By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State’s football team has been to Nashville before, just not for a bowl game. That could change this month.
The Music City Bowl is a distinct possibility for the Bulldogs, who are awaiting their postseason assignment after a 6-6 regular season. If selected, it would be MSU’s first trip to that bowl, which began in 1998.
Scott Ramsey, president and CEO of the Music City Bowl, said MSU and Vanderbilt (6-6) are the top two candidates for the SEC bid. The other berth will go to an ACC team. The game is set for Dec. 30 at LP Field, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Ramsey said it’s a tough call. He cited positives of both programs, including Vanderbilt’s previous visit to his bowl three years ago and the willingness of MSU’s fans to travel.
“When you weigh all those things, we’re going to have to hopefully make a tough decision,” Ramsey said, “whether it’s the hometown guys that have had an unbelievable year or the out-of-town team that hadn’t been here before.”
One advantage MSU may have is the economic impact angle. State naturally would bring in more out-of-town fans than Vanderbilt to spend money in Nashville for several days.
“That was one of the main premises for starting the event,” Ramsey said. “We’ve always tried to adhere to three main goals: One, fill up our city in a time before the bowl that was really a dead period for tourism; secondly, to fill up the stadium; and then third, to really do a great job presenting the city and our community and our sponsor on a national television broadcast.”
There are two other possible destinations for MSU: The Liberty Bowl in Memphis or the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. If No. 1 LSU beats Georgia in Saturday’s SEC championship game, then Nashville will have its choice between MSU and Vandy, and the other will go to the Liberty Bowl.
If Georgia wins but LSU remains in the top two in the BCS rankings, then the Music City Bowl will have the final pick of SEC teams – nine qualified for a bowl – meaning it will have to take whoever is left.
Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan did not respond to several interview requests this week by the Daily Journal. But as of right now, the folks in Atlanta are targeting Auburn (7-5) and Florida (6-6).
“We’re hopeful that we get to make a decision on Sunday and not have someone else make the decision ahead of us for us,” Ramsey said.