The clouded November ending to LSU’s regular season could give way to a sunny January finish.
Jonathan Gorman, a scout for the Citrus Bowl, told some media members waiting to head into LSU’s locker room after Saturday’s 19-7 win over Texas A&M that his bowl game was a strong consideration for the Tigers with a potential matchup against Michigan.
The name Michigan is something of a holy grail for LSU football. The Tigers and Wolverines have never met on the gridiron.
And as long as devoted Michigan man Les Miles is coaching LSU, that isn’t going to happen. In the regular season.
A bowl matchup is another matter, and this particular bowl matchup may be the one game that gets LSU selling bowl tickets in droves.
LSU and Michigan meeting New Year’s Day in Orlando, Florida, is definitely a possibility, said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, the organization that runs the Citrus Bowl.
But it’s only one of many possible outcomes for the Citrus, which will pick its teams Sunday after Southeastern Conference and Big Ten teams are placed in the CFP semifinals (Cotton and Orange) and the other CFP bowls: Sugar, Rose, Peach and Fiesta.
“That’s certainly one of many options to consider,” said Hogan, who is aware of the Miles to Michigan ties and the fact the Tigers have never played the Wolverines. “We’ve had great experiences with LSU. They have fantastic fans.”
But it’s far from being likely to happen at this point, Hogan continued, saying his bowl has about 300 scouts.
He indicated Gorman got a bit overheated in his talk of an LSU-Michigan Citrus Bowl.
“If any one of our scouts alludes to that fact, they are probably ill-informed,” Hogan said. “We haven’t even met as a committee yet.”
But an LSU-Michigan meeting isn’t a far-fetched idea, it’s just that a specific list of things would likely have to happen.
First, in the SEC, Alabama beats Florida in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Not just beats the Gators, but hammers them, keeping Florida below Ole Miss in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Alabama would be a shoo-in for a CFP semifinal. That would leave the highest-ranked available SEC team to the Sugar Bowl. If that’s Ole Miss, that leaves the Citrus to choose between the available remaining SEC teams, likely 8-3 LSU and what would be a 10-3 Florida team that lost to LSU.
“Then we’d have to figure it out,” Hogan said.
There are a fair number of LSU fans still damp from the Tigers’ last trip to the Citrus Bowl after the 2009 season. They remember LSU playing Penn State in a quagmire and losing 19-17, the Tigers’ speed advantage negated by the pure slop brought on by torrential rains.
Hogan is eager for LSU fans to know that $210 million has since been spent on the Citrus Bowl stadium, replacing the lower bowl of seats and the old grass field with turf.
“It’s an entirely different place,” Hogan said.
On the Big Ten side, for the Citrus to pick Michigan the Big Ten champ (Michigan State or Iowa) would have to be in the CFP semifinals, another Big Ten team (the championship game loser or Ohio State) would be in the Rose and a third Big Ten team would have to be in another CFP bowl. The Citrus would also have to pass on 10-2 Northwestern, No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press poll while Michigan is No. 19.
Still, it’s a choice the Citrus is allowed to make.
Overall, though, LSU is more likely to be in one of the SEC’s “Pool of Six” bowls: Outback, Texas, Liberty, TaxSlayer, Belk and Music City. The conference will place its teams in those bowls for the second straight year.
You can likely scratch out the Music City because LSU went there last year, the Outback because the Tigers were there two years ago and the Belk because it’s too far away. That leaves the Texas, Liberty and TaxSlayer (formerly Gator).
The national consensus of bowl picks right now has LSU pointing toward the TaxSlayer on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. But the Texas Bowl, Dec. 29 in Houston, also makes a lot of sense geographically for LSU and its huge alumni and recruiting base there.
LSU opened the season last year against Wisconsin in NRG Stadium and will open the 2017 campaign there against BYU. But Texas Bowl Executive Director David Fletcher said he didn’t see those games as obstacles to the Tigers bowling in Houston.
“Anytime we can host LSU, it’s a good thing for everyone,” Fletcher said.
Despite a late three-game slide, the notoriety surrounding Miles’ job status and Fournette probably boosts LSU’s appeal as a bowl team, likely driving eyes to TV sets to see what’s going on with Miles’ bunch.
At bowl time, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.