Rarely if ever have LSU’s postseason prospects been as scattered as they are with two weeks to go in the regular season.
The Tigers could wind up anywhere from the College Football Playoff semifinals (a low-percentage shot) to the Southeastern Conference’s “Group of Six” bowls (not-quite-so-low-percentage), depending how LSU fares in these final two games — and what happens elsewhere around the country.
The best way to digest all of the possibilities is with a little Q and A. So, read on, dear friends:
Summary: The spread for LSU’s bowl projections has narrowed more than at any point this season, though not necessarily in a bad way. Not unles…
What are LSU’s chances of going to the College Football Playoff?
Slim, and getting slimmer. The website FiveThirtyEight.com says if LSU wins out against Rice and Texas A&M to finish 10-2, the Tigers have a 7-percent chance to make the semifinals, down from 10 percent last week. One assumes the lack of earthshaking upsets last week did LSU no favors.
Still, there is a chance, though at this point it will probably require an unlikely mash-up of results, such as:
• No. 4 Notre Dame (10-0) losing to Syracuse and Southern California.
• No. 5 Georgia (9-1) getting smashed by No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
• No. 6 Oklahoma (9-1) and No. 9 West Virginia (8-1) canceling each other out, one team winning next week and the other winning the Big 12 title game. West Virginia lost at Oklahoma State; if WVU were to beat Oklahoma twice, that wouldn’t hurt LSU’s cause, either.
• No. 8 Washington State (9-1) losing to Washington and/or in the Pac-12 title game.
• No. 10 Ohio State (9-1) losing to Michigan.
All of those results could happen, but it is implausible to think they will all happen. College football’s typical wackiness appears to have gone into hibernation lately.
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Should LSU want to play in the CFP semifinals? It would probably mean playing Alabama?
Of course. LSU would be a huge underdog and there would be howls coast-to-coast that the Tigers don’t belong, but so what? You can’t win championships if you don’t play. Anything can happen.
What are LSU’s chances of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl if it finishes 10-2?
It is a virtual lock, because the Tigers are currently No. 7. It is easy to see one or two of the teams below LSU, like Wazzu or Ohio State, jumping the Tigers, but it is impossible to see 10-2 LSU falling out of the top 10?
What are LSU’s chances of playing in a NY6 Bowl if it finishes 9-3?
Assuming the Tigers would finish 9-3 by beating Rice and losing at Texas A&M, LSU could still hang in NY6 contention (the top 12 or so). This especially seems plausible given how much love the CFP committee has shown the Tigers to date. But 9-3 LSU could just as easily be left out.
What are LSU’s chances of playing in the Sugar Bowl?
Let’s assume the Tigers finish 10-2 and Alabama smacks Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, putting the Bulldogs at 11-2. I expected LSU to drop in the CFP rankings after beating Arkansas 24-17 last Saturday, creating a greater gap with Georgia, but the Tigers surprisingly hung in at No. 7.
If Alabama wins the SEC and is in the playoff, the Sugar will look to the highest-ranked available SEC team. If 10-2 LSU can jump past 11-2 Georgia in the final CFP rankings, it will be LSU. If not, the Tigers are going elsewhere.
The Peach or Fiesta bowls. The Cotton and Orange are hosting CFP semifinals this year, and the Rose Bowl is strictly a Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup. The CFP committee has total discretion to fill the Peach and Fiesta bowls based on a number of factors: best matchups, rankings, geography, recent appearances in those bowls, etc. Geography draws LSU to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, but the Tigers have never played in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. LSU hasn’t played in the Phoenix area at all since its 2005 game at Arizona State.
If 9-3 LSU is still ranked fairly high, could the Tigers make a third straight trip to the Citrus Bowl?
“It’s not a very unlikely scenario,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said. “I think it’s highly unlikely LSU would want to go three years in a row.”
There have been no official pronouncements from LSU, but Hogan is likely right. Everyone wants to go bowling somewhere new (see Fiesta Bowl) at some point. Besides, if Florida and/or Kentucky finish 9-3, the Citrus will have two desirable options right there.
So where could LSU land then?
This is where it gets really tricky. If a 9-3 LSU isn’t in the playoffs, an NY6 bowl or the Citrus, the Tigers fall to the aforementioned SEC “Group of Six”: the Outback, Music City, Gator, Liberty, Texas and Belk bowls. The SEC assigns the teams.
The SEC officially considers these bowls as equals, but everyone knows the Outback in Tampa, Florida, is the most desirable game in terms of location, dates (Jan. 1) and weather.
You’d figure LSU would be a prime candidate for the Outback, but if the 9-3 Florida/Kentucky team not chosen for the Citrus Bowl is still available, that team could go to Tampa. One figures the Gator Bowl (Dec. 31 in Jacksonville, Florida) might also be a strong option, and LSU has not been there since 1987. SEC teams with 9-3 records rarely get sent to the Gator, though 8-4 Mississippi State went to Jacksonville last year.