Explaining the Sugar Bowl selection process

It’s looking like Ole Miss has a good shot to land in New Orleans on New Years Day, but there’s a lot of confusion how the Sugar Bowl will make its final decision. Let’s clear that up.

If Alabama beats Florida in the SEC Championship on Saturday, there’s a decent chance that the Gators will drop below Ole Miss in the College Football Playoff rankings and, by extension, the Sugar Bowl pecking order. If that happens, we get an excuse to go down to New Orleans and spend New Years Eve getting hammered on Hand Grenades in the Quarter.

As it turns out, there’s a lot of uncertainty among fans about how exactly the selection process for the Sugar Bowl functions. The process actually differs between the bowl’s two contract conferences, the SEC and the Big 12, which leads to a healthy amount of confusion among those trying to make their New Years plans. On this very site, we erred in explaining the nuances in the hungover haze of the Egg Bowl.

So let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions and see if we can’t get all of this sorted out.

How does the Sugar Bowl pick its SEC participant?

Let’s just pull the language directly from the SEC’s bowl selection guidelines:

The winner of the SEC Championship Game automatically qualifies for a spot in the Sugar Bowl if that team is not selected to participate in the four-team playoff. If the SEC Champion is selected to participate in the four-team playoff then the next highest ranked SEC team in the CFP Selection Committee Rankings will represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.

So if Bama wins on Saturday, they’re into the Playoff and the next highest SEC team in the CFP rankings — Florida or Ole Miss, depending on how the rankings shake out — will automatically get the invite to the Sugar.

But what if Florida wins the SEC?

If two-loss Florida wins the SEC, they won’t get a Playoff invite, so they’ll automatically head to the Sugar. Bama would probably get an invite from the at-large Peach Bowl, sending Ole Miss to the next highest SEC contract bowl, the Citrus in Orlando.

Could Ole Miss end up playing Ohio State in New Orleans?

No, the Sugar Bowl is contractually obligated to choose an SEC team and a Big 12 team. Yes, Ohio State played Bama in the Sugar last season, but that was when the Sugar was taking its turn as one of the semifinal Playoff games.

So how does the Sugar Bowl pick its Big 12 participant?

Like the SEC, the Big 12 champ gets an auto bid to the Sugar Bowl. But the Big 12 champ, Oklahoma, has already locked itself into a Playoff spot. Assuming Baylor beats Texas this weekend (the Big 12’s regular season goes an extra week), the Bears will join TCU and Oklahoma State in a three-way tie for second place with a 7-2 conference record.

Here’s where the Big 12 Sugar Bowl selection process differs from that of the SEC. Instead of using the CFP rankings to pick the next highest team, they use Big 12 tiebreaker procedures. SB Nation’s Baylor site has a great breakdown of those procedures, but here’s the abridged version: if Baylor beats Texas, the Bears go to New Orleans. If Baylor loses to Texas, it’s Oklahoma State.

So there’s no way Ole Miss gets a rematch with TCU?

Not in the Sugar Bowl, no.

So should I go ahead and book my flight to New Orleans?

Seeing as how Florida’s offense just got shut out by Florida State, it seems like a pretty sure bet that they’re not going to beat the best defense in the country next week in Atlanta. ESPN’s Football Power Index is giving the Gators just a 22.2 percent chance of upsetting Bama.

The real question is whether the Playoff committee will move Ole Miss in front of the Gators if they lose a second straight game. I think yes. Both teams will have three losses, but the Rebs’ quality wins (Bama, LSU, A&M and State) clearly trump Florida’s (Ole Miss and Georgia). Of course, there’s that whole matter of the Gators blowing the Rebs out in the head-to-head matchup, but Florida was a very different team back when Will Grier was playing QB.

Solid arguments can be made for both sides, so I’m waiting for the final rankings before I book my flight. But you do you.


This article was written by JEFF GRAY from SB Nation Red Cup Rebellion and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.