Hogs Go Bowling For BCS

FAYETTEVILLE — No one said the Bowl Championship Series is fair, or for that matter, makes much sense.

College football coaches are more familiar with X's and O's than decimal places and computer rankings. And at this point in the season, it seems like everything but a player's shoe size can alter the BCS rankings by a fraction of a point.

That's why Arkansas coach Houston Nutt admits he'd rather not worry about the BCS just yet. He figures everything will take care of itself as long as the No. 5 Razorbacks keep winning, including at Mississippi State on Saturday.

But it's hard not to pay attention to the different scenarios that would need to occur over the final few weeks of the regular season for Arkansas to get invited to the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS national championship game. After all, this is what college football is all about.

"Right now, we're sitting here and there are a few things that need to happen for Arkansas to have a chance to play for the national title," said Brad Edwards, ESPN.com's BCS expert.

"This time last week, there were so many things that needed to happen it wasn't even what you'd call a realistic chance."

For as impressive as Arkansas' turnaround has been since a season-opening 50-14 loss to No. 4 Southern California, it took several teams stumbling last week for the Razorbacks to be included in the national championship discussion.

In one of the more unpredictable weeks in recent memory, previously No. 3 Louisville, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Auburn and No. 8 California lost. That shook up the BCS standings and helped Arkansas become a serious contender.

The Razorbacks (9-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) moved up six spots to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, five spots to No. 6 in the USA Today coaches poll and four spots to No. 7 in the BCS standings.

"I think probably the two biggest (losses) were Louisville and Texas," Edwards said. "Those were teams Arkansas probably had no chance to get over the top of if they had won out."

Arkansas is still considered a longshot to be one of the final two teams that plays for a national championship, but when it comes to something as unpredictable as the BCS, anything is possible.

At the moment, there are six teams ahead of the Razorbacks in the BCS rankings. There is a logjam of one-loss teams that includes No. 4 USC, No. 3 Florida and No. 6 Notre Dame.

There are also three undefeated teams ranked ahead of Arkansas, though one of them will have a loss after Saturday when No. 1 Ohio State hosts No. 2 Michigan.

No. 7 Rutgers, meanwhile, doesn't appear to be as much of a factor if Arkansas can win its final two regular-season games over Mississippi State and No. 9 LSU and then beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 2.

"Arkansas at 12-1, I think they would have a shot of moving ahead of the loser of that (Michigan-Ohio State) game. But I think Arkansas needs other help," said Jerry Palm, a well-known BCS expert who runs the Web site, collegerpi.com.

"I think they need USC to get beat. I think they might need Notre Dame to get beat. I'm not so sure about Rutgers. How voters seem willing to disrespect Rutgers, (the Razorbacks) might be able to jump them on their own."

Edwards said he doesn't think Arkansas needs to worry about Rutgers at this point. It might be tough for college football voters to rank Rutgers, even if undefeated, ahead of a one-loss SEC champion. The Big East is just not that strong, or well-respected.

But the team that has perhaps the best chance of ruining Arkansas' national championship hopes is USC, Palm and Edwards agree.

"Certainly, if USC is still sitting there with a one-loss team, Arkansas has got no shot," Palm said.

Who would have imagined on Sept. 2 that USC's 36-point win over Arkansas in Reynolds Razorback Stadium could determine which of the two teams gets the chance to play for a national title?

"There is no way that anybody can justify a one-loss Arkansas ahead of a one-loss USC," Edwards said, "because they have that head-to-head result, not only because of the margin of victory but because it was on Arkansas' home field."

For the time being, Nutt said he'd rather his players worry about beating Mississippi State and clinching the SEC West title on Saturday instead of worrying about things they can't control like the BCS.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville knows all about that. His Tigers went through the SEC undefeated in 2004 and still didn't get the chance to play in the BCS national championship game.

"We had a scenario in 2004 where we knew that we had to win and had to win convincingly, which we did the last couple of games," Tuberville said. "But it still comes down to a popularity contest.

"That's basically what the BCS (is) when it comes down to the end."

Frankly, who knows what will happen when it comes to the BCS? Especially in Arkansas' case.

"I think we are guaranteed to have griping," Palm said of the remaining teams in the BCS hunt. "I don't know what else will happen, but I think griping will happen."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories