Tide likely headed for Music City Bowl

Technically, the various bowl bids for SEC schools cannot be announced until after the conference championship game December 8. But in the Legion Field press box Thursday, there was little doubt that Alabama was headed to Nashville's Music City Bowl and a match-up with Boston College of the Big East.

The 28-15 victory over Southern Miss pushed Bama's record to 6-5, finishing a late-season turnaround in which the Tide won its last three games. "From our point of view, if you can get a team that is kind of winning their way into the game, it can really help the whole mood of the fans and the program," explained Scott Ramsey, Executive Director of the Music City Bowl. "That creates excitement down the stretch, which helps. I think (Alabama) kind of fits that bill a little bit. Alabama has won three in a row, and their win over Auburn was obviously a big swing for them."

Now in its fourth year, the Music City Bowl is a sanctioned NCAA post season game, run by the Nashville Sports Council. The game will take place Friday, December 28 at Adelphia Coliseum, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Adelphia Coliseum seats 67,000. It will be televised by ESPN at 4 (CST) and carries a payout of $750,000 to each participating team. Tickets are $25, $40 and $60 and are available through TicketMaster.

In his first season as head coach at Alabama, Dennis Franchione has doubled his team's win total from last year, qualifying the Tide for a post-season bowl.

Earlier in the week, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione admitted it was now time to speak the ‘B word.' "There are no lead-pipe cinches until you get the offer," he explained following Thursday's win. "But I am confident about our chances to get a bowl bid."

Both Florida and Tennessee are expected to receive BCS bowl bids. And in addition to the Music City Bowl, the SEC also has bowl arrangements with Citrus (vs. BIG TEN), Outback (vs. BIG TEN), Peach (vs. ACC), Independence (vs. BIG 12) and the Cotton (vs. BIG 12).

Because the two BCS bids will not be finalized until after the SECC, Ramsey had to choose his words carefully. But there is little doubt that the Music City Bowl has Alabama at the top of its list. "We're going to see what happens this weekend, and then talk to the conference office," Ramsey said. "Then we'll wait until we get the green light to make a selection. We'll have input into which SEC team we get. We stay in touch with (the SEC office) weekly and give them our wish list."

Assuming the two BCS berths for Florida and Tennessee, eight SEC schools would be guaranteed a bowl bid. However, it's probable that nine conference teams will be eligible, meaning that unless a spot elsewhere opens up (the Tangerine Bowl is a possibility), one squad will be disappointed.

But Franchione is confident that his team will not be left out in the cold. "I think whoever gets this team gets an up-and-coming team--an exciting team that's a good story in a lot of ways," he said. "The way this team has played here at the end of the season. To come back with three straight victories. The tough, tight games that they've played all year long. I think they're a great story right now."

Despite the fact that Ole Miss could finish the season at 7-4, Alabama is seen as the clear favorite for Nashville. "Once you get past the first two or three teams, you get a lot of teams with the same record," Ramsey said. "So the thing is to get a match-up where the fans will be excited to go somewhere."

Ramsey explained that his bowl will submit its choice to the SEC office, and if there is a conflict where more than one bowl is after the same team, then the Athletic Director would decide which bowl would be best for his school. "To be honest, that has really worked great," Ramsey said. "It allows for bowls and teams to match up where you think you would be the most successful."

Boston College finished the season with a 7-4 record, 4-3 in the Big East.

Of course when it comes to bowl politics, the Crimson Tide (and its dedicated fans) is an easy pick. "We know that we have the best fans in the nation," Franchione said. "And we know that we'll travel well. I think that means a lot to the bowls. We also know that the name ‘Alabama' means something in bowl games and post season."

The Music City Bowl requires each team to sell 12,000 tickets, but Tide fans eager for one more game are expected to show up in big numbers. "I don't think that would be a big problem for (Alabama)," Ramsey said with a laugh. "Actually, it hasn't been a big problem for any SEC team yet."

Alabama's opponent would be the Boston College Eagles out of the Big East. BC leads the series three games to one, making them one of a select few schools to hold an edge over the Tide. Boston College posted a 7-4 regular season record in 2001 and a 4-3 mark in BIG EAST play. The Music City Bowl appearance for the Eagles marks just the third time in school history that Boston College has advanced to a bowl game in three straight seasons -- joining the 1982-84 and 1992-94 campaigns. The Eagles played in the 2000 Jeep Aloha Bowl and the 1999 Insight.com Bowl.

Of course Alabama played in the inaugural Music City Bowl in 1998, losing 38-7 to Virginia Tech. That December Nashville was struck by an ice storm that seriously hampered the two teams' ability to practice. But Ramsey explained that in the event of inclement weather, the Titans' indoor facility would be available for workouts.

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