This is the time of year when teams depend on the kindness of others. For example, if Virginia beats Virginia Tech tomorrow, then Georgia Tech goes to the ACC Championship Game. And if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, then Texas Tech goes to the Big 12 Championship Game, regardless of how badly they got thrashed by the Sooners.
The Commodores have smaller potatoes at stake — or in the spirit of the holidays, smaller sweet potatoes — but for Vanderbilt fans it's a big deal. Everybody's saying the Commodores are headed for the Liberty Bowl, but the results of college football games today and tomorrow could change that. By late Saturday, the Commodores could be rising toward the Chick-Fil-A Bowl or — gasp! — descending toward the depths of the Papajohns.com Bowl.
Sure, they help themselves with a win over Wake Forest tomorrow night, but they need other teams to help them too.
THE CURRENT BOWL PECKING ORDER
Right now, here's the bowl pecking order:
• Nos. 1-2: Alabama (11-0) and Florida (10-1). One's apparently headed to the National Championship Game, the other to the Sugar Bowl.
• No. 3: Georgia (9-2). Written in ink for the Capital One Bowl.
• Nos. 4-6: Ole Miss (7-4), South Carolina (7-4), LSU (7-4). One's headed to the Cotton Bowl, one to the Outback Bowl, the other to Chick-Fil-A.
• Nos. 7-8: Vanderbilt (6-5) and Kentucky (6-5). One's headed to the Liberty Bowl, the other to Music City.
• No. 9: Unoccupied. Would go to the Independence Bowl.
• No. 10: Unoccupied. Would go to the Papajohns.com Bowl.
HOW VANDERBILT CAN RISE
Here's how Vanderbilt could rise in the pecking order, but it would also take a bowl committee that loves an underdog and somehow believes Commodore fans of the world would unite and actually attend their game:
• Clemson whips South Carolina on Saturday.
• OR Miss State whips Ole Miss today.
• OR Arkansas whips LSU today.
• AND Alabama beats Auburn on Saturday.
• AND Florida State beats Florida on Saturday.
• AND Vanderbilt whips Wake Forest on Saturday.
In other words, Alabama and Florida remain on course to occupy two BCS berths, Auburn fails to become bowl eligible, and Vanderbilt finishes 7-5, same as Ole Miss, South Carolina and LSU. And then a bowl, probably the Chick-Fil-A, opts for the Commodores, which beat the Rebels and the Gamecocks head to head.
HOW VANDERBILT MIGHT FALL
Here's how Vanderbilt could fall in the pecking order:
• Auburn beats Alabama on Saturday.
• AND/OR Florida State beats Florida.
• AND Oregon State beats Oregon on Saturday (if Alabama or Florida lose).
• AND Kentucky beats Tennessee on Saturday.
• AND Vanderbilt loses to Wake Forest.
• AND Rice beats Houston and then wins the C-USA Championship.
The most important game is the one being played in Tuscaloosa. If Alabama wins on Saturday, then Auburn finishes with seven losses and the Commodores are probably headed to the Liberty or Music City bowls whether they win or lose on Saturday at Wake Forest; and the Independence and Papajohns.com bowls will be forced to take teams from other conferences. If Bama loses, then Auburn, which has a better fan following than Vanderbilt, could bump the Commodores down to the Independence Bowl, and then if Bama lost to Florida on Dec. 6, the Commodores could fall to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, which has a payout of only $300,000 compared to about a million for the Tennessee bowls.
Or if Bama won and Florida lost to Florida State and then to Bama, then the Gators would likely fall out of the BCS and bump everybody down a notch.
If Oregon State loses to Oregon on Saturday, then the BCS will only take USC. But if the Beavers win, they get an automatic Rose Bowl bid and — if Alabama or Florida have two losses — the BCS bowls would be forced to decide between the No. 2 SEC team and darlings USC and Ohio State. And if the SEC team didn't get the nod, then Vanderbilt could be bumped down a notch — or two notches if Auburn's bowl eligible.
If Vanderbilt wins and Kentucky beats Tennessee, then the Commodores and Wildcats would have identical 7-4 records and it would be crapshoot who would go where — and actually it would depend on fan base, in which the Cats have a leg up. Right now, both teams are pegged for the Liberty and Music City bowls, which are pretty equal. But if everybody dropped down a notch or two, Vanderbilt and Kentucky would be fighting for a berth in one of the Tennessee bowls, with the loser going to Shreveport or Birmingham.
As for Rice-Houston, if Rice won and then won the C-USA championship, the Owls would get an automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl, which would shy away from a Rice-Vanderbilt matchup. So if another team was available for the Liberty, say Kentucky or Auburn, then one of those teams could get the nod and the Commodores could be headed to Shreveport.
Here's a summary of who you should root for today:
• Miss State over Ole Miss
• Arkansas over LSU
Here's a summary of who you should root for on Saturday:
• Clemson over South Carolina.
• Alabama over Auburn. (Very important)
• Florida over Florida State.
• Houston over Rice.
• Tennessee over Kentucky
• Oregon over Oregon State.
• Oh yeah, and Vanderbilt over Wake Forest.
Got it? Thought so. Have a good weekend.