AJ McCarron will look to make it two in a row for the Tide - Mike Zarrilli
The SEC is back in the National Championship mix. Also, a poor year at the bottom end leaves the conference looking at multiple unfilled bowl slots.
That didn't take long. One week after being on the outside of the national championship picture looking in, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs are heading for a showdown in Atlanta to determine who will represent the SEC in Miami on January 7th. Both teams control their own destiny. Alabama will undoubtedly beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend. Georgia has a rivalry game against the wildly inconsistent but potentially dangerous Georgia Tech Yellow jackets (6-5, 5-3 in the ACC).
The SEC will play in the National Championship unless one of these teams loses this weekend then wins the league championship. In essence (again, Alabama is a lock this weekend) this would require the Bulldogs to spit the bit against Tech then upset the Tide. Unlikely.
Elsewhere, Florida might still play its way into the national championship if Notre Dame loses to USC and the Gators can upset the Florida St. Seminoles in Tallahassee.
Finally, LSU, Texas A&M and I suppose the loser of the SEC Championship game have a tiny, tiny window they could crawl through to get to the National Championship. We'll talk about that next week if it is still in play, but suffice to say that a lot would have to happen both on the field and in the polls.
SEC teams are still jockeying for position at the bottom of the pile. With losses last weekend, the Tennessee Volunteers and Arkansas Razorbacks are now out of the picture with seven losses. Missouri sits at 5-6 and can punch its postseason tickets with an upset over Texas A&M. That is a longshot, at best.
The Mississippi Rebels have a slightly easier road to bowl eligibility. I find this a little strange, but Ole Miss is actually favored by one point over the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in Oxford. A win would get the Rebs to 6-6. This would be a blessing for the SEC, which is going to leave a lot of bowl money on the table this year by not filling its lesser bowl slots. Despite the odds, I don't see Ole Miss winning this game. I just think the Bulldogs are a better team.
My bowl projections assume that Alabama and Georgia win this weekend, and that Alabama wins the SEC Championship. I also believe that Florida will lose to the Seminoles, and the Clemson Tigers will defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks in yet another highly anticipated SEC-ACC rivalry game this Saturday.
LSU (the Sugar will have a ton of options here, but LSU would be the safest pick. I'd love to see A&M in this game.)
Georgia (the Capital One has the next overall choice. This spot could go to A&M or Florida.)
Texas A&M (Johnny Football and Co. won't fall past here.)
Mississippi St. (the Gator could select Vandy, but I'd expect that the Dawgs would make more financial sense)
This would leave the Liberty, Independence and BBVA Compass Bowls without SEC teams to compete. The Liberty Bowl folks will be throwing a party if Ole Miss gets by Mississippi State on Saturday. Given the Rebels' turnaround, and the proximity of Memphis, the Liberty Bowl would be one hell of a good time if this could work out.