By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Fan enthusiasm is important for any bowl selection committee, and Ole Miss scored exceptionally well in that area when Music City Bowl officials recently visited Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
A number of bowl projections have the Rebels in the Dec. 30 game in Nashville.
Bowl president Scott Ramsey attended the Ole Miss-Missouri game and came away impressed with the excitement he sensed in the game day atmosphere.
“I thought it was off the charts,” he said. “It was a great environment that night. The whole atmosphere was first class. It’s what the SEC is all about.”
That being said Ramsey did not rule out Georgia or even Mississippi State as the SEC representative for the Music City Bowl, which has the seventh pick this season.
In terms of overall wins, Ole Miss is the ninth team in the SEC, but the league is expected to take up two BCS spots, one by the conference championship game winner and one by Alabama with an at-large bid.
“I can’t fathom that Texas A&M would fall to (our) mix, but if Vanderbilt is selected by Atlanta (Chick-Fil-A) or Jacksonville, then Texas A&M or Georgia would be teams that would fit with us,” Ramsey said.
Georgia would be available at the time of the Music City Bowl’s selection only if the Gator Bowl decided to pick Vanderbilt. Both teams have eight wins.
Georgia lost to Vanderbilt but finished a game ahead of the Commodores in the SEC standings.
Then there’s the matter of ticket sales.
In two remaining home games after its impressive win at Florida, Vanderbilt failed to attract 34,000 fans to 40,550-seat Vanderbilt Stadium.
Ramsey said his committee will have two or three options ready for Selection Sunday in order to move quickly if something unexpected happens.
In keeping all his options open, about the only team Ramsey has ruled out for the Music City Bowl is Vanderbilt, which resides in Nashville and played in the game last year.
“We are close friends and share the same city. We work together on a lot of projects, but I think both of us feel that two times in a row in your hometown is not what the bowl is designed to do,” Ramsey said.
The tourism aspect is important for bowl games, and Ole Miss fans in recent opportunities have shown that they will travel to Nashville.
Ole Miss last played in the Music City Bowl in 2000.
“We’ve always felt a great affinity with Ole Miss fans,” Ramsey said.
“They came in droves to the opening game here at Vanderbilt. We hosted the SEC basketball tournament, which they won and had great crowds at those games. They rate very high with our committee from a fan standpoint.”