So, you find that your team has a loss, or two, or four. The dreams of national championships have faded and you are wondering where your team will spend the holiday season. For SEC fans, the best among us can dream of New Orleans, if not Tempe, while the others must try to avoid the prospects of Nashville or Shreveport, where the league's mediocre teams go to face Boston College or Kansas State, in the cold and possibly, the snow.
I'll try to help you figure out where your team is going this year, so you can go ahead and book some hotel rooms. I'm making the assumption that Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina will be bowl eligible.
Sugar/BCS - Florida - The Gators get here because they will likely win the SEC Championship Game over Auburn or the Pigs.
Citrus - Tennessee - Yes, LSU fans, I am aware that the Tigers beat the Viles in Knoxville, but the bowl picking Gods are never logical. Tennessee lands here because they have not been here in a long time, their fan base is energized by their resurgent season, and they have been good to the Citrus Bowl in their string of appearances with Peyton Manning.
Outback - LSU - LSU lands in Orlando because they will end up having a good season, but not great. LSU hasn't been to the Outback since 1989 when it was the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Outback should like LSU because the Tiger faithful showed up to the Citrus Bowl two years ago, showing they will travel to Florida.
Peach - Auburn - The Aubs still have an outside chance of a BCS at large bid even if they lose to the jean shorts in Atlanta. I just don't see a two loss SEC team getting a bid, though that would clear up the confusion and disarray that results below. If Arkansas goes to Atlanta, its more likely that the Aubs go to Miami. But, assuming the Aubs get the same level of respect they did in 2004, it won't happen. The Peach Bowl has done well for itself in recent years by landing a huge sponsorship deal last year and supposedly moving up in the league's pecking order. Last year they got LSU and Miami. This year they'll get the Aubs. It makes total sense. Auburn will also sell out, as their fan base is only a few hours away.
Cotton - Arkansas - The Hawgs land in Dallas to take on an old SWC foe. The Hawgs will also sell out their allotment and head back to their old stomping grounds in Texas. Typically, the second best team in the West gets the Cotton, but I think both the Cotton and the Arky fans want Arkansas here, even if they go to Atlanta and get beat.
Now it gets tricky. I'm assuming that there will be three SEC teams at 6-6: Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Kentucky, assuming they beat Vandy, would be 7-5.
Music City - Kentucky - The Mildcats had a Cinderella season and will get to a bowl game. I think the Music City Bowl is the prefect one for them. Nashville provides an easy drive and, again, UK should sell out their allotment of tickets. Another possibility here is South Carolina but I'll get to them later.
Liberty - Alabama - The SEC's newest bowl tie in is the Liberty in Memphis. I think Bama lands here because Memphis is a nice trip from Alabama, but far enough to require a hotel stay. Plus, Alabama would be returning to the site of Bear's last game for Mike Shula's last game? South Carolina again could land here, but I think Bama is more marketable from the Liberty Bowl's perspective. Bowl Committees like history rich programs, even if they've fallen on hard times. Plus, I think the Cocks would sell less tickets that the Bammers, even with Spurrier.
Independence - Georgia - The Dawgs will make their first trip to Shreveport since 1991, beating out the Cocks for this spot. Since it will come down to Georgia and South Carolina for this slot, here are a few reasons UGA wins the spot: Georgia beat SC in Columbia and SC was in Shreveport last year (bowls generally don't like to repeat themselves). This would actually be a bad choice for Shreveport as I think that UGA would bring fewer fans than SC, but that won't matter.
Sitting at home - South Carolina - Under NCAA rules, a six win team can only go outside of its conference tie ins if every seven win team in the country is in a bowl. This could mean that the Cocks are left out completely. If not, the Poinsettia Bowl has an at large spot that the Cocks could fill.
The bottom three teams, UGA, SC, and Bama, are virtually interchangeable. The conference usually make deals for these last few spots in a smoke filled room where favors are traded and called in. The calculus behind these decisions is unknown to us mere mortals who aren't in the league office in Birmingham. But, these are my best guesses. If Auburn does make the BCS, then Kentucky goes to the Peach and South Carolina goes to the Music City. Discuss.