ATHENS — This time last week, it looked like Georgia’s most likely bowl destination was Nashville, and that at minimum Georgia seemed a lock not to fall into one of the lower-tier SEC bowls.
That’s changed. Events of last weekend, including some unexpected results, have scrambled the bowl picture to the point that the Birmingham Bowl is back in play for Georgia.
Not only did Georgia fall to Georgia Tech, but two other SEC teams pulled off upsets, making them more attractive: Kentucky won at Louisville and Vanderbilt beat Tennessee.
That meant that there are nine SEC teams with at least seven wins, including Georgia and Kentucky. It also meant that 11 teams are bowl eligible, with Vanderbilt unexpectedly joining the party.
And the SEC has 11 bowl tie-ins, with 10 teams sitting at between six and eight wins. That means a complicated picture the conference office must sort out.
Alabama will go to the national playoff, barring something unforeseen. Someone else will go to the Sugar Bowl, and then the Citrus Bowl will select which SEC it wants from the remaining teams.
After that, there are the “Six Pack” bowls that the SEC assigns teams to, in consultation with the bowls and schools: Liberty, Music City, Belk, TaxSlayer, Texas, Outback.
Last week the Music City Bowl was clearly eager at the possibility of Georgia. But this week its talking more about Tennessee – which might be available after its upset loss – and Kentucky – which is more attractive after it upset Louisville.
The Texas bowl seems a remote possibility because it usually wants an SEC West team. The Outback will likely lobby for the best team available after the Citrus Bowl picks. And while the TaxSlayer and Belk cannot be ruled out, Georgia has been to those bowls so recently that it’s not a preferred option.
The Liberty Bowl, which would match Georgia with a Big 12 team, still seems interested. But Vanderbilt’s win has raised the chance of it jumping into one of the Six-Pack bowls, which would squeeze a seven-win team down to the Birmingham or Shreveport bowls.
And no, Georgia having a better record than Vanderbilt would not preclude that.
“There are no tiers or levels based solely on number of wins,” SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said. “After any teams are chosen for the CFP, the Citrus Bowl gets a pick, then the SEC determines who will play in the Pool of Six bowls. There was a time in the past I recall when teams could not move ‘up’ to another bowl ahead of another team if a certain number of wins separated the teams, but any system like that is not part of the current bowl selection process.”
The Tennessean newspaper wrote Tuesday that the “Birmingham Bowl would love Georgia to fall its way.” That bowl, which is Dec. 29 at 1 p.m., matches the SEC with a team from The American Athletic Conference. The Tennessean, which is out of Nashville, also wrote that the Music City will mostly likely get Tennessee or Kentucky, “with a small chance of Arkansas or Georgia.”
The bowl announcements will come on Sunday. But with the only SEC game remaining – the championship between Alabama and Florida – not seen as likely to scramble the picture further, the lobbying has been ongoing for awhile now.