Shortly after Mississippi State picked up the Golden Egg in a 17-10 victory over Ole Miss, the university put up a site pre-selling tickets to three potential bowl destinations: the Liberty Bowl, the BBVA Compass Bowl, and the Independence Bowl. Where will the Bulldogs end up? Much of that depends on where the teams ahead of them go.
One of the first things to know is the bowl selection order. This order is based on one SEC team playing in a BCS bowl. Should there be two teams, everyone moves up a slot. The order is as follows: Sugar/BCS Championship, Capital One, Cotton/Outback, Outback/Cotton, Chik-Fil-A, Gator, Music City, Liberty, BBVA, Independence.
With that list in place, it is important to know which teams will be bowl eligible out of the SEC. Those teams are Alabama (11-0), Auburn (10-1), Missouri (10-1), South Carolina (9-2), LSU (8-3), Texas A&M (8-3), Georgia (7-4), Vanderbilt (7-4), Ole Miss (7-5), Mississippi State (6-6).
On the surface, this seems simple: ten bowls, ten teams. However it will most likely not work out like that. Here is how Mississippi State makes it to each of the three potential destinations.
INDEPENDENCE BOWL: This is the least likely destination for the Bulldogs. In order for Mississippi State to get here, only one SEC team would play in the BCS. The odds of the Sugar Bowl not replacing Alabama with Missouri or Auburn are highly slim, and should Alabama not make it to the BCS Championship game, the odds of an 11-1 Alabama team not being taken as a BCS at-large also seems pretty unlikely.
The Independence Bowl really needed eleven bowl eligible SEC Schools this year to get a BCS team since they will have the last pick. With two teams most likely going to the BCS, they will not have an SEC team with the final pick of the SEC bowl selection process unless a bowl decided not to take an SEC team.
LIBERTY/BBVA BOWL: The Liberty is a potential landing spot for Mississippi State, but it will require someone getting the shaft in the name of money for the SEC. Here are a few things we do know. Two SEC teams will more than likely be in the BCS bowls. It is highly likely that those two teams will be Alabama and Missouri or Auburn. If Auburn loses the Iron Bowl, Missouri loses to Texas A&M, and LSU beats Arkansas and climbs back in the top-16 of the BCS Standings, the Tigers could be selected to the Sugar, but it is unlikely.
Most likely, the bowl sort out falls like this: BCS bowls: (Two of the three) Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, Capital One Bowl (Missouri, Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, Texas A&M). Outback (Missouri, South Carolina), Cotton (Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, or the SEC East champion if not selected by this point, as this is their safety net bowl), CFA (LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M).
The next bowl on the list is the Gator Bowl, and the folks in Jacksonville will most likely take the Georgia Bulldogs, a nearby fan base that rarely is available to Jacksonville.
That brings the selection process down to the Music City, Liberty, and BBVA. Mississippi State is not a candidate for the Music City, so Nashville will select from Ole Miss or Vanderbilt. More than likely, Ole Miss will outdraw Vanderbilt, whose fans were not too thrilled with this destination in the past, meaning the Rebels head to the Music City.
The Liberty will then pick from Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Should Vanderbilt beat Wake Forest Saturday and get their eighth win, would the SEC office let Vanderbilt fall behind Mississippi State? The guess here is no, and the SEC office would pressure the Liberty into taking Vanderbilt, and the Liberty might do this anyway. Vanderbilt is not far from Memphis geographically.
That scenario leaves the Bulldogs going to Birmingham. The only way this does not happen is if the SEC or the Liberty Bowl decides that Mississippi State should jump over Vanderbilt, a scenario that seems unlikely with the Commodores most likely being two wins better than the Bulldogs.
However, what if the Music City Bowl wants the hometown Commodores? Then the Liberty would have to choose from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Yes, the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss, but the BBVA would most likely not want the same team two years in a row. The SEC might want to avoid this as well, so that would send Ole Miss to the Liberty and the Bulldogs to Birmingham.
For what is worth, Joe Dean Jr. tweeted a congratulations to the Bulldogs for qualifying for the BBVA bowl.