COLUMBIA, Mo. _ Ready for a game of BCS What If?
Should No. 5 Missouri defeat No. 3 Auburn in Saturday's SEC championship game and No. 1 Florida State or No. 2 Ohio State lose in their respective conference title games, Gary Pinkel's Tigers will all but certainly play for the national championship, ESPN BCS analyst Brad Edwards said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
The Tigers (11-1) will need some help with a Seminoles or Buckeyes loss to Duke or Michigan State, but Edwards is confident that Alabama, sitting at No. 4 in the BCS standings, would not vault into the BCS championship game ahead of Missouri under that scenario.
"If Florida State or Ohio State loses, I think the SEC champion is in (the BCS championship game)," Edwards said. "I know people are looking at Alabama right now one spot ahead of Missouri in the BCS standings. Naturally you would think there's a chance that maybe Missouri wouldn't jump Alabama. I guess I can't say definitively that there's no way Missouri doesn't jump Alabama because a win over Auburn in the computer part of it alone would send them past Alabama. That's a pretty small margin that Alabama leads Missouri by right now. Even if the (human) polls didn't move them at all, the computers would do enough to put them past Alabama."
But, and Edwards is an expert because he considers all possible scenarios, there is one situation where he could envision voters perhaps favoring Alabama over SEC champion Missouri.
"Obviously nobody wants to see this happen, but if Missouri were to win the game but (quarterback) James Franklin would have a season-ending injury late in the game and all the voters know, 'If I put Missouri in there, they're having to play Florida State with a backup quarterback,'" he said. "Rather than making them a sacrificial lamb, I could see voters saying, 'You know what, I'll put Alabama ahead because there will be no point in playing that game against Florida State without Franklin.' How many voters would do that, I don't know. But that's about the only scenario that I can think of where it would happen. Anything normal, Missouri doesn't have to worry about passing Alabama."
(Any voter that would make that decision would presumably be unaware that Maty Mauk led Mizzou to three wins in four starts while Franklin was hurt this season _ though not against a team the caliber of Florida State.)
Here's where things could get messy. Should FSU and Ohio State both win Saturday, could either one-loss Auburn or Missouri jump past undefeated Ohio State and into the BCS title game? Doubtful. Edwards said 75 percent of the voters would have to rank Auburn ahead of the Buckeyes for Auburn to climb to No. 2 in the final BCS standings.
As far as Missouri, the chances of that happening are more remote.
"I don't really think Missouri has any chance of finishing ahead of an undefeated Ohio State, whereas Auburn has a slight (chance), very slight," Edwards said. "But still I can acknowledge how it could happen: Because Auburn has a win over Alabama, which obviously Missouri doesn't have. It's kind of a trump card win. And Auburn is ranked higher in the computers this week than Missouri. So, Auburn's in a stronger potion with the BCS formula and how it operates. Even then Auburn is a long shot to be able to pass Ohio State if the Buckeyes win."
Not that it would come as any consolation to Mizzou, but Edwards believes the playoff selection committee that decides the four-team playoff next year would favor Missouri under the scenario stated above.
"If this were a selection committee choosing two teams instead of the BCS formula, I think Missouri would have a better argument than Auburn does," he said. "A selection committee will go in there like the (NCAA Tournament) basketball committee does and one of the things they hash out is extenuating circumstances."
Translation: the injury Franklin actually suffered in October.
"They look at injuries and especially when people who played certain games are now out for the season or guys who missed a game are now back," Edward said. "The fact that Missouri's one loss not only came in double overtime to a really good (South Carolina) team, but that it came without their starting quarterback. When you consider that since James Franklin has come back that Missouri won at Ole Miss and beat Texas A&M and (would have) won the SEC championship, I think as a selection committee you could talk through that and decide, 'We're going to look at Missouri ... as the team they have right now on the field, and not the team that lost its one game."
"While a lot of teams can say that for various reasons, like Auburn could say, 'We weren't the same team we were in September when we lost to LSU.' That's true, but as far as the actual players on the field, especially quarterback, that's a big deal. When you lose in double overtime with a freshman quarterback who had very little experience, it's very easy to assume Missouri would have won if their starting quarterback had been in there for the entire game."