Saturday, November 15, 2008
WHO VANDERBILT FANS SHOULD ROOT FOR TODAY (BESIDES VANDERBILT)
Let's just assume that the Commodores are going to take care of business this season and become bowl eligible, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Here are the bowls with SEC tie-ins, from biggest to smallest payout:
• Automatic BCS bowl (national championship game or Sugar Bowl)
• At-large BCS bowl (Sugar, Fiesta, Orange or Rose Bowl)
• Capital One Bowl, Orlando ($4.25 million)
• Cotton Bowl, Dallas ($3 million)
• Outback Bowl, Tampa ($3 million)
• Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Atlanta ($2.4 million)
• Liberty Bowl, Memphis ($1.7 million)
• Music City Bowl, Nashville ($1.6 million)
• Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. ($1.1 million)
• Papajohns.com Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. ($300,000)
So with our eyes on the best bowl possible, whom should Commodore fans back in today's games?
• South Carolina (7-3) at Florida (8-1): Florida. The Gators are already headed to the SEC championship game. Sure, it'd be great to see the Gamecocks wipe that smirk off Urban Meyer's face. But think about this: If Vanderbilt beats Kentucky and Tennessee, which it could, and Carolina falls to Florida, which it should, then Vanderbilt will finish third in the SEC East, ahead of Carolina, or would even tie Georgia for second if the Bulldogs lost to Auburn today. Combine that with a win over Wake Forest, which is still in the running for the ACC championship, and Vanderbilt could get an upgrade from the Music City or Liberty Bowl to the Outback, Cotton or Chick-Fil-A Bowl. So go Gators!
• Miss State (3-6) at Alabama (10-0): Sure, it'd be great to see the Bulldogs wipe those goofy grins off the faces of everybody in Tide Nation. And it would make Commodores feel better about the beatdown we got in Starkville. But Alabama is already headed to the SEC championship game and a major bowl. Remember how State turned its season around after a victory over the Tide last season? If Croom pulled an upset, his team would have the confidence and momentum needed to possibly beat Arkansas in Starkville and Ole Miss in Oxford. Which means the Bulldogs would be bowl eligible. If Vanderbilt were also bowl eligible, that would mean at least nine SEC teams were going bowling. And if the Commodores sneaked in with six wins, the Liberty Bowl could take the Bulldogs, who painted that place maroon last season, and send the Commodores packing to Shreveport and the Independence Bowl. So Roll Tide!
• Georgia (8-2) at Auburn (5-5): It's nice to think about Auburn upsetting Georgia and creating the possibility that Vanderbilt could finish tied with the Bulldogs for second in the SEC East. But an Auburn win also would make the Tigers bowl eligible, and bowl committees in Atlanta (Chick-Fil-A), Nashville (Music City) and Memphis (Liberty) would be mighty tempted to choose the Tigers and their impressive fan following. Which means a six- or even seven-win Vanderbilt team could be headed to Shreveport instead of, say, Memphis or Nashville. So go Dawgs!
• Troy (6-3) at LSU (6-3): Doesn't much matter. A Troy win would be a stunner and something cool to see. And if the Tigers stumbled down the stretch against Ole Miss or Arkansas and Vanderbilt won out, the Commodores could vault as high as the Cotton Bowl. But that's a pipe dream. LSU is a strong team and a lock to go to either the Cotton or Outback Bowl. But what the heck: Go Trojans!
• La-Monroe (3-7) at Ole Miss (5-4): The Rebels should win this one easily to become bowl eligible, and an upset in Baton Rouge and a win in the Egg Bowl could catapult them past LSU and into the Cotton or Outback Bowl. Right now, though, they're projecting as low as Music City or Liberty and as high as Chick-Fil-A. If the Rebels fell today and Vanderbilt won, the Commodores would take a huge step to scoring a better bowl. So go Warhawks!
Some final thoughts on Vanderbilt (5-4) at Kentucky (6-4): Winning this game would likely put the Commodores in a better bowl than the Wildcats regardless of what happened in the last two games of the season. This means if, say, the Music City Bowl or Liberty Bowl were deciding between Kentucky and Vanderbilt and the next available bowl was the Independence in Shreveport, then the Commodores would likely be playing their bowl in Tennessee. And if South Carolina, Ole Miss or LSU stumbles down the stretch and the Commodores finish strong, then Vanderbilt could have a great shot at playing in the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve (Chick-Fil-A) or even Dallas for the Cotton or Tampa for the Outback Bowl.
But I know what you're thinking: Let's focus on what we can control and beat Kentucky.