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Hobbs: The Tigers' top four bowl destinations

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 7:10 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

So now Nick Saban thinks it’s probably not fair that an SEC team that didn’t win its own division could still end up in a BCS bowl (as Florida will) and leave out a conference playmate that did win its own division (as will happen to the loser of Saturday’s Alabama-Georgia SEC championship).

You can call it strange that Saban didn’t bring up these same concerns a year ago when his Crimson Tide did not quite win its division but went straight to the BCS championship game for the Mulligan of the Millennium against LSU.

But all is fair in love, football and bowl posturing.

It is not over yet.

LSU’s Les Miles is having a press briefing today, something he normally doesn’t do on this week when he’s not in the SEC championship game.

He will likely shoot down some ludicrous pork-flavored fan board rumors that Arkansas is courting him — who do the Hogs think they are? Michigan? — but probably won’t waste a “Have a great day” moment on it.

The press alert warning says, among other things, that he will discuss LSU’s bowl resume’.

You can assume he will simply jut that jaw out and hope for the best available opponent, preferably one with the “chest” to match up with his damn strong football team.

There seems to be some uncertainty at the moment, with Florida and the Sugar Bowl the only truly done deal after the idle Gators leap past Saturday’s shamed loser.

The SEC’s circle of life for the top of the 2012 food chain looks something like this —LSU beat South Carolina, which beat Georgia, which beat Florida, which beat Texas A&M, which beat Alabama, which beat LSU. And you can jump in anywhere in that circle and it still goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round.

So it’s basically a beauty pageant at this point, which isn’t encouraging for an LSU team with a knack for winning ugly.

There is still a fine array of holiday leftovers for SEC teams once the BCS bowl slots are parceled out. LSU is there in the stag line with fellow two-loss teams South Carolina and Texas A&M, waiting on Saturday’s loser to join them.

They’re all playing “pick-me, pick-me” for the top four non-BCS bowls, which will select them in this order: Capital One, Outback/Cotton, Chick-fil-A. The Outback technically picks ahead of the Cotton, but only if it wants an SEC East team — the Cotton basically has right of first refusal for any SEC West team, if that makes any sense.

Texas A&M seems to have the upper hand, mostly because it can promise this year’s talk of the football world in Johnny “Football” Manziel.

The Aggies can reassure a bowl committee that it needn’t worry about fans and TV viewers not getting a full 60 minutes of Johnny Football in the event he’s too much of a load for an outmanned defense. He was still scrambling and chunking in the fourth quarter last Saturday after already tap-dancing for 52 points against Missouri.

Of course, by bowl time Manziel will either have already won or already not won the Heisman, and can you trust the Aggies to keep padding stats into the new year?

So where do you want LSU to go?

The money payoffs are slightly different, but that’s of no concern to you as a fan. Most of it goes to the conference to be doled out evenly at a later date anyway.

And it’s not like if LSU gets an extra 200-large from going to one bowl over another, the athletic department is going to turn around and use the windfall to lower your season ticket prices next year.

With that in mind, my pecking order for LSU’s holiday plans would be this:

1. Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas: Once one of the Big Four on New Year’s Day, the Cotton Bowl never got the memo that it was left behind and isn’t a BCS bowl in the new age.

By every measurable you can imagine —  for fans, players, administration, even media —  this trip is a first class, BCS-quality experience without the name.

Plus, it’s played at a decent hour now, not at the crack of dawn anymore, and it is played in the finest, palatial stadium mankind has ever known.

2. Chick-fil-A in Atlanta: I’m guessing the LSU fans who moan that the Tigers might “drop all the way to the chicken bowl” have never been to it. In fact, it’s probably the most underrated of all the bowl games.

Very well run game from top to bottom and all the downtown high-rise hotels keep the fans in tight quarters with each other, usually with uplifting displays of sportsmanship.

Plus, LSU has always felt right at home in the Georgia Dome, which is still a great stadium.

3. Outback Bowl in Tampa: Might deserve to be No. 2 on the list, but LSU hasn’t been there since 1988. How long ago was that? Well, the Tigers, then on the last legs of their strong 1980s run, lost to Syracuse that day (and didn’t really recover until hiring Nick Saban 11 years later).

4. Capital One Bowl in Orlando: What makes this the first choice of the SEC’s non-BCS bowl qualifiers is beyond me — and I’m assuming they have something resembling a real football turf in that dumpster of a stadium by now. Remember the flooded rice paddy that LSU and Penn State slopped their way through three years ago? The stadium is also plopped down in a Florida neighborhood that doesn’t show up in many time-share brochures.

Great place to take the kids for that magical trip of a lifetime — Would you shut up and have fun, we mortgaged the house for this vacation and you’re going to enjoy yourself whether you like it or not and Mickey is NOT going to bite you so quit crying and smile while I take your picture — not so much as a football fan.

Even with a real field (presumably) the bowl experience is too spread out through the tangled freeway system to get much of a feel for the experience.

It’s a big holiday for Disney tourists, too, and being there you get only occasional suggestions that there’s any kind of big sporting event in the offing.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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