We're almost to mid-November now, which means the college football season is sadly coming to a close, and it's time to think about where your team might end up when the next season begins. Not 2012, but bowl season. The question for the SEC is whether it can fill all its spots -- we'll assume for a moment that it can -- and who its opponents will be in those games. Here's one attempt to figure things out. This does differ from our weekly bowl-seeding exercise during the BCS standings posts in one way: I'm projecting more based on who I think is likely to win a conference or come in at a particular place.
BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Oklahoma State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Houston
Basic explanation in our weekly BCS standings recap. I expect both Oklahoma State and Houston to win out, securing their places in these bowls (and affecting the order a little bit further down the road).
Capital One: Arkansas vs. Michigan State
This is the one place where I'm going to stray from the snapshot approach in the BCS post, largely because it's incredibly difficult to beat a team twice in one season -- especially when you beat that team on a last-second Hail Mary at home and give it a revenge motive for the next game. I'm guessing that Michigan State and Wisconsin will meet in the first B1G Championship Game, meaning the Spartans would have to win the rematch. (And, just to be sure, I checked; Michigan State and Wisconsin are in opposite divisions. I believe Michigan State is in the Legendary Heroes of Greek Mythology division and Wisconsin is in the Leading Academics and Philosophers division.) The only way Arkansas doesn't go to this game is if the Cotton Bowl pressures Mike Slive to pressure the Capital One to leave Arkansas for them, which I don't think will happen or work.
Outback: Georgia vs. Nebraska
Maybe it's just the opposite of a sympathy pick, but I see Penn State winning no games from here on out, making Nebraska a more likely candidate for the Outback (which will go first and select Georgia because the Cotton will not want to go with one of the remaining SEC West teams). The Huskers have a novelty factor in their first year in the Big Ten. Besides, a Georgia vs. Nebraska bowl game just kind of sounds important and new.
Cotton: South Carolina vs. Texas
Call it the disappointed conference contenders bowl. The Gamecocks get selected by the Cotton for something new; Auburn is likely to be too far out of it to be taken by anyone but the perpetually-crazy Outback Bowl, giving South Carolina its first invite to Dallas. Expect a brisk game. Given how much both of these teams trust their quarterbacks as compared to their running games, we should be done in about two hours.
Chick-fil-A: Auburn vs. Virginia Tech
Another bowl with a little bit of name cachet. Auburn is close to Atlanta and could probably about guarantee a sell-out, while Virginia Tech is about a mortal lock for this game given the ACC's rules. Florida State could get in if the Seminoles keep winning because of their proximity to Atlanta, but Tallahassee is only a couple of hours closer and Florida State is something of a disappointment this year.
Gator: Florida vs. Iowa
The Gator is in a difficult position here. If it doesn't go with Florida, it has to go with Vanderbilt or Tennessee, depending on which one is available, or a choice between the two if both are available. But if it selects both Florida and Penn State, it sets up a rematch of last year's Ouback Bowl, and if there's one thing bowl games like less than rematching the last edition of their own bowl, it's rematching the last edition of someone else's bowl. My guess is that they go with a seven-win Iowa to avoid the issue.
Music City: Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina
See North Carolina play in a postseason game before its multiyear bowl ban kicks in! Vanderbilt guarantees an enthusiastic home crowd and North Carolina is close enough to be convenient. Plus, it's an interesting matchup between a couple of basketball bluebloods enjoying some success in football, and can send a heart-warming message about student athletes. And, with any luck, a confused Butch Davis will show up at the game and do something that will really tick off and we can all watch him get punched in the face.
Liberty: Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss
Both of these teams should travel decently to Memphis for the game. Southern Miss gets the nod from Conference USA because Houston goes to the Sugar Bowl; it might happen anyway, if the Cougars lose the Conference USA Championship Game to Southern Miss. Mississippi State is pretty much what's left of the SEC aside from a potentially disappointing Vols team.
Compass: Tennessee (if eligible) vs. Connecticut (if eligible)
This game is going to be one of the ugliest football games ever played or great comic relief. Let's hope for both.