ATLANTA — Sometime Sunday afternoon, officials from the Southeastern Conference will emerge from a smoke-filled room in Birmingham, Alabama, and announce which of their teams will be going to six of the bowls with SEC tie-ins.
Well, maybe not smoke, but there is definitely a cloud of mystery surrounding the SEC and the bowl choices it will make for the first time.
With an 8-4 record (4-4 in the SEC), LSU figures to wind up in one of the group of six bowls whose representative will be chosen by the SEC office: the Outback, Taxslayer, Texas, Music City, Liberty and Belk.
Instead of picking the team they want to have from the SEC, bowls are asked to list schools first through sixth in order of preference.
Schools in contention for those six bowls are also asked to list their order of preference, which both will be among the factors the SEC considers when assigning teams to bowls.
Saturday night, sentiment was leaning toward LSU landing in the Music City Bowl — Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tennessee — possibly against Notre Dame. The Tigers also could wind up in the Texas Bowl (on Dec. 29 in Houston) or the Taxslayer Bowl (Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida).
Despite being a potential “cold-weather” bowl, the Music City holds a lot of appeal for LSU, especially if the opponent is the Fighting Irish. The Tigers have never played in the Music City and rarely play in Nashville, the most recent time being in 2010 against Vanderbilt.
If Notre Dame goes to the Music City as well, it will be using a bowl slot reserved for the ACC.
Notre Dame and the ACC reached an agreement in which the Irish agree to play five ACC teams per year and in return can take an ACC bowl slot if their record is within a win of an eligible ACC team.
LSU hasn’t played in the Taxslayer (formerly Gator) Bowl since beating South Carolina in 1987. The Tigers likely would play a team from the Big Ten, but that could apparently be a stumbling block since LSU played Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 and opened the season against Wisconsin.
LSU played Wisconsin in Houston, site of the Texas Bowl, to open the season, another potential stumbling block. But that concern could likely be trumped by the large number of LSU alumni and recruits in Houston and the possibility of having Texas on the other side of the matchup.
CFP parings for the Sugar and Rose bowls will be announced at 11:45 a.m. Sunday, then the other four CFP bowls (Cotton, Peach, Orange and Fiesta) will be filled out by the CFP committee.
After that, the Citrus Bowl will choose its pairing for its Jan. 1 game between the SEC and Big Ten. Then the SEC will make its choices for the next six bowls.
The Independence and Birmingham bowls get to make their picks next. Neither appear to be likely destinations for LSU. The same is true for the Outback, Belk and Liberty bowls.
LSU was in the Outback last year in Tampa, Florida, and other teams like Tennessee or possibly South Carolina are better geographically for the Belk in Charlotte, North Carolina. There has apparently been little mutual interest between LSU and the Liberty in Memphis, Tennessee, which likely will get Texas A&M, Arkansas or Tennessee.
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Scott Rabalais’ SEC bowl projections
Alabama: Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinals)
Mississippi State: Peach Bowl
Ole Miss: Cotton Bowl
Missouri: Citrus Bowl
Georgia: Outback Bowl
Auburn: Taxslayer Bowl
LSU: Music City Bowl
Arkansas: Texas Bowl
Texas A&M: Liberty Bowl
Tennessee: Belk Bowl
Florida: Independence Bowl
South Carolina: Birmingham Bowl