SEC Bowl Projections: Where's Your Team Headed in the Postseason?

After the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, expect quick round of bowl announcements once it becomes clear who will go where. Some of the earlier bowls might step back if Auburn wins, just to make sure that Arkansas is going to the BCS, but most of the invitations will have been made by the end of the night. These are guesses, and based on the idea that bowls are not always based on merit, but on what the bowl thinks is in its best interest.

First, we'll go with Auburn winning the SEC Championship Game, which I think we can all agree is the most likely outcome.

BCS

BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State

We've been over these enough, right?

FIRST TIER

Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Michigan State
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Texas A&M
Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Penn State

I think the LSU and Michigan State game is probably a lock there, even though it means a return engagement for the Tigers. Alabama will go to the Cotton Bowl to face Texas A&M, in part because the Cotton Bowl traditionally goes with a team from the West, and in part because of concerns about how well South Carolina would travel. The Outback Bowl might not want South Carolina, so they could fall to the Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl. But I think there will be enormous pressure from the SEC to not let the SEC East champion fall out of the New Year's Day bowls. Then again, it is the Outback Bowl, so anything could happen.

SECOND TIER

The Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Florida State
Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Illinois
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. N.C. State
Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida
BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh

I think the first two here are solid if I get the ACC Championship Game right; Virginia Tech always wins the ACC Championship Game. That puts Florida State in the Peach, and there's no way that they're going to take a rematch of Florida-Florida State. Instead, the Gator is more than happy to host the Fighting Zookers vs. Florida, despite the nausea that will hit the Gainesville faithful. IF Florida State wins and Virginia Tech ends up in the Peach, you could see Florida go there, but I still think the Atlanta-based bowl will probably take a fired-up Mississippi State over a disappointing Florida.

I think the ACC team that goes to the Music Bowl is a toss-up, and the varying opinions I've seen around the Web appear to agree; it could also be Maryland or North Carolina. I doubt the Music City goes to Clemson.

Georgia will go to the Liberty Bowl; there's really no arguing about that. My pick to win Conference USA and face Georgia is Central Florida, but it will otherwise be Southern Methodist. The Big East picture is a muddle, but basically it comes down to the Champs Bowl exercising its right to take Notre Dame and the Compass letting the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg (no, really, it exists) get South Florida.

Now, let's assume both that South Carolina defeats Auburn and that the Tigers drop out of the national-title picture, which is no sure thing.

 

BCS

Sugar Bowl: South Carolina vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Auburn vs. Virginia Tech

The Sugar has to take South Carolina as the SEC Champion, and they decide to set up a 2001-02 Outback Bowl rematch, pairing the Gamecocks against Ohio State. Again, I'm going with Virginia Tech winning the ACC Championship Game and getting the auto-bid there. It's an easy choice for the Orange, who can then stick the Fiesta Bowl with Connecticut.

FIRST TIER

Capital One Bowl: Arkansas vs. Michigan State
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Texas A&M
Outback Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State

Thanks in part to a clear suggestion from Mike Slive, the Capital One Bowl takes Arkansas. The Cotton Bowl faces an interesting choice after that, and could very well go with LSU, but I think the marketing power of Alabama and the Bear vs. Bear set-up gets the Tide in. The Outback then uses the clause that allows it to go outside the division once the Cotton Bowl has selected and takes LSU.

SECOND TIER

The Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Florida State
Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Illinois
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. N.C. State
Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida
BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh

Nothing really changes that much after the Outback Bowl, except ...

THE OUTBACK SCENARIO

Whenever possible, the Outback Bowl seems to try to confound our expectations. So we have to consider the possibility that the Tampa-based bowl will do something absolutely insane unconventional. In either of the above scenarios, that could be selecting Mississippi State.

Now, I don't know that the Outback Bowl can do that if LSU is left on the board, because I think they're pretty much required to take a 10-win team over an eight-win team. But if it's South Carolina in the first scenario or Alabama in the second, that could give the Outback a chance to pick a rising team with an exciting offense from the West.

Doubt me? What do you think the Outback Bowl did last year?

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