A first look at the SEC bowl picture

Filed under: Football,Previews |


By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

Nov. 2, 2012

 

With most Alabama fans’ attention turned to the home team and its potential set of opponents in the BCS Championship Game, it bears mentioning that the SEC has 13 other teams – although not all of them are bowl-eligible – and Alabama’s bowl picture doesn’t fit into one frame. Yet.

 

Here’s a rundown of the SEC bowl picture as it stands now, with both the BCS Championship Game and 10 SEC-affiliated bowls in play. Schools are listed in the order of expected finish at the end of the regular season.

 

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Potential landing spots: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Capital One Bowl

Most likely scenario: BCS Championship Game

Worst-case scenario: Capital One Bowl

Prediction: BCS Championship Game vs. Kansas State

Analysis: Alabama really only has three possibilities. Beat LSU and Texas A&M, and the Capital One Bowl is off the table, and Alabama will then play either in the BCS title game or the Sugar Bowl pending the outcome of the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Lose to LSU, and a second loss to Texas A&M or in the SEC Championship Game could knock Alabama all the way out of the BCS picture entirely. The Orange Bowl is in play under a wild set of circumstances that would include Alabama losing twice and Boise State losing to either San Diego State or Nevada, as well as the eventual SEC champion not getting to the BCS title matchup.

 

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Potential landing spots: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Most likely scenario: Sugar Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Prediction: Sugar Bowl vs. Louisville

Analysis: The Sugar Bowl will need a replacement for Alabama should the Crimson Tide end up in Miami. Georgia, which is in the driver’s seat for the SEC Championship Game at the moment, would be that team. The Bulldogs have only two conference games left, Ole Miss and Auburn. Beating Auburn is almost a foregone conclusion at the moment, so this weekend is essentially the make-or-break moment for the Bulldogs. But Georgia Tech looms in the season’s last week, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see a three-loss Georgia team sneaking sideways into New Orleans. In the worst of worst-case scenarios, Georgia could end up 8-4 and fall to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which would make the cows happy but no one else in the Peach State.

 

3. Florida Gators

Potential landing spots: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Most likely scenario: Capital One Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Prediction: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska

Analysis: Florida essentially has Georgia’s same set of circumstances in front of it. If the Bulldogs dump one to Ole Miss this weekend, the Gators’ possibilities run the whole gamut. The rest of Florida’s schedule is a bit more challenging than Georgia’s. Florida State will give the Gators a stern test, while Louisiana-Lafayette has enough offensive firepower to make the offense-less Gators uneasy. The most interesting scenario on the board, though, is whether the Sugar Bowl would opt for a two-loss Georgia team over a one-loss Florida team as Alabama’s replacement. If the Gators end up in the Cap One, it sets up a potential rematch of long ago against Nebraska – a team with a good offense but no defense.

 

4. LSU Tigers

Potential landing spots: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Most likely scenario: Cotton Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Prediction: Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma

Analysis: Although LSU has the same scenario in front of it as Florida and Georgia, the Tigers have a substantially tougher schedule. After Alabama, the Tigers have yet to play Mississippi State, Arkansas or Ole Miss, and depending on which Tiger team shows up, all those games are in play. Assuming LSU loses once (to Alabama) and wins out, a 10-2 Tiger team would be a prime pick for a Cotton Bowl that prefers the westernmost team it can get, all things being equal. A matchup against Oklahoma would certainly get the eyeballs fixated on TV screens and provide a preview of the future SEC-Big 12 “champions bowl” matchup of future years.

 

5. South Carolina Gamecocks

Potential landing spots: Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl

Most likely scenario: Outback Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Gator Bowl

Prediction: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan

Analysis: South Carolina is the first of the teams for which the oddball Orange Bowl scenario really doesn’t apply, as well as no chance at getting to the BCS title game. In fact, South Carolina needs plenty of help just to get to Atlanta. The Gamecocks’ biggest challenge at this point is simply to keep winning without RB Marcus Lattimore. Games against Arkansas and Clemson are no gimmes, although South Carolina should win at least one of those. At 9-3, the Outback Bowl is almost certain; at 8-4 it depends on how Texas A&M finishes. A 10-2 Gamecock team might cause the Capital One or Cotton Bowls to take a long look in Columbia’s direction, but expect South Carolina to stay in the Outback slot unless things really get crazy late in the year.

 

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Potential landing spots: Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl

Most likely scenario: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Gator Bowl

Prediction: Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Clemson

Analysis: We’re not going to discuss the following scenario in depth unless Alabama loses to LSU on Saturday, but consider the possibility of Texas A&M, LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State finishing in a four-way tie for the SEC West. It could happen. The Aggies could draw to an inside straight and end up the SEC champion yet, but the odds of it happening are somewhere in lottery land in terms of probability. What isn’t out of the discussion, though, is Texas A&M elevating to the Cotton or Cap One depending on how LSU, Mississippi State, Florida and Georgia finish out their seasons. If LSU were to lose to Alabama and then drop a third game later, the Aggies would probably get the home-state Cotton Bowl. Otherwise, Texas A&M figures to end up in Atlanta, albeit not in the SEC title game. Instead, the Aggies would have a good chance at facing Clemson, and if so, the game will be over in about three weeks and blow up the scoreboard in the process.

 

7. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Potential landing spots: Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl

Most likely scenario: Gator Bowl

Worst-case scenario: Music City Bowl

Prediction: Gator Bowl vs. Northwestern

Analysis: State is 7-1 at the moment and could theoretically make it to Atlanta, if the Bulldogs were to win out and Alabama lose twice. But the Bulldogs have a backloaded schedule that includes Texas A&M and LSU yet to go, plus an improving Ole Miss team. On top of that, the Bulldogs don’t have the fan base that, say, Texas A&M does, so if the Aggies and the Bulldogs are reasonably close to one another in the standings, look for whatever bowl is doing to picking to favor the SEC’s new kid on the block. If Mississippi State loses out – which is not completely out of the question – the Bulldogs will probably end up in Nashville. With the schedule MSU has to play the rest of the way, and accounting for the most reasonable outcomes in everyone’s games, it’s almost a two-bowl question: Chick-fil-A or Gator. If State gets the Gator Bowl against Northwestern, it would be one of the more entertaining tickets in postseason play just to watch those two fan bases share a stadium at the same time.

 

8. Ole Miss

Potential landing spots: Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl

Most likely scenario: Music City Bowl

Worst-case scenario: No bowl

Prediction: Music City Bowl vs. Miami

Analysis: Ole Miss’ possibilities are rather bipolar. The Rebels could rise all the way up to the Cap One Bowl, or Ole Miss could miss the postseason entirely. With a schedule that finishes with Georgia, Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State, the latter is far more likely than the former. If Ole Miss were to split those four games – say, beat Vanderbilt and upset MSU – a 7-5 Ole Miss team would figure to land the Music City Bowl. At 6-6, things get a bit dicier, and would depend mostly on how Tennessee finishes the year. If the Vols are tied with or one game ahead of Ole Miss, they’ll reset the entire pecking order for the bottom-half SEC bowls, and Ole Miss will end up either in Memphis or Birmingham. A Music City Bowl appearance against Miami would actually be an entertaining game between two improving large-conference teams.

 

9. Vanderbilt Commodores

Potential landing spots: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl

Most likely scenario: BBVA Compass Bowl

Worst-case scenario: No bowl

Prediction: Liberty Bowl vs. Tulsa

Analysis: For the first time on this list, we break from the most-likely scenario and pick an upset of sorts. It’s not a stretch for Vanderbilt to get bowl-eligible. The Commodores must win two games from a list that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Wake Forest. The question is what happens if Vandy and Tennessee both finish 6-6. Would the Liberty Bowl opt for the closer team (Vanderbilt), or the larger school that might eschew buying tickets in a game it would rather not be in (Tennessee)? This may be the rare case where the bowl bucks the trend and goes its own way. The real craziness, though, comes if/when Vanderbilt wins seven or eight games. None of the four games left on its schedule are gimmes, but none are automatic losses, either. A Liberty Bowl matchup with Tulsa would not favor the Commodores, as Tulsa is a dangerous offensive team.

 

10. Tennessee Volunteers

Potential landing spots: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl

Most likely scenario: Liberty Bowl

Worst-case scenario: No bowl

Prediction: BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Pittsburgh

Analysis: Unlike Vanderbilt, Tennessee cannot get to eight wins. Still, the Chick-fil-A and Gator are in play depending on what other teams do, and because Tennessee has a large and loyal (to a point) fan base. It’s unlikely Vol fans would go out of their way to buy tickets in Memphis, but Atlanta or Jacksonville is another story. If Tennessee gets to 7-5 – which would require sweeping Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri and Troy – the Vols will probably wind up in Nashville. At 6-6, though, it depends on how other teams (especially Vanderbilt and Ole Miss) finish the year. As we expect the Liberty to dodge the Vols, UT winds up in Birmingham playing Pitt in front of a few thousand people at best.

 

11. Arkansas Razorbacks

Potential landing spots: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl

Most likely scenario: No bowl

Worst-case scenario: No bowl

Prediction: No bowl

Analysis: Arkansas should get to four wins after facing Tulsa this weekend, but the rest of the Hogs’ schedule goes South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. It’s feasible that South Carolina could struggle without Marcus Lattimore, and that Mississippi State might be a construct of an easy early-season schedule, but it’s not probable for the Razorbacks to find the necessary three wins to get to the postseason. If Arkansas manages to finish 6-6, expect the Hogs to wind up in Shreveport playing Virginia Tech. Talk about a weird matchup for such a low-end bowl.

 

12. Missouri Tigers

Potential landing spots: Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl

Most likely scenario: No bowl

Worst-case scenario: No bowl

Prediction: No bowl

Analysis: Missouri is at 4-4, so eight wins is still a mathematical possibility. The Tigers’ easiest game, though, comes against a good Syracuse team in three weeks. In the meantime, they have Florida and Tennessee, then finish with Texas A&M. If Missouri beats the two weakest teams on that list, Tennessee and Syracuse, they’ll end up in the Independence Bowl against, most likely, Virginia Tech. That wouldn’t be a bad matchup or fit for the Tigers in their first SEC campaign, but it’s still an unlikely proposition.

 

13. Auburn Tigers, and

14. Kentucky Wildcats

Only scenario: No bowl

Analysis: The best either team can do is 5-7 (for Auburn) or 4-8 (for Kentucky), and neither of those records is good enough for postseason play. This was expected in the case of Kentucky; for Auburn, it’s a huge letdown for the program. The head coaches for both these teams probably will be spending their bowl seasons passing out resumes.

 

 

 

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