No. 6 Auburn’s 26-14 win over previously unbeaten No. 1 Alabama added some clarity to the Southeastern Conference bowl picture.
The win means Auburn will play Georgia in the SEC championship game next weekend in Atlanta. And it now seems very possible the SEC won’t have enough teams to fill its slot in each of its Pool of Six bowls: Outback Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Music City Bowl, Texas Bowl, Belk Bowl and Liberty Bowl.
Assuming the SEC championship winner is in the top four of the final College Football Playoff rankings, it will go to one of the playoff’s semifinal games. That is likely with Alabama and the No. 2 team in the playoff rankings, Miami, both losing this weekend. The loser of the SEC title game should make either the Orange Bowl or one of the “access bowls,” which are games that are in the rotation to be playoff semifinals but are not semifinals this season.
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This season’s access bowls are the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl. The playoff committee selects the teams that will play in the access bowls.
Alabama, which will be 11-1 next Sunday and was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in every playoff ranking this season coming into the weekend, should make an access bowl or the Orange Bowl — if not the College Football Playoff. After the Auburn loss, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said he thought his 11-win team deserves a playoff bid.
Either way, that would leave six remaining bowl eligible teams: Mississippi State, LSU, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Missouri.
The Citrus Bowl then gets the next pick of which SEC team it wants to play in its bowl game. After that, there would be five SEC teams remaining for the Pool of Six bowl games — which, you might notice, presents a problem: The SEC would only have five teams available for six bowl games, so the conference would not send a team to one of those games.
Representatives from the TaxSlayer Bowl and Liberty Bowl have come to recent Missouri games. Both games are on Dec. 30. The Liberty Bowl, in Memphis, Tenn., matches a SEC team against a Big 12 team, and the TaxSlayer Bowl, in Jacksonville, Fla., includes a SEC team and either a Big Ten or ACC team.
Mizzou has played in the Liberty Bowl twice, in 1978 and 1980. It has played in the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly the Gator Bowl, three times, but not since 1968.
“We’re certainly aware of all those positive attributes of the program that Barry’s (Odom, MU coach) putting together, our history, the fan base and the entire university community,” Liberty Bowl associate executive director Harold Graeter told the Star.
Odom will receive a $50,000 incentive bonus for having Missouri participate in a bowl game, and if Mizzou wins its bowl game, he will earn another $75,000.