Gator Bowl President Expects to Choose Between MSU, Vanderbilt

Mississippi State is very well end up in the Gator Bowl for the second time in three years, but it’s far from settled.

I just spoke with Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett, who said MSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) is one of “two, possibly three teams” being considered for the Jan. 1 game in Jacksonville, Fla. The others are South Carolina (10-2, 6-2) and Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3).

“South Carolina is in the mix only because if they were to fall to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s got Clemson on the other side,” Catlett said. “If it shakes out the way it should shake out, we’re going to be sitting here looking at Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. That would be my guess.”

So the question is, which team will be more attractive to the Gator Bowl? Catlett wouldn’t let on, but he did say that MSU being in this game just two years ago doesn’t hurt its chances at all. It actually probably helps.

“We had a lot of fun with them, their fans were great,” Catlett said. “Their administration is really easy to work with; they’re professionals. You remember that and think about that when you’re trying to to figure this whole thing out. But Vanderbilt is a very deserving team. They’re on a winning streak, up and coming.”

The Commodores have won six in a row, while State stumbled to a 1-4 finish, including a 41-24 loss to rival Ole Miss. Catlett noted the poor finish but also said that considering who the Bulldogs lost to – including Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU – it shouldn’t be too big a strike against them.

A lot of other factors go into the selection, like pre-sold tickets (both MSU and Vandy are pre-selling), how well the hotels are selling, and of course what the bowls above the Gator are planning. Catlett has been speaking with other bowl executives as well as SEC officials – namely executive associate commissioner Mark Womack and consultant Larry Templeton. Talks will continue through the weekend, and the bowl selections will be announced Sunday evening.

Anyone concerned about Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5) leap-frogging MSU into the Gator Bowl can rest easy. Not gonna happen.

“We will not pass (up) an 8-4 team for a 6-6 team,” Catlett said. “That’s just an integrity thing. It’s usually a bowl deal where if you’ve got a guy with two less wins, you really don’t do that. It’d have to be really strange circumstances for us to do that. And we did it one time, and the year we did it was when (Florida State’s) Bobby Bowden announced he was going to retire. It was going to be his last game. That’s a pretty big circumstance to change your policy.”

I am the online content coordinator for I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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  • Stankylegs

    Brad, I thought there was some SEC bowl mechanism in place to prevent a team leap-frogging another that has two more wins to a better bowl. Am I right? If so, wouldn’t that prevent that Music City Bowl — should MSU not be selected for the Gator Bowl — from taking Ole Miss over State?

    • Yeah, the SEC wouldn’t let that happen. Which is why it’s so unlikely for MSU to wind up in B’ham.

      • Mike Rapp

        The SEC might in fact let that happen, with the specific approval of the SEC. Music City Bowl chairman Scott Ramsey said in a Nashville radio interview yesterday they would not rule out selecting Ole Miss over MSU, since MSU was in Nashville last year and just lost to Ole Miss.

  • Archaeo

    Compass Bowl is to low for MSU. Music City would probably be the best fit against an ACC team. The Gator bowl and likely foe Wisconsin is going to be interesting for Vandy or MSU.

    On a side note a Florida – Oklahoma rematch should be interesting (Sugar) as well as the K State – Oregon matchup. Still may be a lot of movement though.

  • Vandy fans are certainly lobbying this bowl!

  • Stricklin told me tonight that he would be “really surprised” if MSU doesn’t go to one of the three bowls for which it’s been pre-selling tickets: Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City. You can forget the Chick-fil-A, so it’s gonna be J’ville or Nashville.

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