Heading into the final weekend of college football, we typically have a good idea of where teams are heading for bowl season. At the worst, it's usually a deal where if Team X wins this weekend, we're going to Bowl Y; otherwise to Bowl Z.
This year? Not so much. So many possibilities exist and one unexpected thing could trigger a domino effect on the entire selection process.
Here is what we do know:
The SEC Champion is playing in the BCS Championship Game. And Florida is playing in a BCS game, almost certainly the Sugar Bowl.
After that, we don't know much but I'll do my best to clear up the difference scenarios.
After the BCS Bowls make their selections, the Capital One Bowl is the first to pick as far as the SEC is concerned. Initially, most believed that they would select the loser of the SEC Championship Game. However, the rumor mill this week has been that they favor Texas A&M and their likely Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. At the same time, the Aggies reportedly favor playing at a bowl location other than the Cotton Bowl. They want to get out of the state of Texas. LSU or the loser of the SEC Championship Game is also a possibility here. Michigan is the likely opponent. If Nebraska lose the Big-10 Championship Game, they are also a possibility; although, they were just in this game last year. Northwestern has an outside chance of being chosen.
The Cotton and Outback Bowls pick next with the Cotton having first right of refusal for a SEC West team and the Outback having first choice over SEC East teams.
Starting with the Outback, it seems clear that South Carolina is heading here. The Gamecocks have a great relationship with the Outback Bowl, having played some of the program's biggest games there. Georgia was in this game last year so I doubt they'd go in back to back seasons. If the Outback wanted a different team, that would likely send Carolina to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but the problem is that Clemson is the likely opponent and those two just played each other. They'll want to avoid that, so the SEC will be pushing for the Gamecocks to go to Tampa. Pencil in the Gamecocks, regardless of what happens in Atlanta on Saturday. The likely opponent is Northwestern.
Now to the Cotton Bowl where things get interesting. If Alabama wins Saturday and the Aggies are off the board, then LSU is the fairly easy choice. But what if either the Aggies or the Tide are available? My guess is that LSU falls behind them in the pecking order even though the Aggies may prefer elsewhere.
The opponent in the Cotton Bowl could vary too, and it could all depend on the MAC Championship Game (MACTION!!). Kent State is currently ranked #17 in the BCS rankings. If they win the MAC Championship on Friday night and move up to #16, then they are guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl game. That's significant because the team likely to get bumped out of the BCS picture would be Oklahoma, and they would then fall to the Cotton Bowl.
A LSU vs. Oklahoma match up would be something along the lines of #6 vs. #10 and would be one of the best bowl games in all of college football. If you want the best possible match up, then this is probably the best case scenario for LSU. If all that stuff doesn't happen, then the Big-12 rep in the Cotton Bowl is likely either Texas or Oklahoma State.
Next up is the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and this is the lowest LSU could possibly fall. In all honesty, this is not that bad a gig this year. The opponent in this game is likely Clemson who is currently #16 in the BCS. So as far as the match up, they present a better option than the Capital One, Outback, and possibly the Cotton and Sugar too. Florida State is a possible opponent too, if they lose the ACC Championship Game.
Rounding out the SEC picture is the Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl who will choose some combination of Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Personally, I'm OK with just about any of the three most likely destinations (Capital One, Cotton, Chick-Fil-A). A game against Michigan would be pretty cool. Since moving to Jerry's World, the Cotton Bowl has a January time slot in prime time and absolutely has the feel of a BCS game. I like the potential match ups in that game too. The same goes for the Chick-Fil-A. I know the Capital One is supposed to be a more prestigious bowl. But if you can get past the fact that the Capital One picks first, consider that the Chick-Fil-A has a time slot in prime time in a better stadium against a better opponent. I'd normally be pretty ticked off at being ranked #6 or 7 in the country and falling all the way to Atlanta but in this case, I'd be fine with it.
BCS Championship Game - Alabama vs. Notre Dame (ugh)
Sugar Bowl - Florida vs. Oklahoma
Capital One Bowl - Texas A&M vs. Michigan
Cotton Bowl - LSU vs. Texas
Outback Bowl - South Carolina vs. Northwestern
Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Georgia vs. Clemson
Gator Bowl - Mississippi State vs. Wisconsin
Music City Bowl - Vanderbilt vs. NC State
BBVA Compass Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Pitt