LSU’s bowl destination is clearing up.
The Tigers’ two most likely landing spots seem to be Jacksonville, Florida, or Houston.
The Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville has narrowed its list of possible Southeastern Conference representatives to two: LSU or Georgia, said Rick Catlett, the bowl’s president and CEO. The AdvoCare Texas Bowl in Houston has LSU on its list of preferred teams, said David Fletcher, the bowl’s executive director.
Those two options make the most sense for the No. 23-ranked Tigers (8-3). Under the league’s new bowl process, the SEC will select the representative for six of its bowl tie-ins: the Outback, Taxslayer, AdvoCare Texas, Liberty, Music City and Belk.
Schools will be allowed to rank their bowl preferences 1-6, and the bowls will be allowed to rank their team preferences in the same manner. Bowls and schools will re-rank their preferred teams and bowls on Sunday morning, Catlett said.
Before those six bowls are slotted, the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl makes its selection. The Orlando-based bowl is a very distant possibility for LSU. The Citrus is likely to take Florida if it were to do what’s expected - lose to Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Among the group of six, the Tigers played in the Outback Bowl two years ago and competed in the Franklin American Music City Bowl last year. The North Carolina-based Belk Bowl, meanwhile, is more than 800 miles away from Baton Rouge.
That leaves the Taxslayer and the Texas bowls. LSU’s bowl site, along with most others, will be announced Sunday afternoon.
The Taxslayer has honed in on LSU and unranked Georgia (9-3) as its top two picks out of the SEC, Catlett said. The Tigers and the Bulldogs have the best records of league teams after Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss, likely bound for the Sugar Bowl.
The Tigers appear to be a favorite over the Bulldogs, who play Florida each season at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field. LSU hasn’t played in the Taxslayer Bowl since 1987, when it was the Gator Bowl.
“They play here every year,” Catlett said of Georgia. “We have the Georgia-Florida game here every year. We had them in our bowl game two years ago. There’s an awful lot of Bulldog fans just a couple hour’s drive, but I’m not sure LSU fans take a backseat to anybody when they travel to bowl games.”
LSU will likely match up against Penn State or Florida State if the Tigers were sent to Jacksonville, Catlett said. The bowl has the option of taking the best ACC or Big Ten team after the New Year’s Six bowls choose.
FSU is the bowl’s first choice, but the Seminoles are likely to land in one of the non-College Football Playoff New Year’s Six bowls - the Fiesta or the Peach. Catlett said the bowl has identified Penn State as their next choice.
Would the opponent affect LSU’s place in the bowl game?
“I don’t think so,” Catlett said. “It’s something that would enter in the discussion.”
The Taxslayer is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. Jan. 2 on ESPN. Catlett makes no bones about it - the Tigers are wanted.
“You’ve got one of the best running backs in the country and (athletic director) Joe Alleva made the right decision and kept one of the best coaches in America,” Catlett said. “It’s an iconic brand in college football.”
LSU has never played in the Texas Bowl, in its 10th year overall and just the second year in which it ties into the SEC bowl process. The bowl game pits the SEC vs. the Big 12. Who could the Tigers play if they wind up in Houston?
“The possibility of Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia is what we’re hearing and looking at,” Fletcher said.
The Texas Bowl is set to kick off at 8 p.m. on Dec. 29 on ESPN at NRG Stadium.
The Tigers opened last season in Houston against Wisconsin and will open the 2017 season against BYU at NRG Stadium.
“LSU does have a great fan base down here in the region,” Fletcher said. “Houston is their largest alumni base. Any time there’s an opportunity to have LSU at our game is a great thing.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.