With the season over now, it's time to begin talking bowl selections. The three bowls that we're in play for are the Capital One, the Outback, and the Cotton. We're not going to a BCS Bowl, as only two teams from a single conference can play in those bowls; those two slots will go to Alabama and LSU, barring something strange happening this weekend in the SECCG. We can't go lower than the Outback or Cotton, which are forbidden to take teams with three or less wins than another available conference team--i.e., the Outback can't screw us over for Florida like it did last year, when we only had two more wins than the Gators. The other key thing to note here is that we'll be dividing these three bowl slots with Arkansas and Georgia--unless, again, Georgia wins this weekend. Both teams, granting a Georgia SECCG loss, are in the same spot we're in regarding moving up or moving down.
Here are my thoughts on our chances for each bowl.
Capital One Bowl
This would be the ideal scenario. The Capital One is the most prestigious non-BCS SEC bowl slot, it's one we've never had the privilege of playing in, and it's a closer drive than the Cotton Bowl, so plenty of our fans would show up, particularly considering that Orlando is a fun place to visit. Before this past weekend, the Cap One looked like a long shot, but there's an increasing amount of chatter that we may have a shot here. Most years, I'd say they would take Arkansas, as they usually take the highest-ranked SEC team not to play in a BCS Bowl. However, this year, although Arkansas is ranked higher than both, USC and UGA have the same records as the Hogs, and both are likely to land more fans in Orlando than Arkansas. The Cap One may also like that USC and UGA ended more strongly than Arkansas. So, let's assume the Cap One doesn't take Arkansas--may or may not happen. Now, the interesting thing is what happens to UGA this weekend. If UGA plays LSU tough in a loss, it may get the nod. However, if it gets blown out (this is what happened to USC with the Cap One last year), the Cap One will likely pass on the Dawgs. The bowl might then take USC.
I'd say that this is where we're heading if UGA loses ugly this weekend.
The Outback Bowl gets the first pick of SEC East teams after the Cap One selection. Word is that there is a mutual disinterest between the Outback and USC; both feel that USC has gone to this bowl too many times in recent years to prompt strong fan interest, and the Outback is also known for taking the brand-name teams whenever possible and regardless of rankings. (See Florida last year.) Therefore, although the Outback would probably like USC more than Arkansas, it's first choice is probably Georgia.
The situation that would be likely to force this matchup would be the Cap One taking Arkansas (again, seems less likely now, but still on the table) and Georgia losing the SECCG. The Outback will take Georgia in this case.
The Cotton Bowl is the Outback Bowl of the West; it gets the first pick of Western teams after the Cap One makes its selection. However, it is also beholden to the three-wins rule, so if 'Bama, LSU, and Arkansas are all off the table by the time it takes its turn, it will have to pick USC, an Eastern team, over a seven-win Auburn or six-win Miss. St. Not that it would want those teams more; the bowl has reportedly expressed a lot of interest in having USC come to Dallas for the first time, and although the length of the trip might prove prohibitive for some, I think a lot of Gamecocks would love to make this trip. It would be someplace new, Dallas is a fun town, and the new stadium it's being played in is probably the best in the country.
I'd say that this is where we're headed if Ark. goes to the Cap One and UGA loses the SECCG, based on the criteria mentioned above.
What If UGA Wins the SECCG?
If UGA wins the SECCG, it will play in the Sugar Bowl. There's a good chance that LSU and Alabama would still play in the National Title Game. (Three teams from the same conference can play in BCS Bowls in the odd scenario in which two non-conference champs play in the Title Game and the conference champ, which gets an automatic berth, plays in one of the others.) In that case, USC could (1) play in the Cap One, or (2) if Arkansas plays in the Cap One, USC would play in the Outback, which gets first pick of SEC East teams and would have to pick USC over Auburn. The other possibility here is that Alabama or LSU would fall out of the Title Game, in which only UGA and the team to remain in the Title Game (probably Alabama, astonishingly enough) would fall to the Cap One. In that case, USC goes to the Outback and Arkansas to the Cotton.
Got it? Good.