SEC Bowl Projections: Vanderbilt Closes Strong

The college football world is focused in on the debate over whether Auburn should vault Ohio State into the BCS National Championship Game, and when there’s any chance of an Auburn-Alabama rematch for the national title. There are some of us who think it prudent not to overlook Missouri.

Below the rarefied air of the national spotlight, there are good bowl bids that have to be settled and when you look over the SEC bowl projections, you have to be impressed with the way Vanderbilt has come on at the end of the season, as the Commodores continue to establish themselves as a solid program in this most competitive of leagues.

Vanderbilt closed the season on a four-game win streak. They won at Florida with a backup quarterback, the game that really communicated beyond a doubt how much trouble the Gators were in. Vandy went on to beat Kentucky and Tennessee, and then closed with a non-conference win over Wake Forest.

That’s not Murderer’s Row, but it showed admirable consistency, and came on the heels of the first two-thirds of the season, where Vanderbilt had crawled their way to 4-4, with the only losses being Ole Miss, South Carolina, Missouri and Texas A&M. Now the Commodore program that James Franklin has built can focus on upholding SEC pride in what should be a nice bowl spot.

Mississippi State is just glad to have any bowl spot at all, as their 17-10 overtime win over Ole Miss got the Bulldogs to bowl eligibility at 6-6. Mississippi State picked off Bo Wallace three times, and in getting their sixth win ensured that the SEC will only fail to fill one of its contracted bowl spots, rather than two.

We realistically know the SEC will put two teams in the BCS. Alabama is ranked #4, and so long as that holds after Saturday, the Crimson Tide would be guaranteed at-large selection. Even if some chain of events were to drop ‘Bama to #5, you have to think the major bowls would be more than happy to have them.

There are only two exceptions to this I can think of. The first is that Missouri, currently #5, beats Auburn on Saturday and the third-ranked Tigers only slip to #4, thereby requiring the BCS to take both teams. The other exception would be Alabama sliding to #5 and either the Sugar or Orange Bowl deciding they would rather have an excited fan base from South Carolina (10-2) then a depressed fan base from ‘Bama. I suppose stranger things have happened, but I’d put the odds of this at no more than 5 percent.

The assumptions below on the SEC bowl projections assume Auburn or Missouri will play for the national championship. If that doesn’t happen and the conference champ drops into the Sugar Bowl, just move Alabama over to the Orange Bowl, per the BCS bowl projections posted at TheSportsNotebook on Monday.

BCS Automatic: Auburn/Missouri winner (vs. Florida State, BCS National Championship Game)
BCS At-Large: Alabama (vs. Northern Illinois, Sugar)
Capital One: South Carolina (Wisconsin)
Cotton: LSU (Texas)
Outback: Auburn-Missouri loser (Michigan State)
Chick-Fil-A: Georgia (Miami)
Gator: Texas A&M (Michigan)
Music City: Vanderbilt (Maryland)
Liberty: Ole Miss(Marshall/Rice winner)
BBVA Compass: Mississippi State (Rutgers)