It’s looking like the SEC will probably get at least 11 teams in bowl games this year.
South Carolina, Kentucky and Ole Miss should all become bowl-eligible this week. South Carolina plays Western Carolina, then Clemson. Kentucky plays Austin Peay, then Louisville. Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt and Mississippi State to close the season. Mississippi State could potentially become a 12th bowl-eligible team if it beats Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Twelve bowl-eligible teams could put the SEC in a predicament because it wouldn’t have enough bowl tie-ins. The SEC had the same scenario two years ago, but was bailed out by three teams getting into the New Year’s 6 bowl games. That isn’t likely to happen this year.
Assuming Arkansas beats Missouri, the Razorbacks shouldn’t be in any trouble being the odd man out. And if Arkansas beats Mississippi State this weekend, that 12-team scenario is eliminated.
From my seat, it looks as if the most likely bowls for Arkansas at this point are the Music City and Liberty, with chances at the Birmingham and Independence if the Razorbacks lose out.
Here is how I came to that conclusion:
If Alabama wins the SEC Championship Game and LSU wins out, those will be the two teams that make the New Year’s 6 bowl games - Alabama in the playoff and LSU in the Sugar. Obviously LSU has a couple of tough matchups with Florida and Texas A&M, but it should win both if it plays like it did last week.
The east representative at the SEC Championship Game will be relegated to the Citrus Bowl if it loses to Alabama. That bowl is contractually obligated to take the team that loses the SEC Championship Game if the loser does not make the NY6 bowls. If Florida loses at LSU, Tennessee would have the inside track at representing the east and would only have to beat Missouri and Vanderbilt to get to the SECCG.
So that would leave at least eight teams vying for the next tier of bowl games - TaxSlayer, Outback, Texas, Liberty, Music City and Belk.
I think the Texas Bowl would love to have Texas A&M. It tried to get the Aggies two years ago when Arkansas played there. This has kind of become what the Cotton Bowl used to be - the destination for the best SEC West team that doesn’t make the top-tier bowl games.
The Outback and Belk bowls would probably take an SEC East team or Auburn. The TaxSlayer Bowl wants Auburn, LSU or Florida. I would think the Belk Bowl ends up with Georgia, unless South Carolina were to upset Clemson or Kentucky upsets Louisville.
That would probably leave Arkansas and Ole Miss up for the two Tennessee bowls, as long as both have at least seven wins. Given that Arkansas played in Memphis last year, I would think a 7-5 or 8-4 Razorbacks team could be sent to Nashville to play a Big Ten or ACC team. The Liberty would get Ole Miss and another big crowd.
Kentucky and South Carolina would end up in the Birmingham and Independence bowls.