Analysis: With bowl eligibility clinched, where will AU go?
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Oct 23, 2013 | 1669 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn talks to official during the Tigers' win over Ole Miss. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn talks to official during the Tigers' win over Ole Miss. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN — Auburn's upset victory against Texas A&M rocketed the Tigers up the rankings, moving them up to No. 11 in the most recent Associated Press poll and reserving the same spot in the first edition of the BCS standings.

The win also secured Auburn's sixth victory of the season, doubling up last season's total, and more importantly, clinching bowl eligibility. While there's still a lot of time between now and the end of the regular season, it's always fun to forecast ahead.

With that in mind, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer sports writer Ryan Black breaks down the Tigers' potential bowl destinations, in ascending order.

Advocare V100

Date: Dec. 31, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Shreveport, La; Independence Stadium (53,000)

Matchup: SEC No. 10 vs. ACC

Analysis: This bowl is the longest of long shots for Auburn. How much so? I think the Tigers have a better shot at going to the BCS National Championship Game than landing in Shreveport. The only way this could happen is if Auburn loses out. Notice I didn't say "loses out in SEC play." No, this would require Florida Atlantic pulling one of the biggest upsets of the year on Saturday and then the Tigers free-falling after that. Not happening.

Likelihood for Auburn: Forget about it

Compass

Date: Jan. 4, noon

Location: Birmingham; Legion Field (71,594)

Matchup: SEC No. 9 vs. American Athletic Conference

Analysis: Take everything I said about the Advocare Bowl and apply it here, changing only the result of Saturday's game to have Auburn come out on top. Oh, and make sure that all four SEC losses are by lopsided margins. Could the Tigers end the regular season on a four-game schneid? Possibly. But the way Arkansas is playing right now makes that outcome seem far-fetched.

Likelihood for Auburn: 5 percent

Liberty

Date: Dec. 31, 3 p.m.

Location: Memphis, Tenn.; Liberty Bowl Stadium (62,338)

Matchup: SEC No. 8 vs. Conference USA/American Athletic

Analysis: The way things stand, it would again take a 1-4 Auburn tailspin to fall to the Liberty Bowl. The difference between this and the Compass Bowl would have the Tigers' four conference losses at least be semi-competitive games.

Likelihood for Auburn: 10 percent

Music City

Date: Dec. 30, 2:15 p.m.

Location: Nashville, Tenn.; LP Field (68,000)

Matchup: SEC No. 7 vs. ACC

Analysis: We're starting to get closer to what appear to be Auburn's realistic bowl hopes. We're not there yet, though. With the Music City Bowl having the No. 7 selection after the BCS games, the Tigers would have to sputter to a 2-3 finish. This would likely involve Auburn winning its next two games and then falling to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama to close the season.

Likelihood for Auburn: 25 percent

Gator

Date: Jan. 1, 11 a.m.

Location: Jacksonville, Fla.; Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (73,000)

Matchup: SEC No. 6 vs. Big Ten

Analysis: Beginning with the Gator Bowl, the bowl possibilities for the Tigers grow more and more feasible. How would the Tigers have to finish to land in Jacksonville? My take: FAU (big win), Arkansas (multiple-overtime loss), Tennessee (blowout, bounce-back road victory), Georgia (close defeat), Alabama (nail-biting loss).

Likelihood for Auburn: 35 percent

Chick-fil-A

Date: Dec. 31, 7 p.m.

Location: Atlanta; Georgia Dome (71,228)

Matchup: SEC No. 5 vs. ACC

Analysis: To make the eastward trek to Atlanta, my crystal ball predicts the Tigers closing 3-2. Count one loss to Alabama, and then take your pick in toss-up games against Tennessee and Georgia.

Likelihood for Auburn: 55 percent

Outback

Date: Jan. 1, noon

Location: Tampa, Fla.; Raymond James Stadium (65,657)

Matchup: SEC No. 3 (Outback and Cotton share second non-BCS SEC pick) vs. Big Ten

Analysis: With a 10-2 (or maybe even 9-3) Auburn on the table, it would be hard for the Cotton Bowl, which has the first pick for Western Division teams after the Capital One Bowl, to ignore it. If that happens, though, expect the Outback Bowl to snap up the Tigers quickly.

Likelihood for Auburn: 50 percent

Cotton

Date: Jan. 3, 6:30 p.m.

Location: Arlington, Texas; Cowboys Stadium (75,815)

Matchup: SEC No. 3 (Cotton and Outback share second non-BCS SEC pick) vs. Big 12

Analysis: The only reason for the Cotton Bowl to overlook a 10-2 Auburn team (maybe 9-3) would be because Texas A&M also finishes with two losses, and a possible matchup with arch-rival Texas is too good for Cotton Bowl officials to pass up. Auburn gets short-changed in the process.

Likelihood for Auburn: 60 percent

Capital One

Date: Jan. 1, noon

Location: Orlando, Fla.; Florida Citrus Bowl (65,438)

Matchup: SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten

Analysis: If Auburn finishes 10-2, it's a near-guarantee it will land here, provided the bowl doesn't decide to select the SEC Championship Game runner-up.

Likelihood for Auburn: 70 percent

Sugar

Date: Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m.

Location: New Orleans; Superdome (72,968)

Matchup: BCS vs. BCS

Analysis: There are a few different ways Auburn could find itself in The Big Easy. It could win the SEC championship outright and get left out of the national title game with one loss, if multiple teams from other major conferences complete the regular season unbeaten. The Tigers could also benefit from another SEC team playing for the national title, which would leave the Sugar without its "host conference." Would they really bypass the Tigers? If Auburn's record is up to snuff (at least 10-2), don't bet on it.

Likelihood for Auburn: 40 percent

Another BCS bowl

Matchup: BCS vs. BCS

Analysis: I understand it's a slim chance, but bear with me: Let's say Auburn happens to stumble before the Alabama game, losing in last-second fashion to Tennessee or Georgia. Let's also say the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide convincingly in the season finale, and Alabama follows it up with a loss in the SEC title game, while the winner from the Eastern Division plays in the Sugar Bowl. Sitting at 10-2, Auburn might get a second look as an at-large auto bid to either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl, especially if the Orange loses, for instance, Florida State, to the national title affair. Yes, it's highly improbable, but hey, stranger things have happened.

Likelihood for Auburn: 10 percent

BCS National Championship Game

Date: Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m.

Location: Pasadena, Calif.; Rose Bowl (92,542)

Matchup: BCS. No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2

Analysis: The Tigers playing for their second national title in four years is still within the realm of possibility. First and foremost, the Tigers have to win out. Secondly, they need other undefeated teams from major conferences to suffer at least one loss. If that happens, a one-loss, SEC champion Tiger squad can punch its ticket to Pasadena.

Likelihood for Auburn: 15 percent
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