ATHENS - Georgia should know its bowl destination late on Sunday afternoon. Which bowl it will be, however, remains very much up in the air, at the mercy of a new bowl selection process.
All that is for certain, at least almost certain, is Georgia will not play in the Gator Bowl, which would mean a fourth trip to Jacksonville in two years, or have a third straight bowl game against Nebraska.
"That is certainly understood," Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said on Thursday morning.
That leaves trips to Orlando, Tampa and Charlotte as the most likely possibilities. Here's how the situation breaks down:
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- The top six bowls (Rose and Sugar for the playoff, then the Peach, Fiesta, Cotton and Orange) will be assigned by the selection committee. Georgia, which is No. 14 in the current rankings, has very little chance of moving up. But whether another SEC team moves in - Missouri or Ole Miss - does matter to Georgia's bowl fate.
Alabama and Mississippi State seem assured of being in a top six bowl, no matter what happens. If either Missouri or Ole Miss moves into a top bowl, then that's beneficial to Georgia's bowl destination.
- The Citrus Bowl - the bowl in Orlando formerly known as the Capital One Bowl - will then get first pick of any remaining bowl-eligible team. The only official restraint it has is it has to take the loser of the SEC championship game at least once every six years. This is the first year, so it could take Missouri (or Alabama) and be done with it for the next five years, or pass on the loser and retain the option for one of the next five years.
If it bypasses the championship game loser, it's most likely to pick Ole Miss (unless the Rebels move up to one of the top six bowls), Georgia or even Auburn.
"A lot depends on if Ole Miss moves up," McGarity said.
- After the Citrus Bowl is where it gets new and complicated.
There is a cluster of six bowls with SEC tie-ins: Outback, Belk (in Charlotte), Music City, Gator, Liberty and the Texas Bowl (in Houston). In the past there was a pecking order in which each bowl would make its selection. But now the conference offices will make the selections, based on imput from the bowls, the schools and the television networks.
Georgia provided a preferred order to the SEC office.
"I won't get into the order in which we responded but proximity is very much a part of our decision-making," McGarity said. "I do think we're a viable candidate for Orlando, Tampa. We do love Jacksonville, but for this Jacksonville is not in play."
As for what the conference office will decide, McGarity believes it will "take into consideration a multitude of factors: The actual match-up, avoiding duplication of bowl sites, of bowl opponents, as well as trying to make the bowl work for the 12 teams that are going to be involved in that 12-pack there."
Here is the information on each of the six bowls:
- Outback: Jan. 1, noon, vs. Big Ten
- Gator: Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., vs. Big Ten or ACC
- Music City: Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m., vs. ACC or Big Ten
- Texas Bowl: Dec. 29, 9 p.m., vs. Big 12
- Belk Bowl: Dec. 30, 6:30 p.m., vs. ACC
- Liberty Bowl: Dec. 29, 2 p.m., vs. Big 12