Rabalais: Surveying LSU’s bowl possibilities

BY SCOTT RABALAIS

Advocate sportswriter

It’s a straight trip east or west down I-10 to the home of the three BCS bowls — Sugar, Fiesta and Rose — that could wind up being the postseason destination of the LSU Tigers.

Actually getting into any of those bowls may be filled with more twists and turns than the Mighty Mississippi.

Less than a week ago, Alabama looked like a mortal lock to return to the BCS National Championship Game, thus setting up the annual speculation as to which team might take the Southeastern Conference champion’s slot in the Sugar Bowl.

Then Johnny Football happened. Now Texas A&M is bowl shopping in LSU’s neighborhood.

The only thing for certain is the current picture is going to change.

Just where LSU fits into the bowl picture is just as unknown, but there are a couple or three key planks in the Tigers’ BCS bowl campaign:

1. MUST: LSU (now 8-2 and No. 7 in the BCS) must finish 10-2.

2. NEED: LSU likely needs Florida State to beat Florida (9-1 and No. 6 in the BCS) in Tallahassee on Nov. 24.

3. WANT: LSU would like to be in the top four in the final BCS standings, which would likely mean an automatic at-large berth.

But which bowl? Let’s look at the possibilities this week, starting with the ...

Allstate Sugar Bowl

7:30 p.m., Jan. 2

New Orleans (ESPN)

EXIT AT POYDRAS: LSU can make this short but sweet bowl trip if two of the top three unbeatens lose, allowing the SEC champion to get back in the BCS title game.

WRECK ON THE SPILLWAY: The SEC champion doesn’t get in the top two, the Sugar decides to make Notre Dame its replacement pick, or it figures Johnny Football will fill the Superdome just as well as the Tigers can.

FROM 80 MILES AWAY: One of the unbeaten top three will likely drop a game, but not two. The SEC champion stays slotted here and LSU looks elsewhere.

Rose Bowl

4 p.m., Jan. 1

Pasadena, Calif. (ESPN)

CLEAN AND GREEN IN THE CARPOOL LANE: A Kansas State loss puts Oregon and Notre Dame in the BCS title game, or Notre Dame and K-State lose, putting the Irish in the Sugar as the SEC champ’s replacement. Oregon has also cleared any Pac-12 contenders out of the BCS top 14. Picking first to replace No. 1 Oregon, the Rose could pair No. 12 Oklahoma with old rival Nebraska, but Los Angeles Times college football writer Chris Dufresne said the Sooners didn’t go over so well on their visit 10 years ago.

ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards also said he doesn’t think A&M fits the “aristocratic” nature of the Rose. Remembering LSU fans pre-bought 42,600 Rose Bowl tickets six years ago, the Granddaddy tells the Tigers “Geaux West!”

SMOG ALERT ON ‘THE 10’: Notre Dame is the Rose’s first preference among possible non Pac-12 participants for sure. If any Pac-12 team is eligible, the Rose will take that team above all.

FROM 1,800 MILES AWAY: An LSU trip to Pasadena would require a precise set of circumstances, so having all those tumblers click into place seems remote. Then again, the memory of LSU’s close call in 2006 is still fresh at Tournament House. “If the right scenario presented itself again, they (the Rose) would have no problem” with LSU, Dufresne said. “They have kind of a preexisting relationship.”

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

7:30 p.m., Jan. 3

Glendale, Ariz. (ESPN)

FROM SWAMP TO DESERT: The SEC champion is locked in the Sugar, Notre Dame is in the Rose and the Fiesta needs a replacement for Kansas State to play a Big 12 team, likely Oklahoma. LSU is the pick because it’s the highest-ranked team available, beat Texas A&M, and A&M is too familiar for its former Big 12 ties. “We’re looking for fresh matchups,” Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton said. “A&M being in the Big 12 last year isn’t a strike for or against, but we want new matchups.”

WELCOME TO TOMBSTONE: The Fiesta picks Texas A&M because it’s the hottest two-loss team quarterbacked by the nation’s hottest player, Big 12 ties be damned.

FROM 1,400 MILES OUT: LSU has more long-term national presence than A&M, but higher rankings and head-to-head results don’t always carry much weight with bowls. The bet here is the Fiesta picks A&M.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

7 p.m., Jan. 4

Arlington, Texas (Fox)

I-10 TO I-20 TO I-30: The SEC champion is in the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame is in the Rose and A&M is in the Fiesta as the second and last BCS team from the SEC. With a glut of SEC East teams with similar records in Florida bowls, the Tigers return to familiar turf.

TEXAS STRANGERS? HARDLY: The above mentioned scenarios putting LSU in a BCS bowl pan out and the Tigers aren’t available to dance at Jerry World.

FROM 450 MILES AWAY: Though this would make it four trips to Arlington for LSU since January 2011 (including its 2013 season opener with TCU) this still seems the Tigers’ most likely destination.

Capital One Bowl

Noon, Jan. 1

Orlando, Fla. (ABC)

DON’T BE GOOFY: Hard to imagine the Cap One not taking 10-2 Florida or a two-loss SEC championship game loser over LSU, though the Tigers could be higher-ranked than either.

Outback Bowl

Noon, Jan. 1

Tampa, Fla. (ESPN)

WAITING FOR A WAVE: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are all more likely candidates than LSU.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

6:30 p.m., Dec. 31

Atlanta (ESPN)

CONNECTING IN ATLANTA: LSU is headed here only if it drops one or both of its last two games.