ATLANTA — The Alabama-Georgia showdown in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game won’t just decide who plays in the BCS national championship game.
The result will also have a trickle-down effect on much of the SEC’s bowl hierarchy, with LSU’s destination as much in play as it is for the five other conference teams ranked in the BCS top 10.
The general consensus is this:
If Alabama beats Georgia, LSU will go to the AT&T Cotton Bowl (Jan. 4, Arlington, Texas). This assumes Florida (11-1 and currently No. 4 in the BCS) will take the SEC champion’s place in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Texas A&M will be snapped up by the Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1, Orlando, Fla.).
As for Georgia, the Bulldogs could fall to the Outback Bowl (Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla.) or return to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.
However, if Georgia wins to advance to the BCS championship game, Alabama is expected to be in the Cotton Bowl while Florida is still in the Sugar and A&M is in the Capital One. LSU would likely be in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, though there is an outside chance the Tigers could wind up in the Outback.
At this point, LSU’s chances of playing in the Capital One, the SEC’s top non-BCS bowl, appear to be small considering that bowl’s interest in Texas A&M and the possibility the Cap One could opt for the SEC Championship Game loser.
A trip to the Cotton Bowl would be LSU’s second in three seasons. The Tigers beat A&M there in January 2011.
Overall, LSU would be making its third of four trips to play in Cowboys Stadium, including its season opener against Oregon in Sept. 2011 and the August 2013 season opener against TCU.
Despite that, fan over-familiarity isn’t a concern for Cotton Bowl President Rick Baker, who is aware LSU season ticket-holders pre-bought 16,546 tickets for his game on the mere possibility the Tigers would wind up there.
“We might have been worried that they would have Cowboys Stadium fatigue, but that has not been the case,” Baker said. “We are pleased with the pre-sale. It shows they’re excited about coming.”
Likely opponents on the Big 12 side include Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which Les Miles coached for four seasons before going to LSU in 2005.
While not a January bowl, the Chick-fil-A offers the prospect of one of the most highly ranked opponents LSU could face.
The Atlanta bowl will likely have No. 15 Clemson (10-2), unless No. 13 Florida State (10-2) loses in the ACC Championship Game to Georgia Tech.
“From our perspective, we have a great opportunity for somebody who wants to play the highest-ranked team out of all the SEC bowls,” said Chick-fil-A President and CEO Gary Stokan “I think when you get in a bowl other than the national championship game, you want to play the highest-ranked opponent you can. We can put forth the best competitive game.”
LSU pre-sold 8,012 Chick-fil-A tickets to season-ticket holders. The Tigers last played in the game in 2008 but opened the 2010 season here against North Carolina and were in last year’s SEC Championship Game here against Georgia.
The Tigers haven’t played in the Outback Bowl since 1989, when the game was still the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Outback typically picks an SEC East team, but there could be interest in a rare opportunity to grab LSU.
“There are some geographic parameters we follow with the SEC,” Outback Bowl President and CEO Jim McVay said. “But LSU has been an exceptional team for a long time now and we haven’t had a lot of opportunities (with the Tigers).”
LSU fans pre-bought 7,492 Outback Bowl tickets. The Tigers would likely play Northwestern, but Miles’ alma mater Michigan is also a possibility.
Bowl bids will be announced Sunday night.