After another wild season, after a boatload of injuries and a few player departures, after dramatic winning streaks and heartbreaking losses, the LSU football team had hoped to finish this season in the same place where next season begins: Arlington, Texas.
But that won’t happen.
After the Cotton Bowl selected Texas A&M to play in its Jan. 4 game, the Tigers will settle for a trip to Atlanta to face Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 31 in the Georgia Dome on ESPN.
LSU last won the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2008, defeating Georgia Tech 38-3.
A win would put a bow on the Tigers’ third straight 10-win season, the second time coach Les Miles has accomplished that feat in his eight-year tenure in Baton Rouge. Criticized by some fans for anything and everything — from his in-game strategy to his zany news conferences and shaky command of the English language — Miles enjoyed another mostly successful season in 2012.
His Tigers came within a late touchdown of toppling Alabama and winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division. Had they done so, they might be playing for the BCS title.
Miles also grabbed another contract extension and pay raise, likely north of $4 million per year (details aren’t yet final), after Arkansas approached the coach about its job opening last week. All in all, not a bad year for the Hatter.
Still, there was one college football force Miles couldn’t overcome: the bowl system. The Tigers looked like a favorite for the Cotton Bowl as late as Sunday, but a series of shuffles ultimately sent LSU to Atlanta and the Chick-fil-A, a perceived step down from the Cotton.
“Right now what bowl game we play in doesn’t matter,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry tweeted. “All that matters is we keep a winning tradition. I’m just so happy to take the field.”
LSU will indeed play in Arlington, Texas, but not until the 2013 season opener, when the Tigers face TCU in the Cowboys Classic.
While the Tigers prepare for their trip to Atlanta, the Sugar Bowl — historically among the nation’s most prestigious games — is getting ready for a matchup between Florida and Louisville. Florida is making its first trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since Tim Tebow wrapped up his stellar college career with a wipeout of Cincinnati at the end of the 2009 season. Louisville, the Big East champion, was bounced from the Orange Bowl by BCS-busting MAC champion Northern Illinois.
New Orleans also will host Louisiana-Lafayette for the second consecutive year. ULL, in its second season under coach Mark Hudspeth, accepted a bid last week to play in its second straight New Orleans Bowl. On Saturday, as the Ragin’ Cajuns clinched back-to-back eight-win seasons with a victory over Florida Atlantic in their regular-season finale, they learned the identity of their opponent in New Orleans: East Carolina.
The bowl featured one of the most exciting postseason finishes last year: ULL defeated San Diego State on Dec. 17 when Brett Baer drilled a game-winning 50-yard field goal on the final play.
Louisiana-Lafayette defeated in-state rival Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season, but ULM had a year to remember as well. The Warhawks will play in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport against Ohio on Dec. 28. This is the first bowl appearance in school history for the school formerly known as Northeast Louisiana, which moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1994.
The Independence Bowl will cap a season in which ULM stunned Arkansas 34-31, then followed with narrow losses to Auburn and Baylor. The Warhawks, in their third season under coach Todd Berry, won five games in a row before they suffered back-to-back losses. ULM closed the regular season with wins over North Texas and Florida International.
ULM might have faced Louisiana Tech in Shreveport — but in a stunning turn of events, one of the most memorable seasons in Louisiana Tech history will end without a bowl.
Louisiana Tech released a statement Sunday saying it had not been selected to play in a bowl. But according to several reports, the Bulldogs either turned down an Independence Bowl bid, or they asked for more time to consider the bid, and the Independence Bowl then moved on to Ohio.
Fans quickly took to Louisiana Tech’s Facebook page, voicing their frustration over the moves.
The Bulldogs finished third in the Western Athletic Conference this season, a league with only one bowl tie-in. That went to Utah State, this year’s WAC champion. San Jose State, which finished second, received an at-large bid to play in the Military Bowl last week.
According to the Louisiana Tech statement, the Liberty Bowl chose Iowa State instead of the Bulldogs.
One way or another, they’re staying home instead of bowling.
That put a strange and somewhat fitting end to a wild day.