Worst-case scenario – Georgia loses to Auburn or Georgia Tech
A loss to Auburn would push Georgia out of the SEC Championship, and would knock them to as low as the Chick-fil-A or Gator Bowl. A loss to Tech would hurt Georgia if the Bulldogs didn't win the SEC title and therefore the automatic berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M are "attractive" teams to bowl committees. Right now Georgia is likely second highest on that list behind the Tide. Any upset losses puts Georgia behind all of them except perhaps a 9-3 South Carolina, which would, in that case, lost to either Arkansas or Clemson in the final game of the season.
Pipe dream scenario – Georgia finishes the season 12-1 with a win over an undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship
This is a little nutty, and there are several games for both Bama and Georgia before a clash in Atlanta is a lock, but it is very likely that both teams will arrive at the Dome with a combined one loss between them.
For the Tide things are simple – win out and you play for it all. Georgia fans, on the other hand, will be burning up their TV sets and iPhones for scores over the next few weeks. If, and its hard to know just how big of an "if" it is, two of the undefeateds out there right now – Oregon, Notre Dame or Kansas State – lose over the next few weeks Georgia will be in a one-game playoff for a spot in the National Championship Game (NCG).
Oregon has the most difficult path of anyone to get to the NCG. The Ducks still play Stanford, Oregon State and presumably in the Pac 12 Championship Game. Kansas State still has to travel to Baylor and TCU before a fight with Texas on December 1st. Notre Dame, which seems to escape losses on a weekly basis now only has lowly Wake Forest and Boston College before its annual fight with a now three-loss USC on November 24th.
The fact is that if the Bulldogs walk off the bus at the Georgia Dome on December 1st with an 11-1 record they will almost certainly know if they will playing for its spot in the NCG or not. Why? The SECCG kicks at 4… the Pac 12 Championship Game is Friday night; and Notre Dame's season will be over the week before the SECCG. Only Kansas State-Texas, which will almost certainly be an 8 PM kickoff on ABC, will take place after the SECCG.
The most likely path for the Dawgs to the NCG? First and foremost a win over Alabama in the SECCG. Then Oregon losing a game – any game from here on out. Then USC finally taking out the Irish and their well-noted luck this year. If those things happen Georgia will play in the NCG with a win over the Tide. If those don't happen before Georgia arrives at the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs won't play in Miami this winter – not matter what happens in the game with the Tide. In that case undefeated Notre Dame and Oregon would almost certainly play for it all.
Could other one-loss teams jump Georgia? That seems unlikely. First, Florida and Florida State play one another, so one of them will lose out. Simply put Georgia beat the Gators, so there is no way they will jump the Dawgs. Oregon State could have a notable win (over Oregon), but the Beavers are ranked so low in the BCS standings it seems unlikely they would jump a 12-1 Georgia in the polls. Clemson, too, seems too far back to get in front of a 12-1 Georgia. No one is taking one-loss Louisiana Tech, Toledo or Rutgers seriously. Undefeated Louisville, which is a nice story, isn't playing for the BCS National Title… not happening.
But at this point saying that Georgia will be playing for in the NCG is a stretch, too – but it is certainly not impossible (for the record Florida can still play in the NCG, but they need some help from Auburn on Saturday… you get my point).
Most (or more) likely scenario(s)
There are so many variables right now that writing any of this is pretty much ridiculous, but it's that time of year, and college football is ludicrous. Georgia has to go to a bowl game, so which one will it be?
As has been established – a 12-1 Georgia team can do no worse than representing the SEC as conference champions in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. But its very possible, in fact it may be on the way to being likely, that Georgia will be picked for a BCS game win or lose in the SECCG.
There are a couple things that would help the Bulldogs in their pursuit of a return to the BCS for the first time since the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Georgia must win its final three games of the regular season, and Florida State needs to beat Florida. Sugar Bowl reps must not have been impressed with the scattered crown at the Swamp at the start of the Missouri game. It probably reminded them of the underwhelming flock of Gators who arrived to see Tim Tebow's final game in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Still, if the Gators knock off the Noles its hard to think the Sugar will pass an 11-1 Florida over an 11-2 Georgia – even if the Dawgs won the head-to-head.
The thing to keep in mind about bowl games is that they don't have to make sense with their selections… they just have to sell tickets and get folks to turn on TVs, and Florida turns on TVs.
But winning at Florida State is a challenge I don't see Florida accomplishing – not the way the Gators are playing offense right now.
The other program that could get into Georgia's way is LSU. The two-loss Tigers could be the Sugar's pick, but that seems a bit up in the air. The hometown Tigers have not played in the Sugar Bowl since the 2007 edition of the game, but they've played in the NCG there twice lately – including last year. That means LSU has played in New Orleans four times in the last nine years… I hear Dallas calling for the Tigers, but the Sugar is a real possibility if Florida and Georgia both screw up (or even if Georgia loses only to Alabama), which is possible, but not probable.
Who would be most likely to play Georgia (or the Gators, Tide or Tigers) in the Sugar? Obviously it depends on who wins and loses, but let's just say everyone in front of Georgia stays undefeated.
That would mean:
NCG: Alabama vs. Oregon
In that case, according to BCS bylaws, the Sugar would get the first pick to replace #1 Alabama; the Rose Bowl would get second choice to replace #2 Oregon. The Sugar Bowl would be idiotic not to take Notre Dame to replace Alabama (remember that the Sugar Bowl must take the an SEC Champion not playing in the NCG… it doesn't have to take an SEC team if it doesn't want to).
The Rose will almost certainly take Oregon State (or someone else from the Pac-12) to play whichever loser the Big Ten sends to California because the Rose, apparently, believes in running down their TV numbers whenever possible. The Rose doesn't have to take Oregon State (or the Pac 12), but it will. It is forced to take the Big Ten champ by rule in this scenario.
If all of that happens then this where things can go nutty:
With Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame gone and with Big 12 champ Kansas State locked into the Fiesta by rule and (likely) Florida State locked into the Orange, the Arizona-based bowl gets first pick, then the Sugar, then the Orange… the poor Orange.
The Fiesta would pick from a slew of different schools, but would be jammed in terms of which team to pick in this case. Available? Not two-loss Boise State, who is not longer an automatic qualifier thanks to its 21-19 loss to San Diego State over the weekend. Georgia, Florida, LSU, Clemson, Oklahoma and Louisville would still be available and likely not have more than two losses. The Sooners would be the program to keep an eye on for sure. Everyone else around (South Carolina, Texas A&M, Stanford, Texas, etc.) has a flaw.
The Fiesta Bowl is not going to take Louisville – not happening. They've seen the magic that is Big East football… and they've had their fill of UConn and Pitt playing in town. The problem for the Fiesta this season is Oregon and the Rose Bowl. The fact that Oregon, in this scenario, plays in the NCG and the Rose takes the Beavers means the Pac 12 can't send another program into the BCS system. The Big 12 champ (Kansas State) can't play another Big 12 school (but the Fiesta could select the Sooners, and then trade them for Notre Dame or an SEC school… some horse trading would have to happen because two schools can't play one another in a BCS bowl game save the NCG, and the by laws discourage rematches from the regular season i.e. Notre Dame-Oklahoma).
That leaves the Big Ten… yuck. Not likely to happen. Southern Cal could be there, too, if the Trojans don't have four losses, but that's very possible. USC seems like a long shot to go to the Fiesta.
That means an east coast school may well wind up in the Fiesta, which is not good at all for ticket sales. But that's the Fiesta's problem… not the Sugar's. Its starting to look like The Fiesta will get stuck with a team from across the Mississippi – possibly Clemson… but only if the Tigers beat hated South Carolina. But, and this seems unlikely, the Fiesta could pick Georgia just to get them as they are more national than Clemson. But for the Fiesta, Clemson and Georgia, two teams from a long, long way away, will be the same thing – not Louisville. A Clemson-Kansas State game would likely last about five hours with all of the scoring, but it would be entertaining nonetheless. But the Fiesta wants Notre Dame-Kansas State, and they will figure out how to get it.
That would involve the Fiesta taking Georgia (or any SEC school) and trading them with the Sugar for Notre Dame.
There is a clause in the BCS by-laws that could allow either the Sugar or the Fiesta to host a Kansas State-Notre Dame game. This would likely only happen if both the Irish and Wildcats are undefeated. The by-laws state: "after the completion of the selection process as described, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the parings, taking into consideration the following… whether the alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by the expected television interest, and the financial impact on rights-holding TV networks and the bowls."
In other words, if ESPN wants undefeated Notre Dame-Kansas State we are going to get that game… almost certainly at the Fiesta with Clemson/Oklahoma-Georgia/SEC school taking place at the Sugar. No matter what the Orange, the poor Orange, will get presumed ACC champ Florida State against presumed Big East champ Louisville (or, gasp, Rutgers – yeah the same guys who lost 35-23 to Kent State – if it topples the Cards the last week of the season… like I said, yuck.)
That's a lot of "what ifs", but that's the landscape at this moment. Could Georgia end up in the Capital One Bowl? Certainly. Particularly if Florida is 11-1, and the Dawgs are 11-2 – or if the Sugar grabs LSU. But at 10-2, the Gators seem headed to Orlando. LSU seems headed for the Cotton Bowl with Texas A&M going to the Chick-fil-A. If the Tigers go to the Sugar look for Texas A&M to go to the Cotton to play Texas with Georgia getting the Capital One or, even worse, the Outback – but the Gators could be the ones knocked down to the Outback in favor of the Capital One picking Georgia – that's when things get nuts.
Still, South Carolina better not lose to Arkansas or it will be off to the Gator Bowl to take on Indiana or whoever in Jacksonville. In all likelihood the Cocks will play in the Outback. 10-2 Carolina will not jump LSU, Florida and Georgia – won't happen. If the Chick-fil-A gets someone other than Clemson in that scenario, like Miami, South Carolina would likely end up there, or possibly in the Gator (but that seems a bit unlikely at this moment). Either Mississippi State or the Rebels will play in the Gator – the non-Gator Bowl Magnolia school will make the short trip to Memphis for the Liberty. Tennessee and Vandy will fight it out for the bowl in Nashville.
Likely – Alabama
Still Alive (in order) – Georgia and Florida (barley)
Likely – Georgia
Still Alive (in order) – LSU, Florida and South Carolina (barley)
Capital One Bowl
Likely – Florida
Still Alive (in order) – Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M
Likely – South Carolina
Still Alive (in order) – Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M
Likely – LSU
Still Alive (in order) – Texas A&M
Likely – Texas A&M
Still Alive (in order) – South Carolina and Mississippi State
Likely – Mississippi State
Still Alive (in order) – South Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee
Music City Bowl
Likely – Tennessee
Still Alive (in order) – Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri and Vanderbilt
Likely – Ole Miss
Still Alive (in order) – Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Missouri
Likely – Vanderbilt
Still Alive (in order) – Tennessee and Missouri
Likely – None at this time
Still Alive (in order) – Missouri