The LSU Tigers left College Station, Texas, on Thursday with a 23-17 victory over Texas A&M and improving prospects of a desirable bowl trip in front of them.
But three big factors may impact the 8-4 Tigers’ holiday plans:
-- You’ve heard of Black Friday. Well, this weekend was Black Saturday for the Southeastern Conference.
Four SEC teams lost to ACC foes, and Mississippi State, No. 4 in the CFP rankings entering the weekend, fell at Ole Miss, likely costing the SEC a second spot in the College Football Playoff and potentially pushing everyone else in the conference down a notch in the bowls.
-- The Texas Bowl two-step. It’s widely believed the Texas Bowl covets a matchup between bitter rivals Texas A&M and Texas. There has been much speculation that such a game could happen and just as much that one school or the other would like to block it.
-- The SEC Pick Six. For the first time, the conference office will select the SEC representative for six of its bowl tie-ins: the Outback, Taxslayer, 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. Ultimately, though, Birmingham will decide who goes where after any SEC teams are selected for the CFP bowls and the Citrus Bowl makes its choice. Remember, the Cotton and Peach bowls are now CFP access bowls and no longer automatically get SEC teams.
With that said, here’s a quick look at LSU’s likely bowl destinations, with all start times in CST:
When: Dec. 29, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Memphis, Tennessee
Matchup: SEC vs. Big 12
The case for LSU: Geographically, the game isn’t a stretch for LSU fans — a 51/2-hour drive from Baton Rouge to Memphis — and the Tigers haven’t played in the Liberty since 1985.
The case against: This probably isn’t LSU’s first preference. And there are teams, namely Arkansas or even Tennessee, that could make more sense from a proximity standpoint.
When: Dec. 29, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Matchup: SEC vs. Big 12
The case for LSU: Perhaps no bowl the Tigers could visit combines more positives — easy access for fans, a hotbed of recruiting, a huge alumni base and the likelihood of good weather (before going to the indoor stadium).
The case against: The Tigers opened the season against Wisconsin in Houston, so a repeat trip could impact ticket sales. Mostly, though, there’s the prospect of a Texas A&M-Texas matchup roadblocking I-10.
Music City Bowl
When: Dec. 30, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Matchup: SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
The case for LSU: The Tigers have never been to the Music City Bowl, and a possible Big Ten matchup could be intriguing. Being there to witness now-despised Penn State and ex-Vanderbilt coach James Franklin bring his Nittany Lions to Nashville sounds fun.
The case against: A Grand Ole Opry New Year aside, how many LSU fans do you know who will drive 8½ hours to maybe watch the Tigers play 6-6 Penn State? Arkansas, Tennessee, even Auburn make more sense.
When: Dec. 30, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
Matchup: SEC vs. ACC
The case for LSU: A relative newcomer to the SEC bowl scene, this is another postseason spot the Tigers haven’t been to. The opponent is likely to be the top ACC team after CFP selections are made.
The case against: Persistent predictions, including one from ESPN.com, have LSU going here. But, really, Charlotte is nearly 800 miles from Baton Rouge. Why send the Tigers there when you could have South Carolina, Tennessee or even Florida?
When: Jan. 1, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Where: Tampa, Florida
Matchup: SEC vs. Big Ten
The case for LSU: There isn’t much of one, especially if the SEC only gets one team in the CFP semifinals and one more in one of the other CFP bowls.
The case against: The Tigers played here in January and didn’t draw well. Plus, there are five SEC teams with better records than LSU. Even if three SEC teams get into CFP semifinals/bowls and a fourth is in the Citrus Bowl, that still means at least one 9-3 team is there for the Outback before you get to 8-4 LSU. The SEC insists the “group of six” bowls are equals, but history and location say the Outback really ranks first.
When: Jan. 2, 2:20 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Jacksonville, Florida
Matchup: SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
The case for LSU: The Tigers’ only trip to the former Gator Bowl was in 1987, when they beat South Carolina. Considering LSU finished with a win, they may look more appealing than, say, 8-4 Auburn. If the Taxslayer is No. 6 in the pecking order, LSU may be in the right spot. This has to be one of the top choices from an LSU perspective.
The case against: No bowl is harder to project than the Taxslayer. This bowl used to get 6-6 and 7-5 teams, but last year it moved up in class with two 8-4 teams (Georgia and Nebraska). It’s in Florida and in an NFL stadium, so it will no doubt be high on several teams’ lists. How strong a team the SEC will want to send here remains guesswork.
LSU national bowl projections
Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Liberty Bowl vs. West Virginia
Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Louisville
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Texas Bowl vs. Texas
Brant Parsons, Orlando Sentinel: Belk Bowl vs. Notre Dame
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Belk Bowl vs. North Carolina
The Advocate’s SEC bowl projections
Alabama: Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinals)
Mississippi State: Peach Bowl
Georgia: Cotton Bowl
Missouri: Citrus Bowl
Ole Miss: Outback Bowl
LSU: Taxslayer Bowl
Auburn: Music City Bowl
Texas A&M: Texas Bowl
Arkansas: Liberty Bowl
South Carolina: Belk Bowl
Tennessee: Independence Bowl
Florida: Birmingham Bowl