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Auburn Bowlwatch, Week 4

A quick announcement: this being Iron Bowl week, yes, there’s a plan here at WBE. Today we’re airing some of the weekly business like the bowlwatch and schedule stockwatch; Monday-Wednesday will be devoted to Iron Bowl content; Thursday will be a day off; and Friday we’ll have one last post and the standard gameday offering. So: on with the show.

In play? Probably not, but who knows?
In play? Probably not, but who knows?

CURRENT SEC PECKING ORDER

1. Florida. 11-0 (8-0), remaining schedule: vs. Florida St.

1a. Alabama. 11-0 (7-0), @Auburn.

3. Ole Miss. 8-3 (4-3), @Miss. St.

4. LSU. 8-3 (4-3), vs. Arkansas.

5a. Auburn. 7-4 (3-4), vs. Alabama.

5b. Arkansas. 7-4 (3-4), @LSU.

7a. Tennessee. 6-5 (3-4), @Kentucky.

7b. Kentucky. 7-4 (3-4), vs. Tennessee.

9. Georgia. 6-5 (4-4), @Ga. Tech.

10. South Carolina. 6-5 (3-5), vs. Clemson

We couldn’t make this any more tangled if we tried, as the dream of six different 7-5 SEC teams stays alive. Obviously a huge drop here for Georgia: not only are they now one road loss to a top-10 team away from 6-6, but those televised images of Dawg fans fleeing the scene of last night’s crime in such plain disgust tells you all you need to now about how excited the Dawg fanbase is going to be for a trip to the likes of Memphis, Shreveport, etc.

Also worth noting here where I’ve got Kentucky. In terms of record and their place in the standings, the ‘Cats deserve to be ahead of the Vols and even with Auburn and Arkansas. But Kentucky carries so little cachet and enjoys such a small fan base by SEC standards that I have to think bowls would prefer other teams candidates if they can justify taking them at all. Kentucky’s not out of the Shreveport woods just yet.

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.

ONE MAN’S GUESS AT HOW THE NON-AUBURN PORTION OF THE SEC WILL SHAKE OUT

1. Florida (12-0) 2. Alabama (12-0) 3. Ole Miss (9-3) 4. LSU (9-3) 5. Tennessee (7-5) 6. Arkansas (7-5) 7. Kentucky (7-5) 8. Georgia (6-6) 9. South Carolina (6-6).

MEANING THAT IF AUBURN FINISHES 7-5

They can forget about the Cotton Bowl unless Miss. St. upsets Ole Miss. If the Rebels get out of Starkville intact–not a given, but likely the way Nutt’s bunch is playing–they’re off to the Cap One and the Cotton will almost certainly invite whichever team wins the Arkansas-LSU tilt to get to 8-4. There’s no way Auburn leapfrogs either of those teams to land in Dallas.

Even if the Rebels lose the Egg Bowl, Auburn’s still not in contention–I would guess we’d fall back to the LSU-in-Orlando/Rebels-in-Tampa/Vols-in-Cotton scenario I’ve laid out a couple of times, assuming the Vols win in Lexington. (An Arkansas win doesn’t help here; it would just move the Hogs to Dallas instead, probably.) The only scenario I can concoct in which Auburn winds up in the JerryDome is this: State wins the Egg Bowl, LSU beats Arkansas, and Kentucky downs Tennessee, sending LSU to the Cap One and forcing the Cotton to pick from Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, or Ole Miss. I think there’s a very, very slim chance the Cotton would take Auburn in this scenario over the two repeat visitors and a Kentucky team that might not travel well … but this is all so farfetched it doesn’t seem worth discussing.

Also unlikely–but maybe a little more discussion-worthy–is Auburn’s chances of landing in Tampa. Let’s say LSU holds off the Hogs, Kentucky stays hot and upsets Tennessee, and Georgia and Miss. St. lose as expected to Tech and Ole Miss. Since bowls are prohibited from taking a 6-6 team over a 7-5 team, the pecking order would simplify dramatically–we’d get Ole Miss to the Cap One, LSU to the Cotton, and some mix of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Auburn to the Outback, Chick-Fil-A, and Liberty/Music City.

The Outback is usually seen as getting first choice here, but the Chick-Fil-A is technically listed alongside both that bowl and the Cotton in the tie-in ladder; it’s not a straight draft, like in fantasy football or something. So while it wouldn’t be entirely fair for Auburn to go to a “better” bowl than a Wildcat team that would have a better overall record, better SEC record, and beat the Tigers straight-up, I think it’d be possible for the SEC to swing a deal in which Auburn goes to Tampa and the Wildcats to Atlanta. That way Kentucky–which will already be assumed to not travel as well–will play a bowl that’s very close to being just as prestigious, but without them (or the Hogs) having to travel that far south.

But while that possibility is awful nice, it ain’t likely. What’s likely is that Tennessee beats Kentucky–it’s happened every time since 1984–and the Vols go to the Outback on the back of their two-game winning streak. If that happens, I’d expect Auburn to go to the Chick-Fil-A if–big, big if here–Arkansas and Georgia both lose. That would take the Dawgs out of the equation entirely, and I’d expect the Chick-Fil-A to take the much more geographically friendly Tigers over a Hog team that’ll have the same SEC record and won’t have much (if any) advantage in terms of sexiness than Auburn. But if either one wins? Off to Nashville we go–no way the Chick-Fil-A takes Auburn over a hot 8-win Hog team or the hometown Dawgs (especially, in the latter’s case, if Clemson is the opponent).

AND IN THE EXCEEDINGLY UNLIKELY EVENT AUBURN FINISHES 8-4

It’s almost certainly the Outback: as above, as long as Ole Miss wins this Saturday, the Cap One and the Cotton are spoken for. (Even if LSU loses, it wouldn’t make much sense to send Arkansas to Tampa and Auburn to Dallas.) Auburn could wind up in Dallas in the event of an LSU win and Ole Miss loss, or even in the Cap One if all hell breaks loose and both the Bayou Bengals and Rebels take the pipe to create a four-team logjam at 8-4, 4-4. But in terms of what Auburn guarantees themselves in bowl positioning by beating the Tide: just the Outback.

(And maybe not even that. Here’s a fun scenario for you: do you realize LSU could fall all the way to the Music City or Liberty? If they lose to the Hogs while Auburn beats Alabama, you’d probably see Arkansas in the Cotton while the Outback would ask for Auburn. The Chick-Fil-A wouldn’t want LSU, either, after the Tigers played there just last year; they’d rather have a 7-5 Tennessee. This is why even beating Alabama maybe doesn’t lock up a New Year’s Day game for Auburn: the SEC might ask Auburn to go to Atlanta and let LSU–which did beat Auburn head-to-head–go to the Outback so as to keep the above scenario from taking place. Then again, maybe LSU would just have to suck it up and go to Memphis.)

(None of the theorizing in this section really matters, of course.)

AND FINALLY, THIS WEEK’S FINAL OFFICIAL WBE SEC BOWL PROJECTION

Since I like LSU to bounce back at home and the Dawgs to struggle again with the Tech option …

Florida (12-0) to BCS Championship, Alabama (12-0) to Sugar, Ole Miss (9-3) to Capital One, LSU (9-3) to Cotton, Tennessee (7-5) to Outback, Auburn (7-5) to Chick-Fil-A, Arkansas (7-5) to Liberty, Kentucky (7-5) to Music City, Georgia (6-6) to Independence, South Carolina (6-6) to Papajohns.com.

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