Earlier today, I was feeling pretty good about the Georgia Bulldogs' prospects for renewing their rivalry with the Clemson Tigers in the Georgia Dome, but, as the ensuing comment thread attests, the Tennessee Volunteers are likely to receive the Chick-fil-A Bowl bid because of the line of toppling dominoes set into motion by the Outback Bowl when it opted for the Auburn Tigers.
The Outback Bowl's selection is utterly indefensible, as Auburn is the weakest of the SEC's six 7-5 teams. As usual, C&F provides context and an explanation over at Team Speed Kills, where he sensibly observes:
While this is a surprise to rational people, it really shouldn't be given the Outback Bowl's history of bizarre bowl choice. Last year, the game selected 7-5 South Carolina pretty much out of necessity, though it could have gotten a better LSU team instead. The Gamecocks got waxed playing an Iowa team that they probably shouldn't have been facing.
That wasn't the first time the Outback Bowl officials made an asinine selection, either. Everyone in Bulldog Nation recalls the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats, who finished 7-4 overall and 4-4 in conference play. The 'Cats had lost in Lexington to the 'Dawgs, who finished 8-3 overall and 6-2 in SEC contests, yet Georgia ended up playing in what was then still the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve while Kentucky spent New Year's Day in Tampa losing to the Penn St. Nittany Lions by a double-digit margin.
Why did the Outback Bowl do such a stupid thing? Probably because the co-founder of Outback Steakhouse was a University of Kentucky alumnus. I was so incensed by the snub at the time that I refused to eat at an Outback Steakhouse for the next year, and I've been back very few times since. The more rational part of my brain has decided since then that the SEC should simply scrap the Outback Bowl as one of its tie-ins.
Where does that leave us, then? Apparently, bound for the Independence Bowl, possibly to face the Texas A&M Aggies and probably to confuse Brian Cook. As C&F shrewdly noted in his headline, the Outback Bowl loves Auburn and hates American values. (I know, that's redundant. Unlike those Aussies at the Outback Bowl, I love America, and, therefore, I hate Auburn.) Tennessee fans understandably are annoyed at being passed over by the Outback Bowl and I'm nonplussed at the thought of the Bulldogs spending the holidays in Shreveport.
Still, this can be a learning experience. Hopefully, Mark Richt can use the fact that his team got an even crappier bowl game than it deserved (which is saying something) as motivation: "You don't want to go to the Independence Bowl? Well, tough, 'cause the Independence Bowl is what 7-5 gets you. If you don't want to come back here, wrap up when you tackle! If you don't want to come back here, stop somebody on third and long! If you don't want to come back here, pay your parking tickets on time and quit getting fifteen-yard penalties! If you don't want to come back here, stop throwing interceptions and don't get caught emerging from an alley! The next time you go into the locker room with a two-touchdown lead on Kentucky at home, I'm going to ask you, 'Are you going to stay focused are or you going to go back to the Independence Bowl?' You know the difference between Shreveport and New Orleans? Practice and discipline!" This is a golden opportunity for Righteously Indignant Richt to do what needs to be done.
There are two other potential upsides to playing an early bowl game in Louisiana, as well. First of all, Louisiana-Monroe just fired its head coach, so maybe they'd be interested in interviewing Willie Martinez while he was in the Pelican State. (Please?)
Also, if Georgia does face the Aggies, at least we know we wouldn't trot out any new-fangled uniforms; it was against Texas A&M in the first home game of the 1980 season that the Bulldogs wore for the first time what we now think of as their traditional togs: Wally Butts-era silver britches, Vince Dooley-designed red helmets with the oval "G," and the red jerseys they had always worn. The classics never die.
By the way, the Bulldogs won that game 42-0. I'm just saying.