The Auburn Tigers are shooting to make a bowl game for the third straight season. They need two more victories to reach seven wins, guaranteeing bowl eligibility for 2011. The Tigers were ranked No. 20 in the first BCS standings released on Sunday night.
Here is a look at the potential bowl projections for the Tigers, moving from the worst-case scenario to the best-case scenario.
The Southeastern Conference has agreements to send nine different teams to bowls in 2011. After the SEC champ and any other team that reaches a BCS bowl, the bowls must select the team with the next best record or a team within one game of the next best record.
If Auburn loses all of their remaining games, they will finish 5-7 and fail to reach a bowl game.
This is a highly unlikely scenario, as it would entail a loss to FBS Samford.
Auburn last missed a bowl in 2008 when the Tigers also finished with a 5-7 mark. Tommy Tuberville was fired and replaced with Gene Chizik.
In this scenario, Auburn falls to their remaining SEC opponents but defeats Samford, finishing with a 6-6 record. That would leave the Tigers with a 3-5 SEC record, which could potentially place them in a bowl game if they are still among the top nine teams.
The BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on January 7 currently has a tie-in for the SEC’s ninth-ranked team. They would play the fourth place team from the Big East.
So on the bright side, most Auburn fans would not have to travel very far.
If Auburn only defeats Ole Miss in the SEC, or gets pasts both Ole Miss and Georgia but loses to both Alabama and LSU, they could finish ranked somewhere between fifth and eighth in the SEC with a 4-4 or 5-3 record.
The fifth team in the SEC would travel to the Chik-fil-a Bowl to face the ACC runner-up on December 31.
The sixth place team in the SEC will take on a Big Ten team in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on January 2.
The seventh place finisher in the SEC heads to Nashville for the Music City Bowl. They would face a team from the ACC on December 30.
The SEC eighth place team meets the champion of Conference USA in the Liberty Bowl on December 31 in Memphis. The eighth and ninth place teams could also switch places with the BBVA Compass Bank Bowl on January 7.
If the Tigers can manage to upset either LSU or Alabama while winning the rest of their conference games and losing to the other top SEC team, they would finish with a 6-2 SEC record.
A 6-2 record would not earn a trip to the SEC Championship Game in a loaded SEC West, but should be good enough for third or fourth in the SEC depending on how other teams fare.
The Cotton Bowl and Outback Bowls share the third and fourth best teams in the SEC. The Cotton Bowl has first preference over teams from the SEC West, so this would be more likely, although the Tigers played in the Outback Bowl two years ago.
Both games are on January 2, with the Cotton Bowl against a team from the Big 12 and the Outback Bowl against a Big Ten team.
The Tigers still have an outside shot at winning the SEC.
They will need to win the remainder of their games and have Arkansas lose at least one more SEC game. Then the Tigers will have to get past a likely opponent of either Georgia or South Carolina for the second time in the SEC Championship Game.
The BCS Title Game is unlikely with Auburn already having two losses, so they would play in the Sugar Bowl as the SEC Champion.
Winning out but losing the SEC Title Game would probably drop the Tigers out of a BCS spot with a third loss.
They would play in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 2, facing a Big Ten school as the SEC’s top non-BCS team.