SEC bowl picture as muddy as ever

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

Nov. 14, 2011

 

With just two weeks to go in the regular season – plus an Championship Game that most doubt will be all that competitive – the 2011 SEC bowl picture is about as clear as chocolate buttermilk.

 

Here’s an updated look at the ’s bowl possibilities, as of this week:

 

WEST

 

ALABAMA

Possibilities: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Capital One Bowl

Most likely destination: Sugar Bowl vs. Houston

Analysis: Alabama seems to have basically a 50-50 shot at the BCS Championship Game, but one of two things has to happen. Either Oklahoma has to beat Oklahoma State and not jump Alabama in the BCS rankings, or Arkansas has to beat by a couple of scores, which might also have the effect of sending Alabama through to the Championship Game. The largest hurdle to jump could prove to be voter activism; Oregon’s high-flying offense seems to sell better with voters, and many seem to loathe the possibility of a -Alabama (specifically, SEC vs. SEC) rematch, despite the fact that Oregon has already lost to LSU as well and Oklahoma lost at home to mediocre Tech. Too many dominoes have to fall the right way to suggest Alabama could end up in the BCS title game at the moment. There’s even a scenario that exists where could end up in the title game but watch Alabama get to the BCS title game. Crazy.

Worst-case scenario: Alabama could lose to Auburn, or Georgia and Arkansas could both beat LSU. In either case, Alabama would probably fall to the Capital One Bowl.

 

AUBURN

Possibilities: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely destination: Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Virginia Tech

Analysis: It’s dumbfounding to realize that Auburn, at 7-5, could end up with the ’s 5th slot this year thanks to the top-heaviness of the conference. But that’s what’s almost certain to happen, as Auburn should beat Samford this week, while no other team looks poised to catch them from behind – outside of maybe Vanderbilt, which by itself is a damning statement. If this happens, the brass at Chick-fil-A will be sweating bullets hoping Clemson dispatches Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, lest this game end up a rematch of Auburn-Clemson from Week 3.

Worst-case scenario: Auburn could slide all the way to the BBVA Compass Bowl even with a 7-5 record, but it’s not likely, and would require Vanderbilt to win out, to beat Florida State and a couple of other weird occurrences. If Auburn does end up playing in Birmingham, they’ll get one of five teams from the bottom of the Big East, most likely Pittsburgh.

 

ARKANSAS

Possibilities: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Cotton Bowl

Most likely scenario: Capital One Bowl vs. Michigan State

Analysis: The Spartans would be headed for another beatdown at the hands of a team if this one comes to pass. Arkansas still has a slim outside shot at the BCS title game, and would likely end up with the Sugar Bowl with a win over LSU. If the nuttiest of scenarios comes to pass and the SEC gets only one BCS representative, Arkansas might be left looking lower than the Capital One, but don’t bet on it.

Worst-case scenario: Theoretically, the Cotton Bowl is in play. Realistically, it’s not.

 

Possibilities: BCS Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, Capital One Bowl

Most likely scenario: BCS Championship Game vs. Oklahoma State

Analysis: has everything in front of it. The tricky part is getting by an Arkansas squad that has had LSU’s number recently. If LSU loses the game by a close margin, the Tigers will be locked into at least the Sugar Bowl and could theoretically remain in the BCS title game. But if Arkansas stones LSU, it’s a different ballgame. Under divisional selection rules, if Arkansas and Alabama both finish ahead of in the BCS and ranked closely together, the BCS standings will be used to eliminate the lowest-ranked team, which would be LSU. Alabama would then go to Atlanta based off the strength of a head-to-head tiebreaker with Arkansas. Avoiding this nightmare is completely up to LSU. If LSU beats Arkansas (and Ole Miss this weekend; the chances of LSU not beating Ole Miss are too miniscule to mention), the Tigers need only to get by Georgia in order to play for it all.

Worst-case scenario: Lose big to Arkansas, or to Georgia, and it’s hello, bowl trip.

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Possibilities: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely scenario: Liberty Bowl vs. Southern Miss

Analysis: To get any higher than the Music City Bowl, Mississippi State would likely need to upset Arkansas this week, so it’s probably best to talk about the lower three bowls on this list. A lot hinges on whether Vanderbilt beats Tennessee and knocks the Volunteers out of bowl eligibility. If Tennessee gets eligible, the Music City Bowl will take the Vols. Likewise, if Vanderbilt beats UT but loses to Wake Forest, look for Vanderbilt to get the invite there. But there is a situation in which both teams miss the postseason (albeit involving Kentucky starting to win games for a change), and in that case Mississippi State would elevate to the Music City. Much more likely, however, is a trip to the Liberty Bowl, where bowl officials there would love to slot State against Southern Miss, which would be in the game courtesy of Houston going to the Sugar. If not Southern Miss, look for Tulsa in the game.

Worst-case scenario: Lose two games down the stretch and it’s home for the holidays. But the real worst-case scenario might also be the most likely: playing in Memphis against Southern Miss, which most Bulldog do not want to see.

 

EAST

 

FLORIDA

Possibilities: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely scenario: Gator Bowl vs. Nebraska

Analysis: Talk about your rematches. Florida could be on a collision course with Nebraska, which famously beat the Gators into a bloody pulp for a national title during Steve ’s tenure there. The tricky part for Florida is getting bowl-eligible. The Gators will almost certainly do it this week against Furman before falling to Florida State at year’s end. If Florida should somehow win both games, however, the Gators could launch all the way up to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Presuming Florida State takes care of business, however, the Gator Bowl would love the chance to host its namesake team and pit it against Nebraska.

Worst-case scenario: Given that beating Furman should be guaranteed, the worst case is finishing at 6-6 and having Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State all finish at 7-5 or better. In that case – especially if Auburn beats Alabama and Arkansas beats LSU – Florida could wind up in Birmingham.

 

GEORGIA

Possibilities: Sugar Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Most likely scenario: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan

Analysis: Barring some kind of meltdown from either or Arkansas, Georgia is all but locked into the Outback. The can play themselves into the Sugar Bowl with a win over LSU, but Georgia will be a heavy underdog in that game. For an opponent in the Outback, the Bulldogs could draw Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin or Penn State, depending on how the Big Ten finishes up.

Worst-case scenario: Lose to Kentucky and then again to Georgia Tech to finish the season, and the could fall all the way to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, something that would enthuse neither Georgia nor Atlanta-area hoteliers.

 

KENTUCKY

Possibilities: Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely scenario: Missing the postseason

Analysis: Kentucky could still win out and make a bowl, but Georgia and Tennessee are the two opponents Kentucky will have to beat to get there. Don’t look for it to happen. But if it does, the BBVA Compass Bowl is a near certainty.

Worst-case scenario: Staying at home and pining for the late, great Blue-Gray Classic.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

Possibilities: Outback Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Most likely scenario: Cotton Bowl vs. Kansas State

Analysis: South Carolina could finish up 10-2 on the season with wins over The Citadel and Clemson. The latter will be substantially harder to get than the former, however, and for that reason, look for the Gamecocks to finish 9-3. A Cotton Bowl date with Kansas State seems all but guaranteed, but If Georgia loses to Georgia Tech and South Carolina wins out, it’s quite possible to see the Gamecocks rise to the Outback Bowl level.

Worst-case scenario: A loss to Clemson would certainly put a damper on things. Coupled with a breakdown at the top of the SEC, with teams suddenly being forced down the pecking order, the Gamecocks might spend their holidays in Atlanta.

 

TENNESSEE

Possibilities: Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely scenario: Missing the postseason

Analysis: This is a bad team right now, which makes Tennessee susceptible to both Vanderbilt and Kentucky, no matter how bad each of those teams is. Tennessee must win both games. If it does, look for the Music City Bowl to extend a quick invitation and pit the Volunteers against, likely, Miami or Wake Forest.

Worst-case scenario: Fail to beat both Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and the Vols get to spend the rest of their Christmas break wondering whether they have the right coach.

 

VANDERBILT

Possibilities: Chck-fil-A Bowl, Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl

Most likely scenario: Music City Bowl vs. Miami

Analysis: One would think that Vandy could scratch out a win over either Tennessee or Wake Forest, but the Commodores are known for choking in the clutch. If Vanderbilt holds on for victory this week, the ‘Dores will likely draw the Music City Bowl against either Miami, North Carolina State or even a rematch with Wake Forest. Win  both games and the Chick-fil-A is in play. The only thing standing in Vanderbilt’s way is Vanderbilt

Worst-case scenario: If Vanderbilt loses both games, the Commodores will sit at home. It’s up to new coach James Franklin to ensure this isn’t the same old Vandy.

 

ELIMINATED: Ole Miss

 

 

Comment now using your Facebook login!

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments