ATLANTA — Was Auburn’s 28-7 blowout loss to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game a blow to LSU’s hopes to return to the Citrus Bowl?
The possibility exists that Auburn, which entered the day No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, could fall not only out of the CFP semifinals but could miss one of the slots in the CFP’s four so-called “New Year’s Six” bowls.
Complicating the situation for Auburn is the fact the Sugar Bowl is a CFP semifinal this year. Last year, Auburn (10-3) went to the Sugar Bowl, which must take the highest-ranked available Southeastern Conference team if the champion is in the playoffs. But that safety net isn't available to Auburn this time.
Though LSU beat Auburn 27-23 on Oct. 14, Auburn was significantly ahead of LSU in the CFP rankings. LSU (9-3) was No. 17 entering the weekend.
An Auburn loss was not expected to open a path for LSU to make a New Year’s Six bowl, CBSSports.com college football analyst Jerry Palm said, though the Orange Bowl was a strong possibility for an SEC team entering the weekend.
LSU beat Louisville 29-9 in last year’s Citrus Bowl. If invited, LSU would be the first SEC team to make back-to-back trips to the Orlando, Florida, bowl since Tennessee after the 1995-96 seasons.
Where would LSU go if not the Citrus Bowl? The SEC will decide the next six bowl representatives for the Outback, TaxSlayer, Texas, Liberty, Belk and Music City bowls. Based on its ranking, LSU could be expected to go to the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 in Tampa, Florida.
Bowl matchups will begin to be decided following the release of the CFP semifinal parings at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN. SEC bowl paring announcements are expected sometime Sunday afternoon.
Malzahn on Auburn job
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was asked after Saturday's game if he would still be the Auburn coach in 2018. An Arkansas native, Malzahn is widely expected to be the top target of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ coaching search.
“I want to be the head coach at Auburn,” Malzahn said. When asked if that means he will be, Malzahn replied: “I want to be.”
A rare split
For just the second time in seven SEC Championship Game rematches from the regular season, the team that lost in the regular season won the championship. Auburn beat Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11.
Before Saturday, the only team to buck that trend was LSU. In 2001, the Tigers lost 26-18 at Tennessee in the regular season then upset the No. 2-ranked Volunteers 31-20 in the SEC Championship Game.
The 2017 SEC Legends class was honored on the field before Saturday’s game, among them former LSU All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.
Dorsey won the Lombardi, Outland, Nagurski and Lott trophies as a senior in 2007, the year he led LSU to the SEC title and BCS national championship. Dorsey was the fifth overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft by Kansas City and played eight seasons with the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
Other honorees included former Alabama coach Gene Stallings, former Florida and New Orleans Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel, Georgia’s Champ Bailey and Kentucky’s Nate Northington, who in 1967 became the first African-American play in an SEC football game.
Nos. 1 and 1-A
After this year’s SEC legends were introduced pregame, a pair of legendary SEC running backs took the field together: Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Auburn’s Bo Jackson.
Walker won the Heisman Trophy in 1982, while Jackson won it three years later.
Georgia ties Tennessee for second-most SEC titles with 13 behind Alabama’s 26. LSU is fourth with 11. … Georgia leads the Auburn series, the Deep South’s oldest, 58-56-8. … The 2018 SEC Championship Game will be played Dec. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.