Everybody knows where the winner of the SEC Championship game will play next — the Discover BCS National Championship game Jan. 7 in Miami, of course. But the bowl destination is less clear for the loser of Saturday’s SEC title game between Georgia and Alabama.
Because there are so many highly-ranked SEC teams, and because bowl dealings have been ongoing for quite some time, there is a very good chance the loser of the league championship game gets leap-frogged in the selection process. In addition to No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, four other SEC teams are in the top 10 of this week’s BCS standings — Florida (4), LSU (7), Texas A&M (9) and South Carolina (10).
Most projections have 11-1 Florida — whose only loss was to Georgia — moving ahead of the Alabama-Georgia loser in the final BCS standings and going to the Nokia Sugar Bowl, a BCS game. Conversely, some projections have a losing Alabama team going to the AT&T Cotton Bowl or a losing Georgia team going to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“For either one of these teams, it’s not really a great scenario,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
“You play your way into the (SEC) championship game, which means you’re the best team in your division, they’re the best team in their division,” Saban said. “They played their way into the game by a total body of work for the whole season. It doesn’t seem quite right. But it is what it is. I don’t really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it. But I don’t feel good about it for our football team or their football team, either one.”
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom confirmed to the AJC Monday that “the loser of the SEC Championship Game has protection not to fall below the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the SEC selection order.”
That leaves as possibilities the Capital One Bowl (Orlando), Outback Bowl (Tampa), Cotton (Arlington, Tex.) and Chick-fil-A (Atlanta). Some projections have Texas A&M, led by expected Heisman Trophy finalist Johnny Manziel, heading to the Cap One, which has first pick of SEC teams after the BCS bowls. Georgia played in the Outback just last year, and the Cotton prefers to take SEC Western Division teams.
Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan did not return several calls seeking comment Monday.
Georgia coach Mark Richt has not commented on the Bulldogs’ bowl scenarios. But as Saban emphasized more than once, “it is what it is.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp is disappointed his team won’t get a BCS title shot and offered no apologies for likely ending up ahead of the SEC Championship game loser and in the Sugar Bowl.
“Well, I can switch and go to Atlanta,” Muschamp told reporters in Gainesville, Fla., “if (Saban) doesn’t want to go to Atlanta and play the Dogs. Be careful what you ask for, Nick.”
It should be noted, too, that last season Alabama went to — and won — the national championship game after failing to reach the SEC Championship game.