With the regular season now in the books, it's time to keep an eye out to see where Mississippi State will play in a bowl game this season.
First a reminder about how the selection process works for SEC teams now.
Going into championship weekend, we know a few things that are certain:
If Alabama wins the SEC Championship, it pushes everyone into a better bowl game because the Sugar Bowl would then take a replacement SEC team as Alabama would be in the playoff. If Florida wins, no one from SEC is going to the playoff, so the Sugar Bowl would get the Gators.
The other thing to watch for is if Ole Miss can jump Florida in CFP rankings. If they do, they go to the Sugar Bowl should Alabama in win the SEC. If they cannot, Florida goes to the Sugar Bowl. One thing that seems certain is that these three teams will be the top teams in the SEC selection order. Florida cannot fall further than the Florida Citrus Bowl because of their record unless the bowl opts to use the "within one win" clause. Given that clause the only teams that could go to the Citrus Bowl are: Alabama (11-1), Florida (10-3), Georgia (9-3), and Ole Miss (9-3). If Florida wins the SEC championship and heads to the Sugar Bowl, Alabama would be a lock for the Citrus Bowl if the fall out of the top-11 in the CFP rankings. Given that Alabama losing is unlikely or losing and falling that far is more unlikely, the Citrus Bowl will more than likely have its choice of Georgia and Florida or Ole Miss for its game. The firing of Mark Richt might add intrigue as it would be a game that might bring a ton of Georgia fans to central Florida to wish him farewell in his last game with the Bulldogs. If they went the Georgia route, everything below gets blown up so we aren't even going down that rabbit hole here, but we will at the end.
With all of that said, those are the four teams competing for the top three bowl spots in the SEC. The odd man out from that group plus Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas will more than likely be the teams assigned to the six bowl games that the SEC works in conjunction with to ship teams to various spots: The Outback Bowl (Tampa), Texas Bowl (Houston), Belk Bowl (Charlotte), TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville), Liberty Bowl (Memphis) and Music City Bowl (Nashville). While in theory the SEC could place Auburn in this group, or maybe even a 5-7 Missouri (even though few understand how the placement of the 5-7 teams will work as of yet), it is unlikely to do so. With that said, if SEC tie-ins play out, Auburn would most likely head to Birmingham, and Missouri to the Independence Bowl or what-else other bowl takes the 5-7 team.
So with that primer out of the way, here are the projections from various outlets for Mississippi State:
|Campus Insiders||Outback Bowl||Michigan|
|Orlando Sentinel||Music City Bowl||Penn State|
|College Sports Madness||Texas Bowl||West Virginia|
|CBSSports.com||Tax Slayer Bowl||Miami (FL)|
|SB Nation||Belk Bowl||Virginia Tech|
Pretty interesting read from the five projections that are out there, having Mississippi State going five different places. Campus Insiders is a bit interesting because they also have LSU in the Independence Bowl, which seems highly unlikely. What also seems unlikely is Mississippi State ending up in the Liberty Bowl. It sounds like representatives from that bowl would like Arkansas, and with the Bulldogs having recently played there and having knocked off Arkansas, a trip to "nicer" bowl is not that unlikely for Mississippi State.
The Outback bowl has projections all over the place, having Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennesee, and Texas A&M all slated for games there. To me, this seems to have Georgia written all over it. I'm sort of surprised not to see LSU more in this mix as well.
The Belk Bowl is one that seems made for Tennessee or Georgia. Both fan bases are only a few hours from Charlotte, and Texas A&M makes plenty of sense playing in Houston. That makes Mississippi State seem more likely for either the Music City or the Tax Slayer, with both having interesting projected matchups.
Put on the spot, I think SEC pool of six plays out with Georgia in the Outback Bowl, LSU in the Taxslayer Bowl, Tennessee in the Belk Bowl, Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl and Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. This sends all of the teams to a different game than they were in last year, and it keeps teams in a good geographic proximity to their schools and fan bases. LSU would have the furthest to travel, but Tiger fans travel well, making that a non issue. In eight days we will know for sure, but my hunch is that Bulldog fans should get ready to head to Nashville.
Want the rabbit hole of chaos? If you do, here is the crazy SEC Bowl projections with the Alabama heading to the playoffs, Ole Miss jumping Florida, and the Citrus Bowl taking Georgia:
Sugar: Ole Miss
Belk Bowl: Tennessee
Tax Slayer: LSU
Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Music City: Mississippi State