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The Good And Bad Of The SEC’s Bowl Matchups

As is usually the case the day after the bowl matchups are announced, outrage abounds on this first Monday of December.  Georgia shouldn’t have fallen out of a BCS bowl.  Florida shouldn’t have jumped into a BCS bowl.  LSU shouldn’t have fallen to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  Vanderbilt should be allowed to leave the state of Tennessee for a bowl game.

On and on and on.

But this is what the bowl system is and what it will always be, folks.  Now, maybe if there were a bowl selection draft based on bowl payouts we’d have better, fairer matchups.  But currently, it’s just the same ol’ mess every year.  The BCS bowls are locked into take certain small conference teams — like Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl! — if they finish above a certain point in the national rankings.  (This was done to fend off lawyers and politicians representing small-conference teams.)

Then you have all of the conference tie-ins that come into play.  The leagues realized long ago that the safest way to insure a nice chunk of Bowl-Revenue Pie each year was to cut deals with the games well in advance.  So before the season starts, we know where the SEC’s, Big Ten’s, Big XII’s, etc, etc, teams are heading.  It’s just a matter of who falls into which slot.

After you cut through all of that automatic stuff, you then get down to the nitty gritty.  Cities began hosting bowls in order to bring tourists to their hotels and restaurants in the winter.  Period.  That’s why bowl games came into being and that’s why the number of games has grown to the point that we barely have enough bowl-eligible teams each year.  (This year, 6-7 Georgia Tech will be heading to the Sun Bowl to face Southern Cal after getting a special waiver from the NCAA allowing it to go bowling with a losing record.)

With the explosion in television coverage, the committees now consider tourism for one week versus for the entire year when picking their combatants.  A committee can choose to bring in two schools who’ll bring fans to their city for a few days in December or January… or two schools who’ll get bigger TV ratings which will provide said city an opportunity to run spot after spot promoting itself as a tourism destination to millions of folks who might visit in February or June or October.

There’s no logic.  There’s no disrespect.  There’s only business.  And the business of the bowl system makes for some real ho-hum affairs.  Below is our take on the good and bad of each SEC bowl matchup for 2012-13:


BCS Championship Game — #2 Alabama vs #1 Notre Dame in Miami, FL

The Good:  There could not be a better marquee pairing for college football’s national title game.  Arguably the two most-storied programs in the sport’s history battling it out for a national crown?  Are you kidding?  Keep an eye on the television ratings records for cable programs (it’ll air on ESPN) when this one kicks off after a full month of hype.  The SEC will be going for its seventh BCS title in a row.  Nick Saban will be going for his second in a row, his third in four years, and his fourth overall in the last 10 seasons (two of which he spent in the NFL).

The Bad:  If you’re an SEC fan, the fact that Notre Dame isn’t the joke everyone makes them out to be.  Unlike the offense-first teams that SEC defenses have shut down in previous BCS title games, the Irish are an SEC-style club.  They’re led by their defense, they finished undefeated, ten of the 12 teams they beat finished bowl eligible and they won at Oklahoma and at Southern Cal (two traditional powers).  The Tide opened as 9.5-point favorites in Las Vegas, but that’s just a measure of how the casinos believe fans will place their bets.  Give Nick Saban a month to prepare and we’ll put our money on Bama every time, but we still don’t think this is going to be as big a laugher as most seem to believe.


Sugar Bowl — #3 Florida vs #21 Louisville in New Orleans, LA

The Good:  Uh.  Uh.  A University of Florida staff that never worked with Charlie Strong while he was in Gainesville will face him as head coach at Louisville?  If he’s still the head coach at Louisville come January?  Sorry, but if the Big East champ didn’t get an automatic bid into the BCS, do you think the Cardinals would be invited to this one?  This one just doesn’t have a lot going for it.

The Bad:  There’s the debate that Florida lost to Georgia and lost the SEC East as a result.  Then Georgia had to go play Alabama in the SEC title game and though the Dawgs played well, they lost the game and lost out on a BCS bowl berth as a result.  So you could make the case that Florida was rewarded for losing to Georgia back in Jacksonville.  Whatever.  Our issue is the fact that we just don’t care any more about watching Florida-Louisville in the Sugar Bowl than we did watching Florida-Cincinnati in the same game in January, 2010.  Blah.  (That game was Strong’s last game on the UF sideline, by the way.)


Capital One Bowl — #7 Georgia vs #16 Nebraska in Orlando, FL

The Good:  While the sheer volume of SEC-vs-Big Ten bowl games guarantees a number of stale matchups each season, the Dawgs will at least draw a new member from Jim Delany’s conference.  The Cornhuskers — even after giving up 70 points in the Big Ten title game Saturday — are still a national name.

The Bad:  The SEC plays so many bowls against the Big Ten in Florida that we were sure UGA played Michigan State in Orlando last year.  But those teams met in the Outback Bowl in Tampa last year.  Georgia hasn’t been to the Capital One since January, 2009 (when they also played Michigan State).  Nebraska was in this game last year and was throttled by South Carolina 30-13.  You know what they say: You can’t spell Capital One without NE.  For Georgia, facing a team that got popped 70-31 in its last outing, fan expectations will call for a Bulldog blowout and nothing less.  That’s rough.


Cotton Bowl — #9 Texas A&M vs #11 Oklahoma in Arlington, TX

The Good:  Johnny Manziel and A&M versus an old Big XII foe is compelling.  Face it, wouldn’t you rather watch the Cotton Bowl than most of the actual BCS bowls?  (Aside: We’re really looking forward to the new SEC/Big XII Sugar Bowl which launches in January of 2015.)

The Bad:  Some Aggies might prefer to play someone different just for the sake of being, you know, different.  But if A&M fans were told they could get a hold of someone from their old conference in a bowl game this year, don’t you think they’d have hand-picked #23 Texas?


Outback Bowl — #10 South Carolina vs #18 Michigan in Tampa, FL

The Good:  South Carolina is so new to the upper echelon of the SEC that most of its Big Ten bowl game matchups still seem fresh.  What Carolina fan doesn’t like the idea of facing the winningest team in college football history?

The Bad:  Gamecock fans should know their way around Tampa.  USC made the Outback Bowl in January 2001, 2002, 2009 and now 2012.  But if you’re going to keep going back to a fair-weather city in the dead of winter, Tampa’s a pretty good place to go.


Chick-fil-A Bowl — #8 LSU vs #14 Clemson in Atlanta, GA

The Good:  These two sets of Tigers have met just twice before (in the 1959 Sugar Bowl and in the 1996 Peach Bowl, which became the Chick-fil-A game in ’98).  So that’s compelling.  Plus, seeing Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd take on LSU’s defense should be a good show within the show.

The Bad:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, LSU got hosed.  We’ve got the emails.  But in reality, with six SEC squads in the top 10 of the BCS rankings, someone was going to land in Atlanta.  This one looks a heckuva lot more interesting than Florida State-Northern Illinois (Orange Bowl) and the aforementioned Sugar Bowl.  Just enjoy Buckhead, Bayou Bengal fans.  (Two tips: Don’t pass out at a Krystal and if you see Ray Lewis… run.)


Gator Bowl — Mississippi State vs #20 Northwestern in Jacksonville, FL

The Good:  For Bulldog fans, Nashville might have been an easier trip, but Jacksonville should be a tad warmer.  Plus, State will get a chance to knock off a ranked team.

The Bad:  It’s Northwestern.  Fair or not, Northwestern just doesn’t have the name cachet of an Ohio State or a Michigan.  Speaking of Michigan, MSU blasted the Wolverines in this same bowl just two seasons ago.  (Have we mentioned that we don’t like conference tie-ins for bowls?)


Music City Bowl — Vanderbilt vs North Carolina State in Nashville, TN

The Good:  Vandy is going to back-to-back bowls for the first time ever and for the third time in five years.  (Bobby Johnson doesn’t get enough credit for laying a foundation in Nashville and recruiting/redshirting a lot of the guys with whom James Franklin has done great work.)  Interestingly, the Commodores and Franklin will be facing an NC State program whose AD — Debbie Yow — once named Franklin the head-coach-in-waiting at Maryland.  If Yow hadn’t left the Terrapins for the Wolfpack, how different might things be for Franklin and Vandy today?

The Bad:  It is what it is — and what it is is business — but the Dores will be traveling just a few miles across town to play in this one.  Their last three bowl “trips” have been to Nashville, Memphis and now Nashville again.  Yee-ha.  But unless/until Vanderbilt can improve its football brand for television viewers and its fanbase for bowl committees, VU is going to continue to get the short end of the stick come bowl selection time.  Ironically, Vandy might be able to toss some blame at Ohio State (and OSU and former VU prez Gordon Gee) for this year’s destination.  If the Buckeyes weren’t on probation, everyone in the Big Ten would have likely dropped down a slot in that league’s bowl order and a Vandy-Northwestern rematch from earlier in the year might not have been on the table in Jacksonville.  Perhaps — perhaps — the Gator Bowl would have taken Vanderbilt over Mississippi State to face a different Big Ten team.


BBVA Compass Bowl — Ole Miss vs Pittsburgh in Birmingham, AL

The Good:  Ole Miss is going bowling in a season when most expected the Rebels to be the worst team in the SEC.  Also, Mississippi will get to face an unfamiliar foe.  If the Liberty Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl didn’t have a contractual agreement flip-flopping their picks every year, the Rebs might be heading to Memphis to play Tulsa.  Instead they’ll go to rickety Legion Field in Birmingham where they can play a much more beatable Pitt team and possibly finish with a winning record.

The Bad:  First, the BBVA Compass Bowl pays less than the Liberty Bowl and, second, have you ever been to Birmingham in January?  The Tropics it ain’t.



The BCS is on its way out, and everyone will find something new to gripe about next year!  Meanwhile, I'm going to make the best of it, and watch as many BCS games as possible this year, if for no other reason than my belief that these mismatches should produce some uncanny results.  I just got the Hopper DVR from DISH, and although DISH wants me to work most Saturdays and evenings, I'll be able to find all the bowl games I need with the GameFinder app.  I can just push the blue button on the remote, enter the sport, team or date I am looking for, and it lists all available games right there on my screen.  It will save me a ton of time; time I'll be able to use mocking the BCS a bit more, lol.


Here's a more down-to-earth version of the draft bowl idea (hope you don't mind your system being portrayed as pie-in-the-sky).


A central party who has rights to multiple bowls, let's say ESPN, signs multiple bowl agreements from multiple conferences.  Say, ACC #2, Big Ten #3, SEC #3, B12 #2, Pac-12 #2, and Group of Five #3 (recall, these are lower in value than currently since 12 teams will be off the table before the pecking order even begins).   Then, they take those 6 teams and distribute them among 3 bowls of ostensibly equal value as they see fit.  They look for quality match-ups that haven't played in a while, travel distances/destinations that invite the most fans, interesting story lines, etc.   New sites, new match-ups, fans travel, everyone's happy!  (well, more than now, at least.)


I think most A&M fans are catching on to the fact that A&M gains nothing by playing Texas in a bowl game this year. A&M would be expected to hang at least 173 points on them and if A&M was to lose this hypothetical game then all hell would break loose. A&M is currently viewed as the best team in the state without having to playing any Texas FBS team outside of SMU. If we had to play an old foe, there are only two teams that would provide any sort of boost in national respect and that's beating OU or Kansas State. I think A&M would manhandle Kansas State. Oklahoma on the other hand provides a much more difficult game to predict. Both teams match up really well. I think this game will come down to the final minute. BTHO OU!


I'm a Michigan State grad and I could have sworn we played Georgia in the Cap One last year.  Was it really the Outback?  You sure?  (Yeah, let's do something with these tie-ins.  Too repetitive.)


This year has the most unattractive bowl line-ups I can ever remember, especially the BCS games. I would like to see the bowl tie-ins disolve. The tie-ins result in too many unattractive matchups and too many repeated matchups. I used to live for January 1st when all of the major bowls were on, Now, no so much. Hopefully, the upcoming playoff sysem will add some needed spice. Hope it goes to eight teams quickly. 


"Just enjoy Buckhead, Bayou Bengal fans.  (Two tips: Don’t pass out at a Krystal and if you see Ray Lewis… run.)"

Now that was funny.


I agree. Also, Texas doesn't want to play the game because if they lose, the really become a second-tier Texas (state) team. Also, it makes them look bad for dropping the Thanksgiving game. They see their chances of winning as so low the pretige of scoreboard is not enough.


Personally, I would have rather played Clemson or Michigan. I've seen OU enough that I'm not as interested.



 I think A&M would crush Texas... and it would do a lot for them respect wise.  Texas was bad last year, yet A&M still lost to them in their final season in the Big 12.  UT got the last laugh.  If I was an Aggie fan, which I am not, I would want to extract some revenge out of Bevo's big arse. 


By the way, the way I heard it was that originally LSU Tiger stadium was called "DEAF VALLEY" not death valley because of how loud it is, and that over the years it migrated into death valley.


 @bpa_kc You're probably right. We would probably beat them. Respect wise, I don't see that really increasing much. Sports pundits are crying because there isn't an 8 team playoff so that Texas A&M could have a shot at the title. That's respect. A&M will open the season in the top ten next year. Maybe the top five. A win over Texas would only be for pride. In fact, all Aggies should send a thank you note to that Tucker Kicker from Texas because had he missed that field goal we'd still have Sherman as our head coach. The worst win of the season last year happened to be the best thing that could've happened to A&M long term.


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