Which Bowl In '05?

There was a lot of howling in this neck of the woods last year about the bowl situation, and, particularly, the Bowl Championship Series. That howling was not from Alabama fans, who were just happy to be back in bowl competition after a two-year absence.

Auburn fans had some justification for being miffed at relegation to Ugly Step Child of the undefeateds. USC and Oklahoma played for all the marbles while the Southeastern Conference champion Tigers had to be content to outlast Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Even the Associated Press was unhappy with the BCS last year, and so this year the BCS selections will be made without benefit of the AP poll. (Although it's a question for another day, how in the world can the AP prevent use of its poll by the selection committee? Could the NCAA tell the AP they couldn't include Notre Dame in their poll?) The BCS could fairly be considered a failure, and all the tinkering in the world–of which there will continue to be plenty–isn't likely to fix it.

After two years without a bowl and only a week or so in Hawaii to ease the pain in 2002 and 2003, Bama was pleased to be back in a bowl game last season, even if it was the relatively minor (except for length of name) Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Presented by Bridgestone in Nashville. It was also disappointing that Spencer Pennington's final pass sailed high over the head of a wide open Tyrone Prothro and Bama. The Tide lost to Minnesota and finished with a 6-6 record.

Many expect Alabama to be stronger in 2005. Athlon has pegged the Crimson Tide second in the SEC Western Division and 16th in the nation in its pre-season publication.

Athlon named linebacker DeMeco Ryans, safety Roman Harper and Prothro (as kick returner) first team pre-season All-SEC; linebacker Freddie Roach second team All-SEC; and quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and cornerback Anthony Madison third team All-SEC. The publication ranked Bama's secondary as second best in the SEC.

So if Alabama is bowl eligible at the end of 2005, what are the possibilities? SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Mark Womack (an Alabama graduate) chaired the NCAA Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee that recently licensed 28 bowl games for the upcoming season. There was one change from last year, but it does not affect SEC teams.

The SEC qualifies for at least one spot in the BCS bowls. If an SEC team is in the championship game (this year the Rose Bowl on January 4), another SEC team could qualify for one of the other BCS games–the Orange on January 3, or the Sugar or Fiesta on January 2.

The SEC also provides teams for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 2 against a Big Ten team, the Cotton Bowl on January 2 against a Big 12 team, the Outback Bowl from Tampa on January 2 against a Big Ten team, the Houston Bowl December 31 vs. a Big 12 team, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl from Atlanta December 30 against an ACC team, the Independence Bowl December 30 against a Big 12 team, and the Music City Bowl December 30 against a Big Ten team.

Although it doesn't happen often, it is not impossible for the SEC teams to have more teams bowl eligible than it has agreements and to land in other bowls where a conference is unable to meet its obligation to provide an eligible team.

Of course, the bowl system is far from perfect. It hasn't been right since the 1960s and 1970s when Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant worked them all out to best benefit the Crimson Tide in its quest for national championships.

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