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LSU can throw SEC West into chaos

The groans could be heard from coast to coast three years ago when the BCS National Championship Game evolved into one big SEC party.

Alabama and LSU played that night in New Orleans for the title, their second meeting of the season. And for everybody outside the SEC’s footprint, it was pure agony.

Those groans could be replaced by cheers if LSU can do what it’s done all but three times under Les Miles, and that’s win Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

Alabama is back on the Bayou for a rivalry that has been the most meaningful in college football for the past five or six years. And this year, if LSU can pull off the upset, it could also lead to utter chaos in the SEC West.

In that case, SEC bias meets SEC bliss, as in bliss around the college football landscape that the SEC won’t be getting two teams into the College Football Playoff and could even risk being left out altogether.

It would take total carnage for the SEC to be completely shut out of the playoff, but imagine a five-way tie in the West with every team having two losses and all those losses coming to each other.

Good luck figuring out that tiebreaker.

Officials in the SEC office were in no rush this week to sift through the different possibilities and hypotheticals with so much football left to be played.

Here we are in the first year of the playoff, and three of the top five teams in the College Football Playoff rankings hail from the SEC as we enter Week 11.

The plot only thickens if LSU wins Saturday night on the Bayou. From there, it essentially becomes a case of all the home teams holding serve to make a five-way tie a reality. We’re talking Alabama beating Mississippi State on Nov. 15, and then Alabama beating Auburn and Ole Miss beating Mississippi State on Nov. 29, the final weekend of the regular season.

Assuming there aren’t any upsets in between, in the above scenario it would come down to a new tiebreaker the SEC implemented this year to replace the old BCS standings. In the past, if all the other tiebreakers had been exhausted -- head-to-head, record in the division, etc. -- how a team finished in the final BCS standings served as the final tiebreaker when three or more teams were deadlocked.

With the BCS standings just a fond memory, the final tiebreaker now would be the combined conference record of each West team's SEC East opponents.

Chew on that for a minute.

This season hasn’t been the East’s finest hour, but remaining East games such as Missouri at Tennessee, South Carolina at Florida, Kentucky at Tennessee and Georgia at Kentucky could end up determining who in the West stays in the playoff chase.

So right now, Auburn’s East opponents (Georgia and South Carolina) are a combined 6-7 in SEC play, meaning Auburn would be out front in a potential five-way tie. Of course, Auburn still has to face Georgia in two weeks, which could potentially mean another loss for the Bulldogs. LSU’s East opponents (Florida and Kentucky) are a combined 5-7. Alabama’s East opponents (Florida and Tennessee) are a combined 4-7.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss would be in trouble if a five-way tie develops. The Bulldogs’ East opponents (Kentucky and Vanderbilt) are a combined 2-9. The Rebels’ East opponents (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) are a combined 1-9.

Here’s something else that hasn’t really been out there: If by some weird circumstance three or more teams have the same nondivision records, the absolute final tiebreaker would be a flip of the coin.

Not even the old eye test would determine who goes to the SEC championship game then.

A coin flip would.

Wonder where a coin flip ranks on the selection committee’s list of criteria for selecting teams.

The reality is we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Then again, in this brand-new playoff world, who isn’t?

It still makes for fascinating debate and gives the rest of the country hope that the SEC’s chances could somehow come down to a coin flip.