The Bulldogs will learn their fate officially on Sunday, but a bowl source said Saturday night that Georgia headed to the Liberty Bowl was a “pretty strong” probability. Georgia last played in the Liberty Bowl after the 2010 season, the Bulldogs’ last losing season - 6-7.
Alabama’s win over Florida on Saturday ensured sanity in the bowl selections of the SEC. But that only happened after a closing month in the SEC that saw Georgia beat Auburn, Florida stop LSU and Vanderbilt stun Tennessee. All three of those games prevented the Sugar Bowl, the first pick after the College Football Playoff, from narrowing in on its selection - and all but paralyzing the rest of the bowls tied in with the SEC as a result.
But after Alabama’s dismantling of the Gators, the New Orleans-based bowl must pick Auburn as the Tigers are the highest-ranked SEC team after the Tide. LSU is expected to jump the Gators for the Citrus Bowl, but that will be made clear on Sunday. After that a slew of bowls - the so-called Group of Six Bowls - are lined up by the SEC and television partners (ESPN).
Georgia has played in Jacksonville in two of the last three years, so the former Gator Bowl is out for the Bulldogs. Before Vanderbilt’s upset of Tennessee on the last week of the season, the Bulldogs seemed headed to Nashville to play in the Music City Bowl for the first time since 2001. But now that bowl seems eager to invite the Vols for only the second time in history. The Texas Bowl seems locked in on Texas A&M to likely to battle with an old Big 12 foe.
With the Music City heading towards the Vols, Auburn in the Sugar, LSU likely in the Citrus and A&M in the Texas Bowl, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and the Gators need to be slotted in a bowl. Florida will almost certainly play in the Sunshine State - either in Tampa at the Outback Bowl or in Jacksonville. Kentucky, which has not played in a bowl since the 2010 season, seems headed to either the Belk Bowl or the florida bowl game that doesn’t pick the Gators.
Kentucky officials have been pressing their fans to buy bowl tickets ahead of Sunday’s selection in order to leverage the Cats’ situation. UK officials are trying to sell the Cats as the “hot” team in the SEC having won 5 of their last 7 games including an upending of Louisville last weekend.
The Belk Bowl could get stuck with the Hogs, a program that is 7-5, because UGA played there so recently. There has been interest by the Charlotte bowl of lobbying for South Carolina, but the conference is expected to kill that notion - almost certainly sending the Chickens to Birmingham. Liberty Bowl officials have made clear behind the scenes that they will to all they can to avoid having Arkansas in back-to-back bowl games in Memphis, and they appear to getting their way.
“I see all of these projections with us taking Arkansas,” one Liberty Bowl representative told a media member, “that’s not going to happen.”
Arkansas played Kansas State last season in the Liberty Bowl. If all goes as expected, Georgia will likely play either TCU, which lost to Kansas State on Saturday and is 6-6 on the season, or Baylor. But the Bears seem very unlikely. Picking a team without a head coach and having suffered serious off-the-field problems this past off-season over another team seems unlikely.
According to reporting in the Kansas City Star, the likelihood of Baylor ending up in Memphis is low.
“The Liberty Bowl could once again select a lower team in the standings and go with Baylor, though it’s hard to imagine the Bears bringing many fans with them if they finish the season on a six-game losing streak,” according to the report.