Outback, Cotton among possibilities
By ANDY BITTER
AUBURN, Ala. — More than just bragging rights will be on the line when Auburn and Georgia renew the Deep South’s oldest rivalry. Both teams’ bowl fate may well rest in the outcome of today’s game as well.
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The Tigers (7-3, 3-3 SEC) already have qualified for a bowl after missing out last year for the first time since 1999, Tommy Tuberville’s first year with the program.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 3-3) hope to avoid that disappointment, needing a victory in one of their final three games — vs. Auburn, vs. Kentucky, at No. 7 Georgia Tech — to extend their bowl streak to 13 years. Georgia’s streak of 12 straight seasons with bowl appearances is tied for the fourth-longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Working under the assumption that Florida and Alabama will garner bids to the Bowl Championship Series (one in the national title game and one in the Sugar Bowl), it doesn’t take long for the bowl order to get muddled.
The Capital One picks next, with LSU (7-2, 4-2 SEC) the odds on favorite to go to Orlando. The Outback and Cotton bowls work with the conference for the next two picks, with the Chick-fil-A Bowl getting fifth choice.
The Cotton Bowl, which will be played in the Cowboys’ new $1.8 billion stadium in Dallas, gets first preference from Western Division teams, which will include Auburn, Mississippi (6-3, 2-3 SEC) and Arkansas (5-4, 2-4 SEC).
The Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., gets first pick of the Eastern Division teams, a group that likely will include Georgia, a resurgent Tennessee (5-4, 2-3 SEC), South Carolina (6-4, 3-4 SEC) and possibly Kentucky (5-4, 1-4 SEC).
Both bowls can pick a team outside of its division but must wait until the other bowl chooses from its preferred division. The Cotton hasn’t picked a non-Western Division team since 2005. The Outback hasn’t taken a non-Eastern Division team since 1996.
So what does that mean for Auburn and Georgia? It’s hard to tell at this point.
If Auburn wins out, a scenario that requires it to beat No. 3 Alabama in the season finale, it could jump up to the Capital One Bowl. A win against Georgia or Alabama probably would lock up a Cotton Bowl bid. Losing twice would drop the Tigers into a mess of SEC teams that figure to finish at 7-5, with any of the lower-tiered bowls a possibility.
The Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., pick together at sixth and seventh.
The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., and PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., get the final two picks.
With South Carolina fading fast and Kentucky struggling to get eligible, Georgia essentially is jockeying for position in the Eastern Division bowl picture with Tennessee.
A Georgia win today coupled with a Tennessee loss at Mississippi would give the Bulldogs the inside track at the Outback Bowl. A loss and a Volunteers win would do the opposite, knocking Georgia down to the next tier of bowl games.