In this Oct. 4, 2014, Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) celebrates with fans after defeating Vanderbilt 44-17 in an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga. After serving a four-game suspension for taking money for autographs, Georgia's star running back returns for a big one: the 16th-ranked Bulldogs hosting ninth-ranked Auburn. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
This is an Aug. 2, 2014, file photo showing Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen speaking during media day in Starkville, Miss. No. 1 Mississippi State plays at No. 4 Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
This is an Aug. 2, 2014, file photo showing Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen speaking during media day in Starkville, Miss. No. 1 Mississippi State plays at No. 4 Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

Mississippi State beats Alabama on Saturday, wins the Southeastern Conference championship game and goes merrily along into the College Football Playoff.

Or Alabama defeats Mississippi State and Auburn, takes the SEC title game and rolls into the playoff. That could even earn the SEC two spots in the final four, depending on how the Bulldogs do against Mississippi in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving weekend.

Those are the easy solutions for the SEC.

Things could, however, still become very complicated, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of crazy upsets to get there.

Barring no other upsets with the teams involved, imagine this scenario. If Mississippi State loses at Alabama and at Ole Miss and the Tide tumbles against Auburn in the Iron Bowl after Auburn beats Georgia on Saturday — VIOLA! — four-way tie for first in the SEC West with each team 6-2.

The tiebreakers would send Auburn to the SEC championship game by virtue of a 2-1 record against the other three and a victory over Ole Miss.

As tough as the SEC West has been this season, even a two-loss team from that division with a conference championship would likely have a spot in the playoff — especially if that two-loss team is Auburn. The Tigers have one of the best out-of-conference wins in the country at Kansas State.

“We have more ranked teams in the SEC West than any other conference, total,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.

Where it could get weird for the SEC is if the West becomes a two-loss logjam and the winner loses the SEC championship game to Georgia, Missouri or Florida. Yes, the Gators are still alive for the division title.

Then what? It would be hard to make a case for any of those East teams making the playoff.

Georgia would enter the championship with three losses under that scenario. Missouri, even if it does avoid another conference defeat, would still have that home loss to Indiana on the resume and no regular-season wins against any of the top-tier West teams. As for Florida, well, maybe if the Gators can beat Florida State, a case could be made for them as a team on the rise.

Would the committee reward a two-loss SEC team from the West that didn’t even win its division? And if so, which one? Or — GASP! — just leave the SEC out altogether?

The picks:


No. 1 Mississippi State (plus 7 1/2) at No. 4 Alabama

Tide has won its two SEC home games 101-21 — but that was against Florida and Texas A&M … ALABAMA 35-24.

No. 2 Florida State (minus 1 1/2) at Miami

Seminoles have won four straight against rival Hurricanes, average score 35-17 … FLORIDA STATE 31-24.

No. 9 Auburn (plus 2 1/2) at No. 16 Georgia

Bulldogs RB Todd Gurley returns just in time to face Tigers’ tattered defense … GEORGIA 42-38.

No. 8 Ohio State (minus 12) at Minnesota

Forecast: Subfreezing temperatures and 40 percent chance of snow. #B1G … OHIO STATE 31-17.


No. 11 Nebraska (plus 6) at No. 22 Wisconsin

Loser is likely out of Big Ten West race … NEBRASKA 28-24.


No. 5 TCU (minus 27 1/2) at Kansas

Horned Frogs can’t afford a less-than-impressive victory against lowly Jayhawks with Baylor closing ground … TCU 56-17.


No. 7 Arizona State (minus 9 1/2) at Oregon State

While Sun Devils roll, longtime Beavers coach Mike Riley is feeling some heat in Corvallis … ARIZONA STATE 35-14.


Northwestern (plus 17 1/2) at No. 15 Notre Dame

Give it away, now! Irish QB Everett Golson has turnovers in last six games. Only another bunch will keeps this close … NOTRE DAME 42-20.


Michigan State (minus 12 1/2) at Maryland

Terps without top offensive player, WR Stefon Diggs, who is suspended for this game and will likely miss the rest of season with kidney injury … MICHIGAN STATE 38-14.

Washington (plus 9) at No. 17 Arizona

All four teams Huskies lost to have been ranked at the time … ARIZONA 28-21.

No. 18 Clemson (minus 1) at No. 24 Georgia Tech

Tigers QB DeShaun Watson returns. Good for fans of exciting football players. Not necessarily good for fans of Yellow Jackets … CLEMSON 28-24.

Virginia Tech (plus 5 1/2) at No. 19 Duke

After losing 12 straight to Hokies, Blue Devils go for two wins in a row … DUKE 24-20.

No. 20 LSU (plus 2) at Arkansas

Yes, the Razorbacks, who have not won an SEC game yet under coach Bret Bielema, are favored … LSU 27-21.

Rice (plus 21) at No. 21 Marshall

Owls have won six straight and represent best chance for Marshall to lose before Conference USA title game … MARSHALL 48-31

No. 25 Utah (plus 7 1/2) at Stanford

Cardinal were upset in Salt Lake City last season by Utes … STANFORD 21-16.


Last week: Record straight: 13-3; vs. points 7-8.

Season: Record straight: 154-44; vs. points 91-104-2.

Best bet: 5-6.

Upset special: 4-8.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

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