Could the SEC West be on its way to a crazy November that produces the need for a three-way tiebreaker to determine which team goes to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game in December?
If Alabama finishes out the season unbeaten, the short answer to that question is “no.”
And while Crimson Tide fans are probably pretty confident that will be the case, there is still a not-so-far-fetched scenario that could leave the West in the hands of the SEC three-way tiebreaker rules.
Texas A&M, Auburn and Alabama could each arrive at a 7-1 conference record at the end of the regular season, and here’s how:
- Alabama wins two of three remaining conference games, with the loss coming in Iron Bowl against Auburn. (at LSU, vs. Mississippi State, vs. Auburn)
- Texas A&M wins all remaining games. (at Mississippi State, vs. Ole Miss, vs. LSU)
- Auburn wins all remaining conference games. (vs. Vanderbilt, at Georgia, at Alabama)
The league is prepared for such a scenario. Here is a look at the procedures for a three-way tie atop a division, taken directly from the official SEC rules:
Three-Team Tie (or more): If three teams (or more) are tied for a division title, the following procedure will be used in the following order: (Note: If one of the procedures results in one team being eliminated and two remaining, the two-team tiebreaker procedure as stated in No. 1 above will be used):
A. Combined head to head record among the tied teams;
B. Record of the tied teams within the division;
C. Head to head competition against the team within the division with the best overall Conference record (divisional and non divisional) and proceeding through the division (multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last and a tie for first place will be broken before a tie for fourth place);
D. Overall Conference record against non divisional teams;
E. Combined record against all common non divisional teams;
F. Record against the common non divisional team with the best overall Conference record (divisional and non divisional) and proceeding through other common non divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division; and
G. Best cumulative Conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents (Note: If two teams’ non-divisional opponents have the same cumulative record, then the two-team tiebreaker procedures apply. If four teams are tied, and three teams’ non-divisional opponents have the same cumulative record, the three-team tiebreaker procedures will be used beginning with 2.A.);
Example (Western 1 would be the representative)
TIED TEAMS NON-DIVISIONAL OPPONENTS CUMULATIVE RECORD Western 1 Eastern Opponents: 14-2 Western 2 Eastern Opponents: 12-4 Western 3 Eastern Opponents: 8-8
H. Coin flip of the tied teams with the team with the odd result being the representative (Example: If there are two teams with tails and one team with heads, the team with heads is the representative).
The issue here is that the three teams may need to go as far down the tiebreaker list as option G, which would put the SEC West championship in the hands of SEC East teams.
In some ways, that makes for great drama. In other ways, it seems terribly unfair to the helpless SEC West title contenders.
If it does get to this point, it’s worth making note of the SEC East opponents for each school:
Alabama: Tennessee, Kentucky
Auburn: Vanderbilt, Georgia
Texas A&M: Tennessee, South Carolina