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Playing the What If Game

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As you may have heard, the Razorbacks have a pretty big game coming up this Friday. Looking back into the mists of history, the unfortunate 1998 clash with Tennessee stands out as the last Arkansas game with such national significance, or perhaps even the epic 1969 faceoff against Texas. At any rate, the LSU game is serious stuff.

The oddsmakers aren't giving the Hogs a lot of credit, and certainly beating the #1 Tigers in their home stadium is no small task. It's the general policy of this blog not to speculate overly much on such matters, as the potential for jinxing is extremely high. But, the scenarios quickly get so weird with an Arkansas victory that it's fun to run through the possibilities.

Here are a few of the many options:

- Hogs lose, wind up in the Capital One (or Cotton) Bowl. Certainly not the worst thing in the world, but definitely a bummer to see so many less-deserving teams make BCS bowls over us. Realistically, this is the most likely option.

- Hogs win, but due to the SEC tiebreak formula Alabama winds up in the conference championship game and Arkansas is shut out of the national championship conversation.

- Hogs win and rise high enough in the polls that they make the BCS Championship Game (presumably a rematch against Bama) even without winning the conference. Frankly, this seems so farfetched as to barely be worth mentioning but apparently it's mathematically possible.

- Hogs win but remain in the #3 slot behind Alabama and LSU and wind up back in the Capital One Bowl. This seems almost ridiculously unfair (has a #3 team ever beaten the #1 team on the road and not risen above them?) but noted loudmouth Clay Travis is making a case for it.

- Hogs win, but due to the byzantine inner workings of the BCS process are leapfrogged by Oklahoma State (the computers still have them at #2!), Stanford, Virgina Tech or someone else. This option has the most significant kick-in-the-balls quality to it, so naturally it seems the most likely of the victory scenarios to me.

In the end, though, nobody truly knows. The mix of human perceptions and computer formulas is volatile enough that almost anything is possible (Dr. Saturday has a really good breakdown, though...check it out). My default position is that if there's any way for the Hogs to get screwed in this situation, they most likely will.

But, nonetheless, all the interesting scenarios start with a victory. That much is clear...lose to LSU and none of it matters. Beat LSU and the fun really starts.