For a few afternoon hours, it seemed like the state of Mississippi was a gateway to bowling anywhere in Florida this December. Then South Carolina created a commotion in Tennessee that shook the college football playoff predictions and, with them, the predictions for the New Year’s Six Bowl.
No, the shocker of this SEC and perhaps the entire FBS season so far isn’t going to knock the state of Mississippi out of Pool of Six-Bowl status, whatever the Bulldogs do or don’t do Thursday night in Oxford. With seven wins under their belt and a shot at an eighth, this SEC academy is back in solid form.
It’s just that once Florida’s dying breath sailed past the end zone with a loss to Vanderbilt, even Bulldog players were sure to have thoughts of bowling in the Sunshine State. Now? The guess-the-address game continues through December 4th when the CFP and NY6 bowls get their matchups; the Citrus Bowl picks the next best available SEC team; and the SEC office and shell wheel and dealing with school preferences. Usually.
Mississippi State Athletic Department and University officials aren’t saying much at the moment. The fight for the golden egg has all the attention. After the Bulldogs return home, and even more so after this entire “rivalry weekend” has been played, State staffers will compile the annual wish list of preferred bowls in order one-two-three.
Of course, news from UF-VU raised hopes that an Egg Bowl win could put an eight-win group of Bulldogs as high on the list as Orlando. And it still could, but only with four SEC teams stepping into the CFP/NY6 system. That went without saying last week; Now, some national projectors are suggesting Tennessee could fall to Citrus with everyone else down shuffling the order.
Barring another epic upset somewhere, and in this strange year, who’s going to bet again?, SEC title game teams Georgia and LSU will take a playoff berth; then the losers play in a big bowl with Alabama and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, unexpected losses from Florida and Kentucky along with South Carolina’s wins have turned the East upside down for mere SEC mortals. Arkansas is now eligible for the Bowl, playing against a five-win Missouri looking to get there. Auburn also only has to hit the Crimson Tide to be officially eligible.
However…now the “eligibility” for these two Tiger teams isn’t that official anymore. As an SEC bureau official told the DWS news box on Saturday, there are now five-win teams headed to the bowl games because the 41 events may not have eligible teams. As of today and as counted by CBS Sports, there are only 73 eligible teams. Another 16 are a win away.
Like the state of Mississippi in 2016, the magic of the academic progress rate can get a team under .500 into a bowl game. And it won’t just be SEC status (and fan interest) that matters. Guess who is coming up with the second and third best APRs out of five winning teams right now?
Auburn and Missouri. Oh, and by the way, everyone is ten full points ahead of Vanderbilt with five wins in the academic standings! Won’t that be a kick in the mortar chamber when these “soccer schools” get a bowl of better grades than the snooty Commodores?
And wait, folks, there’s a cherry on top of this winter’s bowl madness. Should 84 teams somehow qualify, ESPN will likely create an event from scratch to reward them!
But of course, here in Bulldog Country, we’re just interested observers of what’s happening at the top and bottom of the bowling ladder. The state of Mississippi can still carve its way into a central Florida bowling address by beating its arch-rival with no outside help. Otherwise, it will be a battle of preferences with conflicting head-to-head results and the final SEC record being factored into the attribution.
SEC Pool of Six Bowls predictions from select national media (TSN and Athlon not yet released)
24/7 SPORT – Texas, Mississippi vs. Baylor
Kentucky to Tampa, South Carolina to Gator, Arkansas to Music City, Florida to Las Vegas, no Liberty team; Missouri to the first responder
CBS Sports – Texas, Mississippi vs. Oklahoma
South Carolina to Tampa, Arkansas to Gator, Kentucky to Music City, Auburn to Liberty, Florida to Las Vegas, Missouri to Birmingham
ACTION NETWORK – Las Vegas, Mississippi vs. UCLA
Florida to Tampa, South Carolina to Gator, Arkansas to Texas, Kentucky to Music City, Auburn to Liberty
USA TODAY – Gator, Mississippi State v Wake Forest
Ole Miss to Tampa, Missouri to Texas, Kentucky to Music City, South Carolina to Liberty, Arkansas to Las Vegas, Florida to Birmingham
YAHOO SPORTS – Texas, Mississippi vs. Oklahoma
Ole Miss to Tampa, Kentucky to Gator, Missouri to Music City, Florida to Liberty, South Carolina to Las Vegas, Arkansas to Gasparilla, none in Birmingham
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS – Music City, Mississippi vs. Illinois
South Carolina to Tampa, Arkansas to Gator, Florida to Texas, Kentucky to Liberty, Vanderbilt to Las Vegas
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED – Music City, Mississippi v. Purdue
Ole Miss to Tampa, South Carolina to Gator, Arkansas to Texas, Kentucky to Liberty, Florida to Birmingham, none in Las Vegas