For some bowls, a shortage of eligible teams could be a problem this season.
In the Southeastern Conference, the problem is too many teams for too few slots in its top bowls.
The winner of the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia is virtually guaranteed a spot in the BCS Championship Game against No. 1 Notre Dame. Meanwhile, 11-1 Florida, No. 4 in the BCS standings, is all but certain to earn an automatic BCS slot if it stays in the top four, likely as the SEC champion’s replacement in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
But that still leaves 10-2 LSU, 10-2 Texas A&M, 10-2 South Carolina and an SEC Championship Game loser with an 11-2 record to vie for spots in the Capital One, AT&T Cotton, Outback and Chick-fil-A bowls.
From LSU’s perspective, the Tigers’ bowl résumé is a strong one.
LSU is the SEC’s highest-ranked team besides the conference’s three BCS-eligible teams (Alabama, Georgia and Florida). The Tigers stayed at No. 7 in the season’s second-to-last BCS standings, moved up a spot to No. 6 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and fell one to No. 9 in The Associated Press Top 25.
LSU owns victories over BCS No. 9 Texas A&M (24-19) and BCS No. 10 South Carolina (23-21).
But when it comes to bowl selections, anything can happen unless automatic selections are involved. Ticket sales, TV appeal and the last time a team was in a bowl often are deciding factors. That can be a big mark against LSU when it’s compared to A&M, the surprise team of the SEC led by Heisman Trophy front-runner Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
Here’s a look at the four possible bowls for LSU:
Capital One Bowl
Noon, Jan. 1, Orlando, Fla. (ABC)
Last appearance for LSU: 2010 game (lost to Penn State, 19-17)
The Road to Orlando: There was a picture of LSU coach Les Miles on the Capital One Bowl’s website Sunday night, and a message on its Twitter page said its selection committee would start with record and ranking and go from there to make its pick. The latter bodes well for the Tigers, though it would be tough for the Tigers to be selected over trendy Texas A&M or if Georgia is a close loser in the SEC Championship Game. However, the Cap One has only selected the SEC Championship Game loser twice since 2004. South Carolina likely would be less of a factor since it played in the Cap One last year, beating Nebraska 30-13, especially if Nebraska loses the Big Ten Championship Game to Wisconsin. Alabama, were it to lose to Georgia, might be hampered by the fact that it went to the Cap One two seasons ago, but the Crimson Tide likely would still be ranked ahead of LSU.
Possible opponents: Nebraska (10-2), Northwestern (9-3), Michigan (8-4). LSU has never played Michigan, and a game against Miles’ alma mater would generate interest.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
7 p.m., Jan. 4, Arlington, Texas (Fox)
Last appearance for LSU: 2011 game (beat Texas A&M, 41-24)
The Road to Arlington: There is little argument that the Cotton Bowl would crave a matchup of Texas A&M and Texas above all, but there are potential roadblocks that could work in LSU’s favor. Among them, the Capital One could snatch up Texas A&M, the Big 12 could lobby against its former member being in the game and Texas may not be the opponent. If the Longhorns, coming off a disappointing home loss to TCU, fall to Kansas State on Saturday, an 8-4 Texas team on a two-game losing streak probably wouldn’t make the grade if Oklahoma State closes with a win. LSU’s liability is that it was in this game two years ago and will be back in Cowboys Stadium in August to open the 2013 season against TCU, though an opener there against Oregon in 2011 didn’t hurt the Tigers.
Possible opponents: Kansas State (10-1), Oklahoma (9-2), Texas (8-3), Oklahoma State (7-4). A game with Oklahoma State (which closes at Baylor) would create an interesting matchup with Miles’ previous employer and his former assistant, Mike Gundy. K-State can drop here if it loses to Texas and Oklahoma beats TCU.
Noon, Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla. (ESPN)
Last appearance for LSU: 1989 game (lost to Syracuse, 23-10)
The Road to Tampa: LSU hasn’t been in this game since it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl, and the Outback hasn’t picked a team from the SEC West other than Alabama or Auburn since it hooked up with the SEC for the 1995 season. That said, the potential first-ever matchup between LSU and Michigan could be enticing for the Outback. But since the Cotton has the first choice of SEC West teams, LSU may not be available if the Cap One picks A&M and the Cotton chooses the Tigers.
Possible opponents: Northwestern (9-3), Michigan (8-4)
6:30 p.m., Dec. 31, Atlanta (ESPN)
Last appearance for LSU: 2008 game (beat Georgia Tech 38-3)
The Road to Atlanta: Not the trip to Atlanta that LSU fans were craving and, considering the Tigers’ ranking, it is in some ways hard to see LSU falling this far. But it is entirely possible and at this point may be the favorite as the Tigers’ bowl destination. One scenario: The Capital One picks Georgia, the Cotton Bowl picks Texas A&M and the Outback picks South Carolina.
Possible opponents: Florida State (10-2), Clemson (10-2). If LSU does wind up here, it would get a top-notch ACC opponent. Florida State will be here only if it is an upset loser to 6-6 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.