Though it hasn’t always been pretty — Western Division, I’m looking at you — fans have to love the way this Southwestern Athletic Conference season is winding down. With one game remaining, both divisions are still in doubt.
Two different teams could still advance to represent the East in the SWAC Championship Game, while three are alive in the West. Both divisions boast a team that controls its own destiny — and, remarkably, they play on Saturday: If Alabama A&M beats Prairie View, A&M represents the East. Meanwhile, if Prairie View tops Alabama A&M, the Panthers will advance to their second-ever league title match as the West champ.
After that, it gets more interesting. There follows a complicated list of scenario-based if/then equations — at least on one side of the bracket. In the SWAC’s Eastern divison, if Prairie View defeats Alabama A&M, then Alabama State advances to the SWAC title match. (Jackson State is, technically, involved with these scenarios, but has been ruled ineligible for postseason action.)
Peek over the West bracket, though and — well, you’ll want to get it all straight going into the final games of the league year …
In the SWAC’s Western Division, if Prairie View loses to Alabama A&M, then Grambling can advance to the SWAC Championship Game with a win over in-state rival Southern in the Bayou Classic. If both Prairie View and Grambling finish with season-ending victories, leaving both the Tigers and Prairie View at 6-3, then Panthers advance to the title match by virtue of their head-to-head win over Grambling.
What if both Grambling and Prairie View lose? That would leave a three-way tie at 5-4 between Prairie View, Grambling, and Southern, with Prairie View — which defeated both Grambling and Southern head-to-head — as the Western champ.
But wait. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, at 4-4 in the SWAC, also has a game left. What if Grambling and Prairie View lost, and UAPB won — meaning a four-way tie at 5-4 between Prairie View, Pine Bluff, Grambling and Southern? UAPB holds the tie-breaker there, by virtue of what would be its 2-1 record against the other three teams tied and a head-to-head victory over Prairie View.
So, yes, there is a scenario by which Arkansas-Pine Bluff — despite a two-game swoon beginning in late October that, at that point, had the Golden Lions posting a losing record in the SWAC — are your Western Division champions.
Here’s how it shakes out …
–If Prairie View beats Alabama A&M, then Prairie View and Alabama State will play for the SWAC title.
–If Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff both win, then Alabama A&M advances; the Bayou Classic will decide the Western title — A Grambling win sends the Tigers to Birmingham, Ala.; a Southern win sends Pine Bluff.
–If Alabama A&M wins and Arkansas-Pine Bluff loses, then Pine Bluff is eliminated — but the West still turns on the Bayou Classic. If Grambling wins, it’s in. If Southern wins, Prairie View will play A&M for the championship.