Bowls Eyeing Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas will have plenty of support from a rowdy crowd packed into Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium when the Razorbacks battle to become bowl eligible against LSU on Friday.

But it's pretty clear the Hogs also will have some curious, and hopeful, onlookers from Southeastern Conference bowl tie-ins.

The SEC has seven bowl-eligible teams, but South Carolina pulled itself out of the postseason picture Monday after the ugly brawl with rival Clemson last weekend. That means, if Arkansas falls short against the Tigers, at least two of the SEC's eight bowl tie-ins must resort to at-large selections to fill postseason spots.

The Houston Bowl, which is last in the pecking order for SEC bowls, already knows it will miss out on a conference team for the second straight season after South Carolina's decision to decline a bowl bid. The Independence or Music City bowls, which share the selection after the Capital One, Cotton, Outback and Peach bowls make their picks, also would be affected by an Arkansas loss.

"We'd like to see (the Razorbacks) qualify on Friday and we had a great experience with Arkansas last year," Independence Bowl executive director Glen Krupica said before South Carolina's decision was announced Monday. "Where we're situated, the more bowl qualifiers the better. It's important to have options. I think it's important for us, as well as the SEC bowls, to have SEC teams to choose from."

In fact, Music City Bowl executive director Scott Ramsey said an Arkansas win would be beneficial to everyone involved with SEC bowl games.

"I don't know if I've rooted for many teams," Ramsey said. "But I think from the conference standpoint, it would be nice for enough teams to fill all the slots. The more selection possibilities you have is healthy. It helps more bowls, more fans."

The Independence and Music City bowls will submit their first, second and third choices after this weekend's games. Krupica and Ramsey said Arkansas would join Florida and Alabama in their pool of candidates if the Hogs beat LSU.

But both directors believe Florida could be out of the picture after improving to 7-4 with last weekend's 20-13 win at then-No. 8 Florida State. The Peach Bowl in Atlanta is expected to select the Gators for their Dec. 31 game.

The Birmingham News has reported Alabama still has a shot to earn an invitation to the Peach Bowl, but the Crimson Tide would likely end up in the Music City Bowl if the Gators are Atlanta bound. If that happens, the Hogs would earn a bid to the Independence Bowl for the second straight season with a win Friday.

Krupica said that's a welcome option for the Independence Bowl after the Razorbacks' 27-13 win against Missouri last December. But Krupica said the Hogs must find a way to beat the Tigers first.

"It helps that we had a good experience," Krupica said. "(The Hogs) were outstanding participants. They had a bunch of fans here, close to 20,000 or so. I thought it was a great showing. They have to finish fast to get there, too.

"Three weeks ago, they thought they had little chance of getting to a bowl game."

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