With Auburn having become bowl eligible this week, it’s time to take a look at where the Tigers might end up spending their postseason. Breakin’ it down step-by-step:
CURRENT SEC PECKING ORDER
1a. Florida. 8-0 (6-0), remaining schedule: vs. Vandy, @Carolina, vs. FIU, vs. Florida St.
1b. Alabama. 8-0 (5-0): vs. LSU, @Miss. St., vs. Chattanooga, @Auburn.
3. LSU. 7-1 (4-1): @Alabama, vs. La. Tech, @Ole Miss, vs. Arkansas
4. South Carolina. 6-3 (3-3): @Arkansas, vs. Florida, vs. Clemson.
5. Auburn. 6-3 (3-3): vs. Furman, @Georgia, vs. Alabama.
6. Tennessee. 4-4 (2-3): vs. Memphis, @Ole Miss, vs. Vandy, @Kentucky.
7. Ole Miss. 5-3 (2-3): vs. Northern Arizona, vs. Tennessee, vs. LSU, @Miss. St.
8. Georgia. 4-4 (3-3): vs. Tennessee Tech, vs. Auburn, vs. Kentucky, @Georgia Tech
9. Arkansas. 4-4 (1-4): vs. Carolina, vs. Troy, vs. Miss. St., @LSU
10. Kentucky. 4-4 (1-4): vs. Eastern Kentucky, @Vandy, @Georgia, vs. Tennessee
11? Miss. St. 4-5 (2-3): vs. Alabama, @Arkansas, vs. Ole Miss.
Obviously, you can quibble with this order a bit if you like. I have Tennessee a bump for being “hot” and Georgia a knock for being “cold.”
AS A REMINDER, YOUR SEC TIE-INS
1. BCS Bowl 1 2. BCS Bowl 2*3. Capital One 4a. Cotton 4b. Outback 4c. Chik-Fil-A 7a. Music City 7b. Liberty 9. Independence 10. Papajohns.com
For more info, click here.
*Note that technically the SEC isn’t guaranteed a second BCS team, but with the Big 12, ACC, and Big East all likely incapable of sending a runner-up onto the BCS, it would take both ‘Bama and LSU finishing with three regular season losses–i.e. Bama loses to LSU, either MSU/Auburn, and Florida while LSU falls to Ole Miss and Arkansas–to keep the SEC West out of the BCS. That’s not happening.
ONE MAN’S GUESS AT HOW THE NON-AUBURN PORTION OF THE SEC WILL SHAKE OUT
1. Florida (12-0) 2. Alabama (12-0/11-1) 3. LSU (10-2/9-3) 4. Tennessee (8-4/7-5) 5. Ole Miss (8-4/7-5) 6. Arkansas (8-4/7-5) 7. Georgia (7-5/6-6) 8. South Carolina (7-5/6-6) 9. Kentucky (7-5/6-6) 10? Miss. St. (not likely to make even 6-6)
(Note here that SEC bowl projection this year is a total biznatch, as the league could wind up with six or seven teams all with 7-5 records.)
MEANING THAT IF AUBURN FINISHES 7-5
After finishing the year on a two-game losing streak, they’ll likely wind up behind Georgia as long as the Dawgs hold serve vs. Kentucky. That would likely put Georgia in the hometown Chik-Fil-A, Tennessee in the Outback or Cotton, and Arkansas or Ole Miss–whichever can get to 8 wins–in the other. (I’d expect Tennessee to the Cotton if the West team is Ole Miss, since the Rebels went to Dallas last year.) If neither the Hogs nor Rebels win 8, the Cotton might take Auburn even at 7-5, since a) the three would be stuck in a three-way tie in the SEC standings b) both those teams have been to the Cotton more recently c) Arkansas has played in Dallas already once this season. But I think the head-to-head loss to the Hogs, geographical convenience, and Auburn’s less-impressive end to the season would mean the Cotton would take Arkansas anyway.
That would drop Auburn to either the Music City or Liberty; it’s hard to see them dropping further unless 1. Ole Miss wins 8 2. Carolina beats Arkansas and Clemson 3. Arkansas beats LSU. That would likely drop Auburn all the way to ninth in the pecking order and punch the Tigers’ ticket to Shreveport, unless Kentucky and Georgia both made it to 7-5. (In that case, the league might ask the Independence to take the ‘Cats and let the Pizza Bowl have Auburn for attendance purposes. This is the only scenario I see that lands Auburn in B’ham.) But if Carolina finishes with less than 8–and they very, very likely will–I’d expect the Liberty to take Auburn over the ‘Cocks, since Memphis is geographically closer and Auburn should travel a bit better after not going to a bowl game last year. And of course, if the Hogs lose to both the ‘Cocks and LSU to finish 6-6, no way they get taken ahead of Auburn.
So, to sum: 7-5 means a very slim shot at the Cotton–maybe the Outback if Georgia sweeps to 8-4, which seems highly unlikely at this stage–and an even slimmer chance of sliding all the way to the Independence. But most likely it’s either the Liberty or Music City, probably the Music City if the two bowls are choosing between Arkansas and Auburn, the Liberty if it’s Auburn and South Carolina.
MEANING THAT IF AUBURN GOES 8-4
They’d look like a near-lock for the Cotton if you ask me. It’s one thing for the Cotton to take a 7-5 bunch of Hogs over a 7-5 Auburn team that had ended the year on a two-game losing streak and last beat a I-A team on Halloween; it’s another to pass on an Auburn team that won three of its last four in favor of an Arkansas team that went to the Cotton two years ago and played the JerryDome just this year.
The only way an 8-4 Auburn team wouldn’t land in the Cotton, in my estimation, was if Arkansas swept to 8-4 while Tennessee finished at 7-5. That might move the Hogs to the Cotton and Auburn to the Outback in the name of geographical proximity (while the Vols or Rebels went to the Chik-Fil-A) … but even in this scenario, you’d probably just have the Hogs go to the Outback to avoid the repeat trip to Dallas.
AND IN THE EXCEEDINGLY UNLIKELY EVENT AUBURN FINISHES 9-3
It won’t matter unless LSU drops two games. Even given the head-to-head result, I do think the Capital One would take a 9-3 Auburn riding a four-game winning streak and fresh off a shocking upset of ‘Bama over a 9-3 group of Bayou Bengals that had fallen to either Ole Miss or Arkansas down the stretch–Auburn would be a huge story by the point and sending Auburn to Florida and LSU to Dallas would make more geographic sense anyway. But LSU would have to lose in Oxford or at home to the Hogs in addition to the Tide; otherwise, Auburn heads to the Cotton or Outback under the same scenarios outlined above.
Not that any of that matters very much regardless.
AND FINALLY, THIS WEEK’S FINAL OFFICIAL WBE SEC BOWL PROJECTION
Florida (12-0) to BCS Championship, Alabama (12-0) to Sugar, LSU (9-3) to Capital One, Ole Miss (8-4) to Outback*, Tennessee (7-5) to Cotton, Georgia (7-5) to Chik-Fil-A, Arkansas (7-5) to Liberty, Auburn (7-5) to Music City, South Carolina (7-5) to Independence, Kentucky (6-6) to Papajohns.com.
We’ll do this again next week. Maybe I’ll be a little more optimistic then.
*I think the Rebels survive their trip to Starkville and split the two home dates with Tennessee and LSU. Even if that win does come over the Vols and knock Tennessee to 7-5, I’m assuming the excitement surrounding that program with Kiffin, the 4-4 SEC record, and the annual surge vs. Vandy and Kentucky would make the Vols the hottest property amongst the 7-5 teams.