ATHENS — The perception has been that the Texas Bowl, now in its third year as an SEC affiliate, would only be taking teams from the conference’s West division, and thus you could rule it out as a Georgia destination.
Not necessarily, as it turns out.
“We don’t have control over who the conference is going to select for our event. But certainly we would welcome an opportunity to host a great brand, a great fan base like the one the Georgia Bulldogs have. That’s for sure,” said David Fletcher, the executive director of the bowl, officially known as the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl.
The game takes place on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. in Houston’s NRG Stadium, which will also be the site of the Super Bowl in February. It matches teams from the SEC and Big 12.
Georgia’s bowl destination remains very much up in the air, four days before selections are announced. Last week Georgia appeared ticketed to one of the Tennessee bowls, the Music City in Nashville or the Liberty in Memphis. But unexpected results over the weekend – Georgia losing, Vanderbilt and Kentucky winning – scrambled the picture, putting other possibilities in play.
One of those is the Texas Bowl, which the past two years has featured LSU beating Texas Tech and Arkansas beating Texas. The SEC office is in charge of assigning teams to the so-called Pool of Six bowls, including Texas, Music City, Liberty, TaxSlayer, Charlotte and Outback. The Texas Bowl was originally the Meineke Car Bowl from 2006-13, then gained SEC affiliation, which most assumed would mean teams from the West.
Not only is it closer for traveling purposes, but with the Big 12 as the other opponent it has a chance to lining up appealing match-ups: The rekindling of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry has always been mentioned, for instance, as well as other natural geographic match-ups in that part of the world.
But this year only five SEC West teams reached six wins, with one (Alabama) almost certainly headed for the playoff, and another (Auburn) a candidate for the Sugar Bowl. LSU and Arkansas have been to the Texas Bowl recently. That leaves Texas A&M, which may remain the most likely team to go to Houston, but Georgia may be signaling an openness to go there if that’s what it takes to make a Pool of Six bowl.
“Yeah, we absolutely will do whatever the SEC thinks is best for our event, and for the conference,” Fletcher said. “It’s tough not to love Georgia. A national brand, a great history, had a fantastic season on the field, has a lot of young talent. As you’ve seen with coach (Kirby) Smart, Houston has become more important – and really Texas as a whole – has become a more important market to try and build a base in going forward.”
Fletcher said he also heard there was a “large contingent” of Georgia alums in the Houston-Dallas corridor. In fact, UGA has been holding fan days in those two cities over the past few years, including a Kirby Smart appearance in Houston last June.
UGA athletics director Greg McGarity, when asked about the Texas Bowl possibility, also deferred to the SEC office and declined further comment.
Fletcher said he didn’t know the likelihood of Georgia being selected for his bowl, because the SEC is making the decision and he said he’s not privy to their thinking.
“We’d welcome that opportunity if it presented it,” Fletcher said.
Other bowl updates
The head of the TaxSlayer Bowl told SEC Country on Wednesday that if Alabama wins the SEC championship – and it’s a heavy favorite to do so – then Kentucky will almost certainly end up in that bowl.
That would remove one team that was also in the running for the Liberty and Music City bowls, and thus enhance the chances that Georgia still ends up in one of the Tennessee bowls.
Georgia was never a candidate for the TaxSlayer, having gone there two of the previous three years. It went to the Belk Bowl two years ago.