After the CFP rankings came out last night, most of our immediate reactions were focused on a certain team having an issue the number 12. But once the memes came to an end, Auburn fans’ next thoughts were centered on what being ranked ahead of the Tide might mean for our bowl prospects.
How does the Cotton Bowl vs Memphis sound? Maybe the Citrus vs Michigan? Or the Outback, vs Minnesota?
Obviously, it’s hard to know just yet with conference championships still left to play. Before we get started, you may want to read about how bowls actually work. Also, here’s the SEC’s bowl affiliations/priorities this year:
1, College Football Playoff
2. Sugar Bowl
3. NY6 Bowls as At-Large
4. Citrus Bowl
5. The rest of the teams get assigned to/picked by the following bowls:
- Liberty Bowl
- Belk Bowl
- Music City Bowl
- Outback Bowl
- Gator Bowl
- Texas Bowl
6. If there are enough bowl eligible teams to fill out more slots, they would go to the following bowls:
- Birmingham Bowl
- Independence Bowl
Of course, there are always some NY6 at-large spots that may go to an SEC team after the Sugar Bowl selects its pick. We know a few of those spots without even needing the results of next weekend:
- LSU is probably in the playoff win or lose.
- If UGA wins, they’ll be in the playoff as well. If not, they’ll be in the Sugar.
- If both LSU and UGA are in the CFP, Florida would be the next highest ranked SEC team and would go to the Sugar.
So where does that leave Auburn? Go ahead and strike the CFP and Sugar Bowl off the list. After that, depending on the outcomes of this weekend, we’re probably looking at either a NY6 At-Large (Cotton or Orange), the Citrus Bowl, or the Outback Bowl (they’ve been the bowl most tied to Auburn out of the group of bowls in Priority 5.
I’m not sure a spot in the Cotton or Orange Bowl is going to be possible, though. Auburn would have to jump a Big 10-losing Wisconsin, and I’m not sure Ohio State can beat them bad enough for them to drop from #8 past #11. LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, UGA, Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor, Florida, Penn State, the AAC winner, and Virginia all likely have NY6 spots locked up, leaving one spot for Wisconsin, Auburn, and Alabama to fight over. It’s certainly not impossible, but I would consider it very unlikely.
So if Auburn is out of the New Years Six, then what? All eyes turn to the Citrus Bowl, who gets first pick of the non-NY6 teams out of the SEC. Auburn would still be the higher ranked team, but they aren’t constrained to pick based off of rankings. I would venture to say Alabama’s first non-NY6/BCS/Playoff bowl game in nearly a decade won’t draw a great crowd, so I’d like to think Auburn is the choice here.
The Citrus Bowl also gets the first pick after the CFP/NY6 out of the Big 10 the same way they do for the SEC. With Ohio State and Penn State likely to make New Years Six games, plus Wisconsin a good possibility to make one as well, 9-3 Michigan or 10-2 Minnesota become the top picks. While I would love to have our first ever matchup with the Golden Gophers, I think Michigan is the more likely pick due to ticket sales and eyeballs on the TV. Auburn’s only played them twice before, splitting a 9-7 Auburn win in 1984 and a 31-28 Citrus Bowl win for Michigan in 2001, so that would still be a pretty uncommon matchup for our beloved Tigers.