ATHENS — There’s a lot that’s out of his control, and there are two weekend’s worth of games to scramble the picture. It’s clear, however, that Georgia is on the mind of Scott Ramsey, the executive director of the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
“Yes. And yes,” Ramsey said this week, when asked if Georgia is on his bowl’s radar, and if that’s a school they’d be interested in.
“We’re kind of waiting to see how the Big Ten play into the New Year’s Six (bowls), and how many teams get up in there, and see who’s maybe in our mix, and go from there. But Georgia’s certainly a team that we look forward to hosting the next time we get the opportunity to, and this year is certainly a possibility.”
Georgia hasn’t played in the Music City Bowl since 2001. And it didn’t play in Nashville this year, with the Vanderbilt game being in Athens. So it’s easy to see why it would be a match. But it’s not entirely up to Ramsey and his staff.
The SEC and its television partners are officially in charge of assigning teams to bowls. The bowls and the schools have input, but the final say is supposed to be with the conference office.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity didn’t want to say anything about his school’s bowl outlook on Tuesday.
“All eyes on Tech,” McGarity said.
And Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart, while sounding like he’d be happy to have Georgia back, was also guarded.
“In the old days we’d be doing a lot of work right now,” Ehrhart said. “But now with the new SEC pool, we don’t even know yet who’s going to be in the pool. And the league isn’t going to start working on the pool until next week.”
But others can engage in educated speculation, and it’s easy to see where Georgia (7-4) is likely to end up, whether or not it beats Georgia Tech.
The four-team national playoff is obviously out, as is the Sugar Bowl. Alabama is ticketed for the playoff until it falls to Auburn and then Florida in the SEC championship game. Assuming it wins at least one, Alabama almost certainly goes to the playoff, and then another SEC team goes to the Sugar Bowl: Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M are the most likely.
Then the Citrus Bowl (otherwise known as the Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl) gets first pick of the remaining SEC teams. A lot would have to happen for Georgia to be picked for that bowl, but it can’t quite be ruled out.
Then comes the so-called “Six-Pack” of bowls: Music City, Liberty (in Memphis), Belk (Charlotte), Texas (Houston), TaxSlayer (Jacksonville) and Outback (Tampa).
Ramsey is among those who agrees that Georgia is close to a lock for one of those six. He also agreed that the TaxSlayer is probably off the table because Georgia went there twice in the previous three years, and the Belk perhaps unlikely because Georgia was there two years ago.
“I think within three or four years is kind of the key,” Ramsey said. “You talk to most people and within four years you’ve cycled through players, you try to give them different experiences and different match-ups. Probably three or four years is the key to that.”
There is likely to be a glut of SEC with seven or eight wins. So the SEC will have flexibility as it assigns teams, and it may come down to who’s been to which bowls recently – and match-ups.
The Music City Bowl can pick either a Big Ten or ACC team, but has picked ACC teams the past two years, and thus is almost certain to go with a Big Ten Team. That would put Nebraska on the radar. But Georgia played the Cornhuskers in 2012 and 2013, which Ramsey said should be taken into account.
“That’s the one match-up that’s a possibility here as we’re looking at all the options, and I think right now we’ve just got that sitting aside, that we may have to cross that bridge, and talk to both schools and both (athletics directors), and kind of try to gauge that, if we feel like that’s the best scenario,” Ramsey said. “Three times in five years seems a little against the direction we’re trying to go in. We’re trying to make some new and fresh match-ups. But I don’t think that entirely rules it out. It’s just something that’s a consideration that we’ve got to factor in.”
Georgia fans, of course, might have Big Ten fatigue, having faced teams from that conference five of the past six years. That would make the Liberty Bowl more enticing, as it now matches an SEC team against the Big 12.
But with such a glut of teams, it’s hard to rule out any bowl destination for Georgia, with even the Citrus Bowl on the table. A trip to one of the Tennessee bowls might be a good bet – but not a sure one.