The LSU Tigers were at times Saturday night one play, even one second, from locking up a 10-2 season and a New Year’s Six bowl bid with a victory at Texas A&M.
But at the end of a 74-72 seven-overtime loss to the Aggies, the 9-3 Tigers found themselves in bowl limbo with college football’s championship weekend left to go.
With the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings set to be released at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN, here are where LSU’s bowl prospects stand:
• Sugar Bowl: LSU went into the A&M game No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, in prime position if it beat the Aggies to leapfrog No. 5 Georgia if the Bulldogs lose Saturday to Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Now the gap likely will be too great for the Tigers to overcome a Georgia team that at worst will finish 11-2, a Georgia team that may well move up to No. 4 after previous No. 4 Michigan’s loss to Ohio State. Then there is 9-3 Florida, which beat LSU 27-19, which also will likely slide ahead of the Tigers in the CFP rankings.
In other words, the Sugar Bowl appears to be off the boards. At this point, Sugar Bowl officials and those in the New Orleans hospitality industry have to be hoping Alabama beats Georgia so that the Bulldogs don’t also wind up in the playoffs, likely sending Florida’s light traveling fan base to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
• Peach and Fiesta bowls: Again, we have to see what the CFP rankings look like Tuesday and the final ones on Dec. 2. But considering the love the CFP committee has shown for LSU to date, the Tigers may not fall out of the final CFP top 12, which is where they need to be to secure a spot in one of these two New Year’s Six bowls. Actually, LSU may have to finish in the CFP top 11 because the Pac-12 champion — Washington or Utah — is likely to finish outside the top 12 but will be guaranteed a spot in the Rose Bowl.
LSU’s losses are to No. 1 Alabama (12-0), Florida (9-3 and likely to rise from No. 11 into the CFP top 10), and an 8-4 Texas A&M team likely to vault up from No. 22 in the CFP rankings after this win. That and the Tigers’ win over likely No. 4 Georgia and a ranked Mississippi State team give LSU a résumé that is tough to top among three-loss contenders for the last slot in the Peach and Fiesta bowls.
That said, LSU probably needs the favorites to win the conference championship games, namely Oklahoma over Texas in the Big 12, Clemson over Pittsburgh in the ACC and Ohio State over Northwestern in the Big Ten. LSU also could use Ohio State in the playoff. If Oklahoma makes it instead, Texas would automatically go to the Sugar Bowl and take up another New Year's Six spot.
By the way, the CFP semifinals are in the Cotton and Orange bowls this year, so LSU can not go there, while the Rose is strictly a Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup this season.
• Citrus Bowl: At 9-3 and likely ranked somewhere from No. 10-15, LSU typically would be a prime candidate for the Citrus Bowl, which alone of all the SEC bowls gets to pick its participant. But LSU has been to the Orlando bowl the past two years, and both LSU and the Citrus are almost certain to look elsewhere. The Citrus, for example, could invite a 9-3 Kentucky team that has not been to a bowl of that stature in a long time. The Citrus also likely would gravitate toward in-state Florida if available.
• ‘Group of Six:’ So if LSU does not get in the Peach or Fiesta and is shut out of the Citrus, where could the Tigers go? LSU would then fall to the SEC’s so called “group of six” bowls: the Outback, Gator, Music City, Texas, Liberty and Belk. The SEC is careful to rate those six bowls as equals, but clearly a trip to Florida for the Outback (in Tampa) or Gator (in Jacksonville) would be considered the greater reward and the best of a disappointing situation for LSU.
The SEC office will decide which teams go where among the “group of six” Sunday after the CFP parings and New Year’s Six bowls are decided (11 a.m., ESPN), and the Citrus makes its pick.
National bowl projections
• Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa
• Kyle Bonagura, ESPN.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State
• CollegeFootballNews.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Northwestern
• CollegeSportsMadness.com: Peach Bowl vs. Texas
• Brad Crawford, 247sports.com: Peach Bowl vs. Washington State
• Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington State
• Steve Lassan, Athlon: Peach Bowl vs. Washington State
• Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Peach Bowl vs. Washington State
• Brant Parsons, OrlandoSentinel.com: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State
• Steve Petrella, The Action Network: Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF
• Mitch Sherman, ESPN.com: Fiesta Bowl vs. Michigan
• Eric Single, SI.com: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State
• Joe Tansey, BleacherReport.com: Outback Bowl vs. Penn State
• Jim Tomlin, SaturdayDownSouth.com: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa
Peach Bowl: 11 a.m. Dec. 29, Atlanta (ESPN) — 4 projections
Outback Bowl: 11 a.m. Jan. 1, Tampa, Florida (ESPN2) — 5 projections
Fiesta Bowl: Noon Jan. 1, Glendale, Arizona (ESPN) — 3 projections
Citrus Bowl: Noon Jan. 1, Orlando, Florida (ABC) — 2 projections