Sorting the BCS and SEC Bowl Pictures after a Wild Rivalry Weekend

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn's victory over Alabama sent shockwaves through potential BCS matchups and played a role in sorting out the SEC bowl picture. With a handful of regular season games and conference championship games left on the schedule, who will play in the National Championship, BCS games, and SEC bowls.

The Auburn Tigers' victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday made the race to the BCS Championship Game the most interesting story for the rest of the college football season.  Much will not be known until the Coaches and Harris Polls come out Sunday morning, and then most of that will be solidified after the release of the latest BCS standings Sunday night.

The last 72 hours provided several changes for the BCS picture and the SEC Bowl picture.

  1. The SEC picked up a tenth and final bowl eligible team when Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to move to 6-6.
  2. Auburn and Missouri qualified for the SEC Championship game, which should assure the SEC of two BCS bowl spots.  The new question is will one of those be in the BCS National Championship Game.
  3. Is Ohio State a deserving No. 2 team? Given their lack of quality opponents and Auburn's win over Alabama, many feel Auburn and possibly Missouri would be more deserving of a BCSNCG birth than an undefeated Ohio State.
  4. Clemson's loss to South Carolina made things a bit tougher, but still likely, for the Tigers to get into the BCS mix.
  5. Florida State should be the new No. 1 team in the country after defeating Florida Saturday.
  6. Fresno State lost Friday, meaning there is only one potential BCS-Buster, Northern Illinois left in the mix.
  7. Could Wisconsin's loss to Penn State, and a potential loss by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship leave the Rose Bowl without a Big Ten Team. It will if no one finishes in the Top-14 of the BCS and Ohio State is scooped up for the BCSNCG.

So how will things shake out for the SEC teams and bowl games?  Much of that depends on if Florida State and Ohio State can win their conference championship games.  If both manage to do so, the rest of the story will be how do the voters feel about Ohio State compared to a one-loss SEC champion.  Both Missouri and Auburn make compelling cases to be in the BCNCG, but the squad from the Plains might have the stronger case should they win the SEC.

So to kick things off, what does this mean for the SEC's chances to make it to the BCSNCG and attempt to stretch their streak of national titles to eight in a row? The SEC's best chance to try to continue that streak is for Auburn to win the SEC Championship game.  The Tigers have a win over Alabama, and by beating Missouri, they would also knock off another top-five team.  Those two wins would be two more than the Buckeyes have in 2013. On the other hand, Missouri only lost once, a double-overtime game against a top-ten South Carolina team, and the Tigers did not have their starting quarterback.  They would also hold a top-five win by beating Auburn.  Both of these teams have more merit to make this game, but it will be interesting to see if the human element of the BCS is willing to leave out an undefeated major champion conference.

Alabama fans have to feel as if their chances of making it to the BCSNCG are all but dead, but if the improbable occurred and Duke won the ACC, Michigan State the Big Ten, Auburn the SEC, and Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State for good measure, college football fans could be treated to a rematch of the Iron Bowl in the BCSNCG.

So before the SEC bowl picture can be painted, the BCS has to be sorted first.  Here is a stab:

BCSNCG: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Oregon (Baylor could go here)

Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Alabama (replaces Ohio State)

Sugar: Auburn vs. UCF

Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois

The only change to this could be if Alabama went to the Orange Bowl. Clemson could be outside looking in as Baylor would go to the Rose to face Stanford.  All of this is also predicated on Michigan State falling out of the top-14 in the BCS with a loss to Ohio State.  If Michigan State stays in the top-14 after a loss, it would look like this.

BCSNCG: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Orange: Clemson vs. Alabama

Rose: Stanford vs. Michigan State

Sugar: Auburn vs. UCF

Fiesta: Oklahoma State. vs. Northern Illinois

Of course, if Northern Illinois loses to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship, UCF heads to the Fiesta with a different at-large team going to the Sugar Bowl.

With two SEC teams in the BCS, that means that the SEC will not send a team to the Independence Bowl.  For those who need a refresher, the selection order is as follows after the BCS: Capital One (winningest team in SEC or team within one win), Cotton/Outback, Chick-Fil-A, Gator, Music City, Liberty, BBVA, Independence.

Assuming Auburn as the SEC champion, the race for the Capital One Bowl comes down to Missouri and South Carolina. The Gamecocks will get the nod, sending Missouri to the Outback Bowl, however, it would not be an upset to see Missouri in the Capital One and South Carolina in the Outback.  The Cotton Bowl will be tricky, but look for LSU to get that birth with Texas A&M headed to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

If Missouri is the SEC Champion, Auburn heading to the Capital One Bowl keeps things nice and neat for the Cotton and the Outback Bowls.  If South Carolina still went to the Capital One Bowl, LSU would most likely still go to the Cotton and Auburn would go to the Outback Bowl, even though a team from the East usually goes to this bowl.  The simple fact is that Georgia would be far less deserving than Auburn. However, a pick from Auburn and South Carolina for the Capital One will result in the Tigers going there with South Carolina in the Outback.

The bottom half of the SEC bowls could have a little bit of trickery to them.  Look for the Gator Bowl to snag Georgia, a team not usually available, sending Ole Miss to the Music City Bowl.  However, there is a chance that the Gator takes Vanderbilt, meaning the Georgia would end up in the Music City Bowl.

If the Gator picked on merit alone, Vanderbilt would be the choice.  They have eight wins, and they defeated Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in the same season.  If they were ever going to get to go, would it not have to be this year?For whatever reason there is a perception that Vanderbilt does not travel.  This perception is incorrect given that the Commodores have sold out their initial allotment of tickets each of their last three bowl games, but it persists.

The one game that seems most unlikely for Vanderbilt is the Music City Bowl given that they played there last year and that bowl teams playing at home drive less money into the city's economy.   For the sake of discussion, let's say that Georgia goes to the Gator, Ole Miss to the Music City and Vanderbilt to the Liberty Bowl.  With those teams in place, Mississippi State heads to the BBVA Bowl.  While there is no written rule about these games, it would be unlikely that an 8-win Vanderbilt team would be jumped by a 6-win Mississippi State team.

If Vanderbilt did end up in the Gator Bowl, Georgia would be a shoe-in for the Music City Bowl.  That would leave Mississippi State and Ole Miss as the pool for the Liberty Bowl.  Mississippi State has had a good showing in this bowl in the past, and the Liberty would be very interested in Mississippi State, but expect the BBVA to not want Ole Miss a second year in a row.

Last year, Ole Miss fans played a large role in setting the all-time attendance record for this bowl, but they entered that game under a completely different set of circumstances.  Could they match that effort again, or could Mississippi State, who has the momentum of an Egg Bowl win for bowl eligibility, have the fans who could make a push to set a new record.

Even though the Liberty picks ahead of the BBVA this year, the BBVA really needs Mississippi State more than the Liberty Bowl needs the Bulldogs to feel better about having a solid crowd this year. The guess here is that the BBVA lobbies hard for a new team this  year, and the SEC and the two bowls play nice to send Ole Miss to the Liberty and Mississippi State to the BBVA if Vandy is in the Gator Bowl and Georgia in the Music City Bowl.

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