MSU's bowl destination still up in air

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

While the Chick-fil-A Bowl seems the likeliest destination for Mississippi State, at least three other bowls have the Bulldogs on their radar.
Officials from the Cotton and Outback bowls said Tuesday that No. 22 MSU (8-4) is in the discussion to fill their SEC slots. Chick-fil-A officials have already expressed great interest, and the Gator Bowl is also reportedly considering Florida and MSU above other schools.
While discussions are being held by bowl committees this week, the result of Saturday’s SEC championship game between No. 2 Auburn and No. 18 South Carolina will play a big factor in where MSU winds up.
“Absolutely we’re considering them,” Mike Schulze of the Outback Bowl said of State. “Right now the issue is that we don’t really know what’s going to happen Saturday, in combination with the BCS.”
Auburn is currently No. 1 in the BCS rankings and will play for the national title if it can get past the Gamecocks. South Carolina’s only path to a BCS berth is winning Saturday and earning a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Even then, Auburn might get a BCS bid.
The Outback Bowl, played on Jan. 1 in Tampa, normally takes a team from the Eastern Division, but with the West being significantly stronger than the East this year, that could change. Schulze said he could make good cases for Alabama, Arkansas and LSU to come to Tampa.
“Until we have a better grasp of what the Capitol One Bowl would do and what the Cotton Bowl is thinking as far as teams, then that can affect what teams are sitting there available for us to look at,” he said.
The general thought has been that if Auburn wins Saturday, then Arkansas will get the Sugar Bowl bid. The Cotton Bowl committee held its first selection meeting Tuesday, and representative Charlie Fiss said the four SEC teams discussed were Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and MSU.
“We’re not making any decisions, obviously, until Sunday, but we talked about all the options,” Fiss said.
The Cotton Bowl, to be played Jan. 7 in Dallas, already has its Big 12 team, as Texas Aamp&M accepted an invitation Tuesday.
Officials from the Chick-fil-A and Gator Bowls did not return calls and e-mails on Tuesday seeking comment.
So what makes MSU such an attractive team to so many bowls?
“They’re a tough team that never gives up and plays hard all the time,” Schulze said. “They have great fan support from what we’ve seen. They’re a quality program.”
Plenty of factors go into selecting a team. While each bowl is slotted – the Outback and Cotton share the third and fourth picks, while the Chick-fil-A gets the fifth and the Gator the sixth – there is room for flexibility. The Outback, for instance, gets priority with Eastern Division teams, the Cotton with West teams.
“Lot of factors we look: head to head, travel, TV appeal, how long it’s been since they were here last – this, that and the other,” Fiss said. “BCS ranking, all that goes into it. It kind of changes every year. The criteria’s the same, (but in) what order changes a little bit.”
Said Schulze, “We’re trying to put together a fun matchup of two teams we think will be excited about playing in our game and an exciting game for people to watch.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.