Georgia's bowl outlook: Miami or bust?

semerson@macon.comNovember 18, 2012 

ATHENS - It's now safe to assume that Georgia will be in Miami, playing for the national championship, if it wins its next two games. The events of Saturday night took care of that.

But that's all we can really safely say at the moment: If Georgia doesn't win out, it's bowl destination could still be anywhere from New Orleans to Orlando to Tampa ... or even Atlanta.

Let's go through the possibilities:

BCS championship game: Miami, Jan. 7
As stated, this one's simple: Beat Georgia Tech and Alabama and you're in. The real intrigue is the opponent: It would be Notre Dame - the same team Georgia beat to win the 1980 title - if the Irish beat Southern Cal. But if not, the most intriguing scenario is this: Florida beats Florida State, and you have a rematch with the Gators ... in Miami.

Sugar Bowl: New Orleans, Jan. 2
Heading into this weekend, most analysts felt Georgia needed to win out even to make a BCS bowl, because a two-loss Georgia would be less attractive than a one-loss Florida, or two-loss LSU, Texas A&M or South Carolina. But my sense is the events of Saturday enhances the chances that Georgia can make the BCS with a close loss to Alabama.

Normally, no matter what they say bowl officials go into championship Saturday ready with their picks, and they don't have the inclination to say, "Well if Georgia only loses by seven points, or if it's by more than 10 points .." But here's what changed now: For the next two weeks Georgia will be a top-three ranked team that's constantly mentioned in contention for a national title. That makes the Bulldogs a better value. It may give the Sugar Bowl reason to tell itself that as long as the Bulldogs don't get their doors blown off in Atlanta they would make a good pick.

However: South Carolina still needs to lose to Clemson, because the Sugar Bowl is attracted to the Gamecocks. (Star power with Jadeveon Clowney, and the fan base travels well.) But Texas A&M remains the biggest threat, especially with a potential Heisman Trophy winner. LSU is probably not as big a threat to Georgia because the Sugar Bowl prefers not to pick the Tigers, since they're a home-state team that doesn't sell many hotel rooms.

Capital One Bowl: Orlando, Jan. 1
There were two Capital One Bowl reps in the Georgia locker room after the game on Saturday. Normally you don't put too much stock in something like that, but this late in the season it may indicate some real interest. As stated above, I think Georgia's stock is rising with the bowls, so the Capital One is increasing as a worst-case scenario for Georgia. But just like the Sugar Bowl's pick, it's not clear-cut: Florida, if it beats Florida State, will be attractive, as will any other two-loss team not selected by the Sugar Bowl.

Outback Bowl: Tampa, Jan. 1
Could Georgia go eat bloom 'n onions for a second straight year? It's not out of the realm of possibility. Maybe if you're the Outback you don't want a repeat, but if Georgia falls this far it may be too hard to resist.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Atlanta, Dec. 31
By this point, it would be Alabama in the BCS title game, and you figure the Cotton Bowl is getting either LSU or Texas A&M. So between the Sugar, Capital One and Outback, five teams are gone. The Bulldogs, unless they lose their next two games and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss, could not fall further than here.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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