What happens if Auburn loses Saturday?

The more I look at the current BCS standings and the more I converse with ESPN’s BCS guru, Brad Edwards, the more convinced I am that Auburn needs to win this weekend in the SEC championship game to get a shot at the national championship.

I doubt that causes much of a ripple in the Auburn camp. I’m sure the Tigers plan on winning. After all, they’ve done so for 12 straight games this season.

But if they were to lose a close game to South Carolina and finish 12-1, I think the Tigers would then be on the outside looking in when those final BCS standings are released next Sunday.

Edwards, who tracks the BCS for ESPN, thinks Auburn would have only about a 10 percent chance of staying in one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings if the Tigers were to lose to the Gamecocks in a closely played game.

Keep in mind that all this goes out the window should Oregon lose to Oregon State.

But Edwards believes that Auburn would definitely fall behind TCU to No. 3 in both of the human polls and could fall even further with both Wisconsin and Stanford playing well down the stretch.

Still, if Auburn were to stay ahead of Wisconsin and Stanford in the human polls and not drop any further than No. 3, Edwards said the Tigers might then have an outside shot to hang on. The Tigers were No. 1 in all of the computers this week.

“Auburn should stay ahead of TCU in most of the computers, and if the Tigers managed to remain at No. 1 in a couple of computers, that could make things interesting,” Edwards said.

At the end of the day, Edwards just doesn’t see Auburn being No. 3 on most of the ballots following a loss in the final game of season.

It’s hard to argue that, too, even though the Tigers would still have a strong case. They have more wins (5) over teams in the top 25 of the BCS standings than anybody else in the country right now. That compares to only one for TCU, which beat No. 20 Utah.

The killer for the Tigers would be losing that final game before the ballots are turned in. Historically, voters simply haven’t been willing to reward a team that loses that late (especially in its conference championship game) unless several other teams at the top of the polls also lose. Oregon is the only other team that plays Saturday. Stanford, TCU and Wisconsin are all finished.