Championship Saturday is now in the books and the College Football Playoff selection committee will announce the final four contenders for the national title tonight. For teams not awaiting their fate in that contest it's bowl season. That means free swag for players, 15 more practices to commit toward 2015, and legions of fans whining and moaning about their team's bowl destination.
I'd like to tell you not to be that fan. But I just can't. After losing to Georgia Tech last week Georgia dropped out of contention for the Peach Bowl, the prime destination for SEC teams not in the playoff (my money is on Mississippi State for that one). As a result they're thrown in with the rest of the hoi polloi of southern pigskin for the various bowl slots available. This year is different from past seasons because the SEC will be placing teams in games rather than allowing the bowls to select in a strict order or swap teams by their own agreement. This means a couple of things. One is that we're theoretically more likely to get better matchups. The league can work to create games with historical or regional significance, and to avoid travel issues, stupid rematches, and other things that make ticket holders wonder why they even bother. Second, it means that some teams are going to bowl games their fans think are beneath them. That's part of what this post is about.
The semi-likely bowl destinations for Georgia are the following: the Citrus, Outback, Taxslayer (Gator), Music City, Belk, and Liberty Bowls. The Citrus would be tough. My guess is the SEC protects Missouri from dropping too far due to their title game loss and places them here. That poses a problem for Georgia if true.
The Taxslayer is very, very unlikely to take the 'Dawgs two years in a row (my guess is they go with Auburn). The Outback is also probably going to lobby the league for a team other than the Red and Black because we've been there so often, and they'd be worried whether UGA fans will again make the trip to Tampa. I mean, tickets to Busch Gardens ain't cheap. It would also be tough to sell tickets to another matchup with one of the same Big Ten teams Georgia always seems to play. You try ginning up excitement for another Michigan State game.
That being said, if a Georgia/Minnesota matchup could be engineered for the Outback, UGA officials will be open to it. Why? The Outback pays $3,500,000 to each team, roughly twice what most of the other contenders pay. Greg McGarity is willing to trade your grumbling for $1,700,000. Don't even try to act surprised. The problem is that with Wisconsin's loss to Ohio State last night the Big Ten will likely want Wisconsin in the Outback. Will the gang in Tampa want a Melvin Gordon/Nick Chubb matchup? We'll know shortly.
If the Outback passes on the 'Dawgs, or the SEC decides it wants someone else there (Ole Miss, for example), then you get into some interesting territory. Remember, these bowls are all now essentially in parity with each other. The Gator is no longer technically "better" than the Liberty and Independence Bowls. The next best payouts are in the Music City and Belk Bowls. I expect the Liberty will lobby to bring Tennessee to Memphis for the Vols' return to bowl eligibility. Georgia officials on the other hand would prefer Charlotte's Belk Bowl or Nashville's Music City based upon proximity, and thus the ability to sell tickets.
The Music City of course was the site of a disappointing loss to Boston College in Coach Richt's first season in the Classic City. The game would kick off at 3:00 on December 30th and match UGA against either an ACC or (stop me if you've heard this one) Big Ten team. The Belk Bowl, played in Charlotte, is also on the 30th, kicks at 6:45, and will feature an SEC/ACC matchup. The Music City however is a rich payout of $2,700,000 versus the Belk's $1,700,000 check. There's been a groundswell of support on social media for a Georgia/Notre Dame Belk Bowl game. That one would sell a lot of tickets. But if it doesn't come together Georgia is likely to end up playing another ACC opponent in either of these bowls. My money's on either North Carolina, N.C. State, or Louisville. How did I generate that list? The ACC did it for me. They're among the teams which will be part of a ... random ACC drawing for bowl slots. No, I'm not kidding.
But again, in the end we're all beholden to the back room deals Mike Slive and friends gin up tonight and tomorrow. And those deals will be about money: tickets sold, travel costs, and the almighty payout. There will likely be compromises. MaconDawg's official forecast as of 12:30 a.m.? A dead heat between either Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Outback and Notre Dame/North Carolina/N.C. State/Louisville in the Music City. I expect word to leak out by lunch time, and official word by 3:00-4:00. It's gonna be a blast. Until later...