By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
When it comes time for the Music City Bowl to make its pick on Sunday, it could be choosing between Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Those are two of the three teams being looked at by the Nashville-based bowl, with the other being Vanderbilt. If the Commodores (8-4) are selected by the Gator Bowl, then the Music City Bowl will have to decide between the Bulldogs (8-4) and Rebels (6-6).
Taking Ole Miss would require making an exception to an unwritten SEC rule: Not choosing a six-win team over an eight-win team. But Ole Miss beat MSU in last week’s Egg Bowl, 41-24, and played a tougher schedule.
“It’s kind of in play for that particular reason,” said Scott Ramsey, president of the Music City Bowl. “… It’s there, we’re very cognizant of it, we’re very respectful of it. But, there’s always a but. The but is, sometimes given matchups or given repeats and those kinds of things, it could happen.”
MSU was in Nashville just last season, defeating Wake Forest, 23-17. The Music City has invited a team in consecutive years on one occasion – Kentucky in 2006 and ’07.
Ramsey said having had MSU last year will be a factor in the decision, but, “I’m not sure it’ll be a significant factor” due to how well things went. State sold 86 percent of its ticket allotment for last season’s game.
Regardless of which team the Gator Bowl picks, Ole Miss will be on the board for Ramsey. First-year coach Hugh Freeze has the Rebels bowl eligible for the first time since 2009, and their lone appearance in Nashville was in 2000.
“It’s a great story,” Ramsey said. “Even here in Nashville you can feel that the Ole Miss fan base is pretty energized. It would be a great bowl trip for whoever is lucky enough to get them this year. It’s great to have them back on the eligible list, put it that way.”
If MSU is passed over by the Gator and Music City bowls – it also has an outside shot at the Chick-fil-A Bowl – then that would mean a trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
MSU has been pre-selling tickets to the Gator, Music City and Chick-fil-A bowls.
“I would be really surprised if it’s not one of those three,” MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin said.
Whoever he has to choose from, Ramsey said it will be a “difficult decision” given all the factors.
“It’s part data, it’s part business, it’s part gut feel, it’s part media-driven, it’s part matchup-driven, it’s part record-driven. You just put them all in a hat, and we try to do the best we can to make those selections.”