Bowling in the SEC

First of all, let me say that I understand we have to go to the SEC.  I don't like it, but barring some last minute dramatic concessions, Texas and Oklahoma not willing to commit to the league for any longer than 6 years is a sign we must go, even though I think it sucks for reasons articulated very well in the roundtable by those not convinced this is a great move.

Assuming we are headed to the SEC, one of the things that is often talked about as a benefit is the better bowls.  Now, let me say first that I completely agree with this -- outside of the Cotton and perhaps the Alamo, I have long thought the Big 12's bowl games are terrible for fans who don't have thousands to shell out on bowl game travel.  Mid to lower tier bowl games in San Diego, Phoenix, and El Paso are simply too difficult to get to for a lot of Missouri fans.

In the SEC, the lower tier bowl games are closer, which is a good thing.  However, one thing I've seen as a bit of a "false promotion" from Missouri fans is the notion that somehow, Missouri is going to get to go to a lot of Florida bowls.  This is not the case.  It is quite unlikely to occur. 

It's also important to note the SEC does NOT have a slotting system, though the conference does work with its members a lot better than the Big 12 did to steer teams towards places that make sense.  Also, there are some protections in place

In fact, the most likely bowls that Missouri would go to, are:

In a really good season -- Cotton
Most other seasons -- Chick Fil A (Atlanta), Music City (Nashville) and Liberty (Memphis)

More below the fold.

Let's first assume that the conventional wisdom prevails and that Missouri goes to the west and Auburn moves east.  Let's also assume, for the sake of argument, that the SEC Bowl lineup stays the same.  Right now, it is as follows:

1. BCS -- Sugar usually
2. Capital One (gets SEC runner up if it has 2 more wins than the next team) -- Orlando
3. Cotton (first choice out of SEC West) -- Dallas
4. Outback (First choice out of SEC East) -- Tampa
5. Chick Fil A -- Atlanta
6. Gator -- Jacksonville
7/8. Liberty -- memphis
7/8. Music City -- Nashville
9. BBVA Compass  -- Birmingham

Now, in a 14 team SEC, that will usually generate to 10 teams, as two are likely always going to be headed to the BCS, at least in its current form. 

As I noted before, one reason I like the SEC bowl lineup 100x better than the Big 12 lineup is that the lower tier bowls are in cities that are easy to drive to for Missouri fans.  Nashville and Memphis are not far, and neither really is Birmingham.     Even Atlanta is easy to get to, obviously, by plane or even by car. 

Regarding Florida, however, Mizzou will rarely see a Florida bowl game.

The first opportunity to go to a Florida bowl game is the Capital One Bowl, which is going to be either the runner up or the second runner up, in most years.  That is not likely to be Mizzou -- unless you think we're going to pass two of Florida, Auburn, LSU and Alabama in any given year, plus the rest of the conference.   Georgia and Tennessee often in that top tier as well.  In fact, since 1997, I believe 13/14 years of the Capital One Bowl had one of those six teams, the only exception was Arkansas.

Then, the Outback Bowl, the second Florida bowl, as noted, generally picks from the best of the East.  The only exception to this was Auburn (currently in the West) two years ago, though of course, now they would likely be in the East.

So, let's say Mizzou rips off a 9-3 in the SEC, which is an exceptionally good season.  Your likely destination at that point is the Cotton Bowl, which takes the best non-BCS/Capital One Bowl out of the West.

Once you get below the Cotton Bowl, there is only one Florida bowl left -- the Gator Bowl.  They are new to the SEC lineup.  They are probably the most likely place Missouri could go bowling in Florida.  My guess is that the SEC offices, in most years, would likely steer and eastern division team -- say South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn -- to this destination.  However, in their first year as an SEC bowl, they did take Mississippi State.

The remaining bowls are the Chick Fil A, Liberty, and Music City. 

The Chick Fil A Bowl's targets are obviously often going to be Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee, though they have taken LSU several times whenever LSU drops to their level, because LSU brings hoards of fans.  I could see Missouri going here, though I think in most years, the Chick Fil A Bowl would pick out of the teams in their area.

That's what leads me to where I think Missouri would fall the most -- the Music City and Liberty Bowls.  Teams out of this group:  Missouri, A&M, Vandy, Arkansas, Mississippi teams, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Alabama schools if they are down for some reason  are likely to head these destinations.

The Liberty Bowl, for instance, has taken Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Kentucky in three of it's four years of getting an SEC team.

The Music City Bowl has taken Kentucky FOUR times, Vanderbilt, = Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Auburn and Alabama once a piece several years ago. (makes sense as they are usually higher, especially lately).  Georgia is the only exception and they are, as you know, just a short drive from Nashville.

The remaining bowl is the Birmingham Bowl, and they are really taking whatever is left.  So, that's your 6-6 type team.

So, Missouri's likelihood of going to a Florida bowl game is hampered by three factors:

1. Amount. Just three of the ten games are in Florida. (There are only 5 Florida bowl games total, however)
2. Quality.  One game is the top non-BCS bowl, where Missouri is unlikely to be given the competition
3. Geography.  The other "top tier" bowl, the Outback, is already geared to take an East team (and we'll be int he West), and the Gator would likely take the second tier teams from the east.  So, in really good years, our hope is likely the Cotton; and in "good years", we're likely going to Atlanta, Nashville, or Memphis.

Now, I don't think this is a bad thing.  To me, unless you really hit the cover off the ball one year, the key thing with a bowl game is access for fans -- i.e., easy of getting to the games.   So, yeah, if somehow you rip off a 10-2 season, you can possibly head to the Capital One bowl in a great city like Orlando, which would be a great vacation -- a great top tier bowl (#1 non BCS bowl in my mind, along with the Cotton) and a great tourist town.  However, in 9/10 other seasons, you're going to a city that's easy to get to for fans -- Dallas, Nashville, or Memphis.   That's basically gas and a motel worry about plane flights, tons of time away from home, etc.  IN my case, I'm a lot more likely to attend a game in those cities than El Paso, San Diego, Phoenix, or even Houston.

However, for fans who really think we might play bowl games in Florida, and were looking forward to that, that will likely be no more than a once or maybe twice in a decade occurrence.

Now, this could change -- if MU gets slotted in the SEC East, then perhaps we'd get fed into the Gator or Outback.  However, my guess is that come bowl time, the SEC powers would be much more likely to steer us towards a destination close to us (see Kentucky to the Music City and Liberty Bowls) than not.

As far as who are opponents would be in the Cotton, Music City, and Liberty, here's what you're looking at:

The Cotton, obviously, would face a high level Big 12 team.  So, you might be looking at Missouri vs. Texas, Oklahoma, or Ok State.

The Liberty faces, as of right now, the CUSA Champ.  UCF, East Carolina, Houston.  Not sexy, but a good team.

The Music City faces the 6th team from the ACC.  This year, think someone like NC State, etc..  So-so.

In the case of the Chick Fil A Bowl,  that would take the ACCs #2 team, so you're thinking Clemson or VA Tech here.  Good matchup.

As far as the SEC bowling picture in general, I wouldn't be surprised if another bowl gets added in the lower tier -- they used to be affiliated with the Independence Bowl.  They could take the Texas Bowl in the future, I would think.   The only other real good options are the game in Charlotte, the other game in Orlando, and perhaps the one in Mobile, though it's quite lower tier.

Putting this into a practical perspective, this is how the SEC might lineup this year, if Missouri & A&M were a part of it.  This should illustrate how difficult bowling will be in the SEC:

Alabama -- BCS
Auburn -- Capital One
Florida -- Outback
Arkansas -- Cotton
South Carolina -- Chick Fil A
Georgia -- Gator
Missouri -- Music City
Texas A&M -- Liberty
Tennessee -- Compass
(I could see Tennesee in the Music City, Missouri in Birmingham)

Ole Miss, Vandy, Miss State, and Kentucky -- not bowlign

Anyway, hope that gives an illustration. 

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