Believe it or not, there's more to the SEC race right now then the LSU-Alabama game coming up Saturday. The Eastern Division is headed for an exciting finish and the possibility exists for Georgia's Mark Richt, just a couple months after the lynch mob was coming after him, to earn a place alongside the more heralded West winner in the conference championship game. And it's not yet a foregone conclusion that the West champ will be LSU or 'Bama. Should LSU win on Saturday night, they still have to play one-loss Arkansas in the regular season finale with the possiblity of a three-way tie. And don't forget Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team, who controls their own destiny ahead of Georgia, although that might not be the case after the Gamecocks visit Arkansas on Saturday.
The SEC is a mortal lock to get one of the four at-large bids to the BCS (no conference can get more than one extra bid, otherwise this league grabs at least two, and possibly three of the at-large spots. The at-large bid in turn pulls the conference's middle class up one rung in the angling for bowl position. The top non-BCS prize goes to the Capital One Bowl to play the Big Ten runner-up, and if all goes to form, that would be Arkansas. It's also possible that if Georgia wins out, but is shut out of the league title game, they grab a trip to either Orlando or to Tampa for the Outback Bowl, who usually (though not always) chooses an East Division team to pair up with Big Ten #3. Another interesting subplot in the West is who gets the Cotton Bowl bid to play Big 12 #2 (perhaps a 10-2 Oklahoma team). If Auburn beats everyone but Alabama, that gets the Tigers to 8-4 and a trip to Dallas would be a nice reward for a team that's achieved more than most of us thought possible after the loss of Cam Newton and so many other key contributors in last year's national championship run.
Other nice bowl spots for the SEC middle would be the Chick-fil-A on New Year's Eve, where they get the ACC runner-up (perhaps Virginia Tech), the January 1 Gator Bowl, one of three New Year's games against the Big Ten–last year Mississippi State used this bid to blast Michigan and end Rich Rodriguez's career. The six-pack of LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn are poised to fill the bowl spots from the very top down through here, while Florida, Vandy and Mississippi State are 4-4 and looking to ensure a holiday trip somewhere.
Trent Richardson is the lead candidate for Player of the Year and I don't have a problem with that–he's the focal point of an offense run by a sophomore quarterback and Richardson has ably kept the pressure off of A.J. McCarron. But I'm also moved by the candidacy of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who's stepped in for Ryan Mallett, seen top runner Knile Davis go down and still keep the Hogs churning. If Wilson comes up big against South Carolina and leads his team to a 10-win season he probably gets my vote.