NEW ORLEANS — The next-to-last Sugar Bowl as we’ve known it could look a lot like the ones to come.
If form holds, Alabama will meet Oklahoma on Jan. 2 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Crimson Tide and the Sooners would be the highest-ranked teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 that aren’t in the playoffs (which for this year and next is still limited to No. 1 vs. No. 2). That format is exactly what the Sugar Bowl secured last week when it landed what had been called the Champions Bowl for 12 years beginning in 2014.
Of course, this being college football, there are always late-season spoilers. LSU fans will be forever grateful to Pittsburgh for knocking off West Virginia in 2007 and just as forever damning Iowa State for knocking off Oklahoma State last year.
But unless similar misfortune befalls Oregon, Kansas State and/or Notre Dame, for the first time since 2005, the SEC champion actually will play in the Sugar Bowl, whether it’s Alabama or Georgia, which the Crimson Tide still has to play in the SEC Championship Game, provided Bama doesn’t have a monumental fail against Auburn.
And forces are at work to send the Sooners to New Orleans as well.
If Kansas State wins out to make the BCS Championship Game, the Fiesta Bowl normally would pick the next team from the Big 12 to replace the Wildcats.
But Oklahoma been to the Fiesta four times in the past seven years. Plus OU-Notre Dame would be a rematch. Not to mention the Fiesta’s tie to the Big 12 is ending.
Thus, the Fiesta would gleefully snatch Notre Dame, letting the Sugar Bowl pick the Sooners, who haven’t played here since 2003.
For its other team, the Fiesta would turn to the SEC, where LSU is the front-runner. Fiesta Bowl folks still remember at how well Tigers fans traveled to the hastily relocated game against Arizona State right after Katrina struck in 2005.
But never consider anything a done deal until the last game is over and the poll voters and computers are heard from.
The Pac-12 could fail to have an eligible team to replace title-game-bound Oregon in the Rose Bowl and would get the first crack at Notre Dame, which last played in Pasadena, Calif., in 1925.
That still would likely mean an Oklahoma-LSU Fiesta Bowl, with Clemson coming to the Sugar Bowl to face the SEC champion.
And Louisiana Tech could qualify for a BCS bowl, putting the Sugar Bowl in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between an in-state team or a far bigger name.
Right now, Tech’s chances appear slim. Besides finishing in the top 16, the Bulldogs would have to finish ahead of a champion from one of the six AQ conferences.
But never discount anything happening when the BCS is concerned.
Who, outside of Johnny Football’s mom and Reveille, saw Texas A&M beating Bama?