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SEC Bowl Projections 2014: Where Your Team Might Be Going When the Postseason Begins

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Who goes to the Citrus Bowl? Depends on who goes to the Orange Bowl. Who goes to the TaxSlayer Bowl? Whoever doesn't go to the Music City Bowl. Make sense yet?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For all non‐College Football Playoff partners, the bowl partner will request a Big Ten team. The Big Ten will approve or assign another team based on selection parameters.--Big Ten bowl selection information [PDF]

It would be tempting to mock the Up North Conference for the way this is phrased, but it would also be a bit unfair. Because all the discussion of the College Football Playoff has masked a far more sweeping change in the college football postseason: In the non-playoff bowls, the conferences have asserted themselves and essentially told the guys in the blazers, "we'll take it from here." It'll be Mike Slive and Jim Delany making decisions in smoke-filled rooms, as opposed to Larry from the Chamber of Commerce and Bob from the Rotary Club making decisions in smoke-filled rooms.

The ACC lists four bowls as equal in the selection order in its "Tier 1" category of bowls. Well, actually, it lists five bowl games as equal, but ACC teams will only go to four of them. The ACC, the B1G, the Music City Bowl and the Gator Bowl will all get together and decide whether an ACC team should go to the Music City Bowl this year and a B1G team to the TaxSlayer (nee Gator) Bowl, or vice versa. That should be a fun conversation for everyone to have.

The American Athletic Conference helpfully offers this in its media guide: "The American will work annually with its member schools and bowl partners to create the most sensible and attractive matchups during the new cycle."

All of this makes it difficult for those of us who are in the bowl projection business. Or hobby, as the case may be. What used to be a process of more or less ranking the teams and then sticking them into bowls has now become incredibly complex and involves a lot more guesswork -- a lot more. When I went to check my thoughts with a few other bowl prognosticators, as I tend to do to make sure I'm not crazy, I found that they're all over the map. No one knows who's going anywhere this year.

All of which is to say: More than ever, take these projections with a massive grain of salt. This is what I think will happen. I'll lay out two scenarios, the first of which I think is far more likely: This weekend goes more or less according to plan, with Ohio State beating Wisconsin, Baylor beating Kansas State, etc. Ole Miss gets propelled into the mix for a playoff-aligned bowl, which gives us this:

Sugar: Alabama vs. TCU/Baylor
Rose: Oregon vs. Florida State
Orange: Michigan State vs. Georgia Tech
Peach: Ohio State vs. Ole Miss
Cotton: TCU/Baylor vs. Mississippi State
Fiesta: Arizona vs. Boise State

I'm not going to try to divine the committee's intentions with TCU and Baylor, in part because it's largely irrelevant to our exercise here. However, the fact that Michigan State will end up in the Orange Bowl does shuffle things below a bit, because it triggers a clause in the interlocking series of agreements that make this such a nightmare to do.

Make sense? No? Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me either. But neither does the meeting of the minds between the ACC / B1G / Music City / TaxSlayer.

In any case, trying to make sense of the chaos, I've come up with these projections that are in likelihood very, very wrong.

Citrus: Missouri vs. Clemson
Outback: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
TaxSlayer: LSU vs. Minnesota
Music City: Georgia vs. UNC
Texas: Texas vs. Texas A&M
Belk: Tennessee vs. Louisville
Liberty: Arkansas vs. West Virginia
Birmingham: South Carolina vs. Cincinnati
Independence: Florida vs. Virginia Tech

If Michigan State does go to the Orange Bowl and send an ACC team to the Citrus Bowl, it's probably Clemson. That all but eliminates Georgia from the conversation for the Citrus Bowl, because the last thing anyone wants is a regular-season rematch. Missouri gets the spot.

Then, we go to the SEC's "Pool of Six." You might assume these seedings would be done by some metric or ranking or -- nah [PDF].

After the Citrus Bowl selects a team, there will be a pool of six bowls and the Conference, in consultation with the institutions and the bowls, will make the assignments for these six bowl games from all eligible SEC teams.

That said, I do think that the SEC office will want to keep some semblance of order. You're not going to have Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee all go to one of the pooled bowls while Georgia heads to Shreveport. At least, I don't think that's going to happen. Who knows?

This is my best effort to untangle everything with all the agreements. The last thing Georgia wants to do is go back to any Florida bowl featuring a tilt with a B1G team, so the SEC accommodates the Dawgs and sends them to the Music City Bowl and LSU to the TaxSlayer. After the AC1GMCTS monster sees the landscape, it selects UNC to play the Dawgs because of geography and such and Minnesota to face LSU. Until I see something more than a thinly-sourced Chip Brown "exclusive" to say that there are forces working to prevent Texas-Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl, I'm going to assume that ALL THAT TEXAS will override any concerns.

Tennessee and Louisville make geographic sense for the Belk Bowl -- especially considering that Vol fans are elated just to be in a bowl, and South Carolina fans are ... not -- and West Virginia is about the only team left from the Big 12 for the Liberty Bowl, which pairs the Mountaineers with Arkansas. That should make for a really interesting atmosphere in Memphis.

South Carolina edges Florida for the title of "least uninspiring team" to get the bid for the prestigious Birmingham Bowl, which is then basically locked into picking Cincinnati to avoid an ECU rematch or a match-up between the Gamecocks and UCF, who played South Carolina last year and will again next year. The Gators head to Shreveport to play a Virginia Tech team coordinated by Scot Loeffler, which should produce BARRELS OF POINTS.

The other scenario presumes some degree of craziness, the net effect of which is to lock Ole Miss out of the playoff-aligned bowls. Let's say Kansas State beats Baylor, or at least loses respectably enough to remain in the Top 10, and even add in the possibility that Wisconsin beats Ohio State. (I'm foregoing Missouri beating Alabama not because I'm saying it's impossible, Tiger fans, but because it would require a degree in quantum mechanics to figure out what would happen then.)

Sugar: Alabama vs. TCU
Rose: Oregon vs. Florida State
Orange: Michigan State vs. Georgia Tech
Cotton: Baylor vs. Mississippi State
Peach: Kansas State vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Arizona vs. Boise State

Citrus: Ole Miss vs. Clemson
Outback: Missouri vs. Ohio State
TaxSlayer: LSU vs. Minnesota
Music City: Georgia vs. UNC
Texas: Texas vs. Texas A&M
Belk: Tennessee vs. Louisville
Liberty: Auburn vs. West Virginia
Birmingham: South Carolina vs. Cincinnati
Independence: Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech
Armed Forces: Florida vs. Houston

If Wisconsin doesn't beat Ohio State, then the Badgers end up in the Outback. That's the only real change that would cause in these projections. Ole Miss instead heads to the Citrus to play Clemson, which bumps Missouri back into the Outback to play Ohio State (or Wisconsin), which could make the Liberty Bowl an option for Auburn. That moves Arkansas to the Independence Bowl. Florida ends up getting a loaner from the Big 12 in the Armed Forces Bowl, which is played in Texas, so Houston is a logical choice for the Gators' opponent.