Arkansas' quick fall all but kills chance to defend division title

Updated: October 28, 2003, 4:37 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Last year, Arkansas overcame a 1-3 start in Southeastern Conference play, tied for the Western Division title and played for the SEC championship in Atlanta.

The chances of that happening again aren't good.

The Razorbacks (4-3, 1-3 SEC) would need a three-way tie with LSU and Auburn at 5-3. Even if that remote possibility occurred, the tie likely would have to be broken by going to the seventh, and final, entry on the list of tiebreakers: a vote of SEC athletic directors.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt won't talk about anything but playing at Kentucky this Saturday. After the 4-0 start, there was far too much conjecture about the Razorbacks playing on New Year's Day or a couple of days later in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.

"We're just worried about one game, Kentucky," Nutt said. "You just want to win the one in front of you."

For Arkansas to be part of a vote, a long list of improbable things would have to happen.

First, Ole Miss (6-2, 4-0) has to lose its final four games, including its season finale against Mississippi State (2-6, 1-3). Meanwhile, LSU (7-1, 4-1) and Auburn (5-3, 4-1) have to lose two of three games left on the SEC schedule.

Once all tiebreakers are exhausted, other conferences' rules call for teams with a higher ranking or teams that have the longest absence from the title game or a top bowl game.

If the athletic directors selected the SEC West representative on similar criteria, LSU is ranked No. 7 in the latest Bowl Championship Series poll, but Auburn has been away from the title game the longest.

If a four-way tie at 5-3 between LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas comes to fruition, LSU would likely have the upperhand. LSU and Auburn would both be 2-1 against the other teams in the four-way tie and LSU would represent the West in the championship game by virtue of its win over Auburn.

In a three-way tie between Ole Miss, LSU and Arkansas, LSU would have the upperhand there, too, once the three teams got deep into SEC tie-breaking rules.

The biggest problem with any tiebreaker scenario is that the Razorbacks have little control. They have already lost to two teams above them in the standings -- Ole Miss and Auburn -- and a road trip to play LSU would be a tough victory.

When Arkansas started 2002 with a 1-3 record in the SEC, the three losses were to teams that had no effect on the SEC West race.

The Razorbacks lost to Eastern Division foes Tennessee and Kentucky, and to Alabama, which had the best Western Division record at 6-2, but was ineligible to compete for the SEC title because of NCAA sanctions.

Arkansas stormed through the rest of the West, beating Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU. A tie at 5-3 between Arkansas, Auburn and LSU was broken by the Razorbacks' victory over both.

This year is a different story.

After Arkansas beat Alabama in two overtimes, it looked like the Razorbacks would be favored over every other team on the schedule.

Now, Arkansas needs two wins in its final five games just to be bowl eligible. Nutt said a victory or two would cure a lot of ailments.

"That's the dose of medicine we need," Nutt said. "That's all we need."

Before playing LSU in the season finale the day after Thanksgiving, Arkansas faces the easiest part of its schedule. After the trip to Kentucky (4-4, 1-3), the Razorbacks play three straight at home.

South Carolina (5-3, 2-3) comes to Little Rock for a Thursday game on Nov. 6 before Arkansas plays back-to-back in Fayetteville against teams that are 2-6 right now -- New Mexico State of the Sun Belt Conference and Mississippi State.

"You just have to think positive and keep going," Nutt said.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index