If Tennessee could just beat Vanderbilt saturday there in the Liberty, or Birmingham Bowl but that is a big IF the way there defense has played all year.
With just a few more weeks remaining in the college football season, the bowl picture should be coming into focus. But there’s still a whole lotta shakin’ that could still go on as we wind up November and move through the conference championship games.
At the moment, eight SEC teams are already bowl eligible: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.
Two more teams are a single win away from bowl eligibility with two games to play: Missouri (games with Syracuse and Texas A&M) and Ole Miss (games with LSU and Mississippi State).
Two other teams have to win their final two games to become bowl eligible: Arkansas (games with Mississippi State and LSU) and Tennessee (games with Vanderbilt and Kentucky).
It’s likely at this point that even if the SEC doesn’t have a team reach the BCS Championship Game it will still place two teams in BCS bowls (one as the league champ in the Sugar Bowl and one other as an at-large team in another BCS game).
If that occurs, it would mean 11 the SEC would have 11 bowl slots to fill. If no more SEC squads achieve bowl eligibility, the league would have eight teams to fill those 11 openings. If all four on-the-bubble teams reach the six-win mark, the league would have 12 eligible teams to squeeze into 11 spots. Not perfect, but with a dearth of bowl-eligible teams, it’s likely the SEC’s #12 team would get an invite from some bowl, somewhere.
It’s just not probable that all SEC four squads fighting for a sixth win will achieve that goal or fall short of it. More than likely — just playing the odds here, two will make it and two won’t. In our opinion, Missouri is the most likely team to become bowl eligible, followed by Ole Miss, then Tennessee, and then Arkansas. Gut feeling, we’ll pencil in Missouri as the only squad to make the cut (Mississippi is simply running out of bodies and Tennessee and Arkansas have little to play for as their current head coaches twist in the wind).
So, the current MrSEC.com bowl projection includes: two teams reaching BCS games and seven other SEC squads heading to the league’s partner bowls. Therefore, in our scenario the Independence and BBVA Compass bowls would not land SEC teams this season.
Here’s how we project the bowl matchups as we head down the backstretch:
Independence Bowl, 12/28/12
2:00pm ET on ESPN
SEC 10th pick vs ACC 7th pick
No eligible SEC team
Music City Bowl, 12/31/12
12:00pm ET on ESPN
SEC 7th pick vs ACC 6th pick
Vanderbilt (it’s not much of a reward for a 7-5 or 8-4 Commodore squad to stay in their own home town, but we bet that’s what would happen)
Liberty Bowl, 12/31/12
3:30pm ET on ESPN
SEC 8th or 9th pick vs C-USA 1st pick
Missouri (Tiger fans from the Bootheel and southeastern portion of the state would likely flood onto Beale Street for a first-ever SEC bowl… but if Mizzou doesn’t become bowl eligible and Ole Miss does, the Liberty makes perfect sense for traveling Rebel fans as well)
Chick-fil-A Bowl, 12/31/12
7:30pm ET on ESPN
SEC 5th pick vs ACC 2nd pick
South Carolina (the Gamecocks played in this game two years ago and if USC and MSU are both 9-3, it could come down to which team would be higher ranked and bring more fans… so don’t sleep on MSU)
Gator Bowl, 1/1/13
12:00pm ET on ESPN2
SEC 6th pick vs Big Ten 4th or 5th pick
Mississippi State (the Bulldogs were in this game just two years ago, but it’s likely they’ll be heading to Jacksonville again with an 8-4 or 9-3 record)
Outback Bowl, 1/1/13
1:00pm ET on ABC
SEC 3rd or 4th pick vs Big Ten 3rd pick
Florida (the Outback usually surprises people and that could mean taking LSU for the first time since 1988, but the bowl could only take LSU if the Cotton Bowl passed on the Tigers… and it won’t)
Capital One Bowl, 1/1/13
1:00pm ET on ESPN
SEC 2nd pick vs Big Ten 2nd pick
Georgia (this could be Florida, but we think the Dawgs will be higher ranked at year’s end and bring in more tourists to Orlando)
Sugar Bowl, 1/2/13
New Orleans, LA
8:30pm ET on ESPN
SEC 1st pick vs BCS at-large pick
Alabama (we believe the Crimson Tide will fend off Georgia in the SEC Championship Game)
Cotton Bowl, 1/4/13
8:00pm ET on FOX
SEC 3rd or 4th pick vs Big 12 2nd pick
LSU (the Tigers played in the Cotton Bowl two years ago and opened their 2011 season in Arlington as well, but it’s still a good fit and a likely pairing)
BBVA Compass Bowl, 1/5/13
1:00pm ET on ESPN
SEC 8th or 9th pick vs Big East 5th pick
No eligible SEC team
Fiesta Bowl, 1/3/13*
8:30pm ET on ESPN
BCS at-large vs BCS at-large
Texas A&M (a rabid fanbase and a TV draw named Johnny Manziel could land the Aggies back in the Big 12′s destination bowl against a Big 12 team like Oklahoma)
* If the SEC does not land a team in the BCS title game, we expect either the Fiesta Bowl or the Rose Bowl would invite a highly-ranked SEC squad to fill the spot of current #1 Kansas State and current #2 Oregon. We’ll pick the Fiesta for the sake of argument.
Hopefully we’re wrong on our projections or things will change greatly in the coming weeks because we don’t like return bowl trips. And as of today we believe Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, and South Carolina are all looking at returning to the same bowls in which they ended their 2010 seasons. What a bore.
Time to dump the bowl tie-in system and go with a bowl draft system. Realistically this won’t happen as the conferences won’t give up the guaranteed money provided by league-bowl tie-ins. But it would sure make for better holiday viewing for fans if they would.