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Post Outback Bowl shuffles SEC deck?

Tuesday December 1, 2009

WVLT in Knoxville is reporting that the Outback Bowl will select Auburn, and the Cotton Bowl will welcome back Ole Miss. If true, that would mean that the top five SEC bowl slots are now settled:

BCSC: Alabama/Florida
BCS: Alabama/Florida
Capital One: LSU
Cotton: Ole Miss
Outback: Auburn

There are six SEC teams with 7-5 records. Auburn is one of them. They are 1-3 against the others. But of course bowls aren’t about the best teams; the Outback is banking on Auburn fans traveling and selling tickets.

What does that mean for Georgia? Tennessee and Georgia, both at 4-4 in the conference and 7-5 overall, look to be the best remaining teams on the board. But as the Outback just demonstrated, the records don’t really matter now. Granting that the bowls could pick South Carolina, Kentucky, or Arkansas too, you’d expect the Chick-fil-A Bowl to pick between the Bulldogs and Volunteers. The outcome of the ACC Championship will have an impact since the availability of either Clemson or Georgia Tech will change things.

It’s true that a Clemson-Georgia matchup would sell tickets and draw a lot of regional interest, but I doubt that’s weighing on the committee of the CFA Bowl. This bowl is one of the few that rarely has trouble selling tickets, and Tennessee fans excited over this season would likely be able to fill the Dome as well as Georgia fans regardless of the opponent. It’s really a toss-up, and I don’t see it being settled until after the conference championships are played this weekend. It’s anyone’s guess what happens after the Chick-fil-A Bowl decides, but the Music City Bowl would seem to be the most likely destination for the team not selected to play in Atlanta. Again, though, there are still five SEC teams with 7-5 records from which to choose, and it will come down to which program and fan base is likely to sell the most tickets and generate tourism and interest for the host cities. Kentucky has traveled well to Nashville in the past, so Shreveport, Memphis, and Birmingham are still very much on the table for Georgia.

Since no one asked, my preference is for the Music City Bowl in Nashville. I know Atlanta’s a great town, but I live there. Nashville’s a fun town (even if the last visit to the Music City Bowl was frigid), and it’s an easy trip. The projected opponent in the MCB is North Carolina. I know some have a preference for a traditional rival like Clemson in the bowl game, but Georgia also has tradition with the Tar Heels though the teams haven’t met since 1971. Georgia holds a thin 16-12-2 advantage in the series that includes a 20-10 Georgia win in the 1947 Sugar Bowl which featured the great Charley Trippi.

I’m sure none of you are surprised by my preference to play the Heels.

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