It's getting toward that time of year again. Bowl season.
If you're an Ole Miss fan like myself, Christmas came early last Saturday, as we witnessed the Rebels claim a 59-0 smackdown of Louisiana Monroe. As much as the Rebels needed a total blowout, Christmas came early because it allowed Ole Miss to make its first bowl game since 2003.
Now, the question all over the Ole Miss message boards, Mississippi coffee shops around the state, and around the high schools of optimistic young fans is, "What bowl game will the Rebels go to?"
Well, never fear. I have a basic breakdown on how I see the bowl game shaping out for Ole Miss this season, and what to look for in the next 10 days of the regular season.
Before I do that, let's first take a look at the SEC bowl tie-ins order of selection, according to SECSports.com:
The Southeastern Conference has agreements to send nine of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2008 season. The winner of the SEC Championship Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls.
The Capital One (2nd), will then make its pick following the BCS selections. The bowl must select the team with the next best overall record or a team within one win of the team with the next best overall record.
The Outback, Chick-fil-A and AT&T Cotton Bowls will work with the conference office to determine picks 3-5. The Cotton Bowl has the first preference of teams from the Western Division and the Outback Bowl has first preference of teams from the Eastern Division. The Cotton or Outback Bowl can select teams outside of its divisional preference, but must not select them before the opposite bowl selects from its divisional preference. The Chick-fil-A Bowl has the selection of preference following the Cotton and Outback Bowls.
In selections 6-7, the AutoZone Liberty and Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowls will make their selections, not in any specific order, but in consultation with the SEC Office. The Bowls will rank available qualified teams in order of preference. If there are no similarities in the order of selection, the bowls will be granted its selection. If the bowls rank the same teams in preference, the team involved in the process would get its preference of which bowl to participate.
The Petro Sun Independence Bowl will receive the eighth selection and the Papajohns.com Bowl will have the ninth selection of available SEC teams.
OK, in other words: Ole Miss' possible destinations include (all possible) the Outback Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Music City Bowl, and the Liberty Bowl.
Let's look at the possibilities, according to how Ole Miss will finish the season:
If Ole Miss beats LSU and Mississippi State
This one is probably pretty easy. If Ole Miss defeats LSU and MSU, that would put the Rebs at 8-4 (5-3 in the SEC) and second in the West; in my opinion, that would bump them up to the Cotton Bowl. The chance at Tampa for the Outback Bowl is if the Cotton Bowl doesn't claim Ole Miss as its preference in the West and Georgia loses to Georgia Tech and, possibly, South Carolina loses to Clemson.
Likely Destination: Cotton Bowl (Outside Chance: Outback Bowl)
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If Ole Miss beats LSU and loses to Mississippi State
The most unlikely of scenarios is this one. The Rebels would be at 7-5 (4-4 in the SEC) and third in the West. The loss to Mississippi State would ring into bowl selection committee member's minds and that would turn off all the mid-tier bowls, so, in my opinion, that puts the bowl who publicly wants Ole Miss the most, the Liberty Bowl, as the frontrunner.
Likely Destination: Liberty Bowl (Outside Chance: Music City Bowl)
If Ole Miss loses to LSU and beats Mississippi State
Many experts are already predicting this is how Ole Miss will end the season, and, if so, it'll be hard to predict where the Rebels will land. It would still put them at 7-5 (4-4 in the SEC) and third in the West.
The likely destinations would be the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Music City Bowl, or the Liberty Bowl. I published this article yesterday with the thought that the Rebels would be in the Music City, but based upon what I've heard from Chick-fil-A representatives on their Selection Blog, as long as Ole Miss plays LSU close and defeats Mississippi State, they are the contendor for the Chick-fil-A Bowl for the SEC over Vanderbilt.
Likely Destination: Chick-fil-A Bowl (Outside Chance: Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl)
If Ole Miss loses to LSU and Mississippi State
This is the most cut-and-dry one of them all. If the Rebels finish the season 0-2, they will be a lock for the Liberty Bowl. Sources close to the Liberty Bowl selection committee tell me that the Liberty Bowl has had its eyes on the Rebels and want them very badly. The Chick-fil-A Bowl and Music City Bowl won't take a 6-6 team that ended the season 0-2, so that leaves the Liberty Bowl for the Rebels.
Likely Destination: Liberty Bowl (Outside Chance: none)
The Rebels' destination depends on, obviously, how they finish the season. By beating LSU and Mississippi State, Ole Miss would be 8-4 and riding a five-game winning streak, which, in my opinion, should be a lock for the Cotton Bowl.
With a one loss in there, you could be looking at the Liberty anyway, but I'm going to go if the Rebs have one loss, they'll be headed to Atlanta, given the Rebs don't get blown out this weekend and defeat Miss. St.
Derek Stephens is the Ole Miss Community Leader for BleacherReport.com. Comment below with your questions and comments, please.