Birmingham-Southern College. He has also won two AHSAA Football State Championships while at Homewood High School and was a two-time World Cyber Games Team USA representative. He currently hosts Primetime on WJOX 94.5 and runs the high school athletics site JoxPreps.