If Missouri wins the SEC Championship Game but does not finish in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, the Tigers are likely to land in the Fiesta Bowl.
As the SEC champion, Missouri would be guaranteed a spot in one of the College Football Playoff committee’s non-semifinal bowl games.
The Cotton, Peach and Fiesta Bowls host all displaced conference champions plus the top-ranked team from outside the power-five conferences.
The Tigers, who are ranked 16th by the playoff committee, played in the Cotton Bowl after last season and are playing in Atlanta this weekend against No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game. The Georgia Dome also is the site for the Peach Bowl.
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That means Missouri likely would be slotted into the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Orange Bowl would only be a possibility if Missouri loses to Alabama but is the highest-ranked SEC team not in the national semifinals, an unlikely scenario with Mississippi State, Mississippi and Georgia ranked ahead of the Tigers entering Saturday.
Should the SEC East champion Tigers, 10-2, lose against the Tide, 11-1, a trip to the Sunshine State is likely in order.
Missouri would be an option for the Citrus Bowl, which has the first pick of SEC teams not included in the College Football Playoff committee-selected games, against an opponent from the ACC or Big Ten on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla.
If the Citrus Bowl, formerly the Capital One Bowl, were to pass on the Tigers for another SEC team, coach Gary Pinkel’s squad would wind up playing in one of six bowls that the conference has pooled together this year.
Missouri’s preference, which it will convey to the SEC, would be either the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla., or the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. Both games pit the SEC against the Big Ten.
The SEC doesn’t have to respect MU’s wishes.
The conference has changed the way it selects bowls beyond the Citrus Bowl and is using a pool system for the Belk, Liberty, Music City Outback, TaxSlayer (commonly known as the Gator) and Texas Bowls.
Which conference teams lands where will be determined by the SEC with some input from the bowls and schools, but “ultimately, that will be a decision that will come down to the conference office,” Tigers athletic director Mike Alden said Thursday during a news conference at Mizzou Arena.
The SEC considers the six pooled bowls to be on equal-footing, so even if the public still views them as having a pecking order that apparently won’t weight into the conference’s decision.
“We all understand the theory behind it, but until we go through it and see how it works out, I don’t know,” Alden said. “We’ll have to see how it works out.”
Matchups, avoiding repeats of regular-season games or recent bowl battles, and proximity are going to be considerations.
Here is a sampling of current bowl projections: