With regular season play in the SEC complete, it is time to take a look at the bowl picture for SEC teams. The conference added the Independence Bowl this year to get ten tie-ins, but that game, and most likely, the BBVA Bowl Compass will not have SEC teams in their games.
So how does this shake out? Well, we all know that the winner of Alabama/Georgia in the SEC title game is going to the National Championship. The loser of that game will be out of the BCS because Florida will be No. 3 in the BCS, and that means they automatically qualify for a BCS birth. That means the loser of the SEC championship game will head to the Capital One Bowl.
We know this at the top:
BCS Championship: SEC Championship Game winner
Sugar Bowl: Florida
Capital One Bowl: SEC Championship Game loser
The possibility of surprises lurks in the next set of bowl game selections: The Cotton and the Outback Bowl. While traditionally, the Cotton selects from the West and the Outback selects from the East that does not have to happen. They can flip, or they can pick from the same side. The common thinking is that Outback would take South Carolina and the Cotton would take Texas A&M, but I am not quite sold on that. So now, here is a look at alternate universes.
Scenario 1 Outback Bowl: South Carolina, Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M
Scenario 2 Outback Bowl: LSU, Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M
The rest of this post will read like a "choose your own adventure" story. In the selection process, the Chick-fil-A Bowl goes next, followed by the Gator Bowl, the Music City Bowl, and the Liberty Bowl. If the Outback Bowl reaches out for LSU, this gets interesting for the Chick-fil-A Bowl because Clemson will be in that game. So let's jump down the rabbit hole.
Scenario 1: Chick-fil-A: LSU, Gator: Mississippi State, Music City: Vanderbilt, Liberty/BBVA: Ole Miss
Scenario 2a : Chick-fil-A: Mississippi State, Gator: South Carolina, Music City: Vanderbilt, Liberty/BBVA: Ole Miss
Scenario 2b: Chick-fil-A: Vanderbilt, Gator: South Carolina, Music City: Ole Miss, Liberty/BBVA: Mississippi State
Scenario 2c: Chick-Fil-A: Vanderbilt, Gator: South Carolina, Music City: Mississippi State, Liberty/BBVA: Ole Miss
Even though the Chick-fil-A Bowl all but said Mississippi State had to win to stay in contention for their bowl, with a little surprise, the folks in Atlanta may have to choose between a rematch of Clemson/South Carolina, taking Mississippi State, or going off the map and snagging Vanderbilt. In that scenario, I think the Bulldogs end up in Atlanta.
How likely is any of this? It is hard to say. The league works very closely with the bowls in selecting the matchups, so I would imagine there will be extraordinary pressure on the Outback to go with South Carolina out of the East. However, I could see the Outback Bowl jumping at the chance to land LSU, and the Tigers would much rather go there than Atlanta.
If it all breaks loose, and the Chick-fil-A took Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs could drop all the way down to the Liberty Bowl to avoid two straight trips to Nashville.
If you think that sounds crazy, how about the fact that Florida will most likely face the Big East Champion or Boise St./N. Illinois/Kent State in the Sugar Bowl. Most people are projecting Oklahoma there, but in projected BCS standings Kent State, Boise State, and Northern Illinois stand at Nos. 18-20 ( in some, it is 17 for Boise St.). The two teams ahead of them, UCLA and Texas have difficult games in Stanford and at Kansas State, respectively. With the MAC championship game featuring No.17 and No. 20, it stands to reason that the winner of that game could jump to No. 16 in the BCS, especially if UCLA and Texas both lose.
With the automatic qualifier rules, if a Non-AQ team finishes at 16 or better and ahead of the Big East Champion (which will would be the case), the non-AQ goes to a BCS game.
The selection order this year is Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. The Sugar will get to take the first at-large, however, because they lost their "host" team to the BCS title game, and they will select Florida. The Fiesta will already host the Big 12 champion (either Kansas State or Oklahoma), and would surely select Oregon as their at large. The Sugar will have to choose between the Big East champion or a non-AQ. If the situation sounds familiar, it is. Anyone remember Georgia and Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl?