Analysis: LSU’s bowl possibilities are numerous

After their team met a grisly fate in January’s BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, LSU fans had their gaze turned to the east and the site of the 2013 BCS title game in Miami.

Now with that goal snuffed out by the Tigers’ 21-17 loss to Alabama last Saturday, perhaps LSU’s postseason prospects are quite literally all over the map, from the east to the west to right close to home.

Despite the loss, 7-2 LSU dropped to only No. 7 in this week’s BCS standings, keeping the Tigers in the thick of the at-large BCS bowl hunt should they be able to finish 10-2 with wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

But even at 10-2, LSU could just as easily get shut out of the BCS landscape because of the glut of teams bearing similar résumés clogging up the top of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.

Here’s a look at all of LSU’s most likely bowl possibilities, starting closest to home with the ...

Allstate Sugar Bowl

7:30 p.m., Jan. 2;
New Orleans (ESPN)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Alabama goes to the BCS title game, opening a spot for a replacement, likely from the SEC. The Sugar is left to pick between 10-2 LSU, 11-1 or 10-2 Florida, 11-2 Georgia (after losing to Alabama for the SEC title) and 10-2 South Carolina. Troubled by poor attendance in two of its last three games, the Sugar opts for a sure thing and grabs the Tigers. It could do so even over 11-1 Florida because the Gators travel notoriously poorly to non-BCS title postseason games outside Florida.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: The Sugar does not have to pick an SEC team to replace a team in the BCS title game and could grab a 12-0, 11-1 or even 10-2 Notre Dame team left out of the title game. It could also go with Florida (for its record), South Carolina (for its rabid fans) or Georgia to be loyal to the SEC and protect its championship game loser.

OUTLOOK: If Alabama is in the BCS title game, the Sugar would have first pick after Bama’s opponent is picked and all the other conference champions are slotted into their respective bowls because Bama is the No. 1 BCS team. Under that scenario, how could the Sugar pass on Notre Dame? Only to be loyal to the SEC, which may or may not have a team available when the Sugar would pick again. On balance, this is still LSU’s most likely landing spot, virtually guaranteeing the Sugar a sellout no matter who is on the other sideline.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Oklahoma

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

7:30 p.m., Jan. 3;
Glendale, Ariz. (ESPN)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Lots of dominoes must fall, but hear us out. Alabama and Oregon are in the BCS title game. Florida and Georgia have two losses. The Rose Bowl replaces Oregon with another eligible Pac-12 team (say Oregon State, though it must be in the final BCS top 14), though the Rose could pick Notre Dame. LSU is sitting there at No. 4 or No. 5 in the BCS standings. Given its ranking, name and fact LSU’s last trip to the desert was for the 2005 Arizona State game, the Fiesta pulls a shocker and snaps up the Tigers.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: An 11-1 Florida team could be in the BCS top four and block LSU’s path (the top four teams automatically get BCS slots unless there are three or more teams from the same conference ranked that high). Just as likely, the Sugar doesn’t let LSU slip through its grasp and picks the Tigers before the Fiesta can.

OUTLOOK: Unlikely, but not as much as you might think. And Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton said the Tigers are in his game’s conversations. “It absolutely is,” Shelton said. “They would provide us with a quality team, a great matchup and the great fan base that LSU fans bring to all their games. I was at the LSU-Oregon game (in Arlington) last year, and it felt like an LSU home game.” LSU season ticket holders have been offered the chance to preorder tickets for all the BCS games, perhaps priming the pump for a bid.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Kansas State

Rose Bowl

4 p.m., Jan. 1;
Pasadena, Calif. (ESPN)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Alabama and Oregon play in the BCS title game. The Sugar Bowl, making the first replacement pick, selects Notre Dame. The Rose, making the second replacement pick, is denied both Notre Dame and a Pac-12 team ranked in the final BCS top 14. LSU, sitting there at No. 5 after late losses by Georgia and Florida, is the highest ranked team left available.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: Plenty, starting with the possibility of a Pac-12 team (current No. 11 Oregon State or No. 14 Stanford) staying in the BCS top 14 or the Sugar picking LSU or another SEC team.

OUTLOOK: LSU was at the jetway, ticket in hand for Hollywood in 2006, when UCLA stunned USC and sent the Trojans to the Rose Bowl instead of the first BCS title game against Florida. There are so many twists and turns and unlikely happenings that LSU needs to navigate the path from Baton Rouge to Pasadena, it’s almost not worth mentioning, unless karma plays a hand.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Nebraska

Capital One Bowl

Noon, Jan. 1;
Orlando, Fla. (ABC)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Alabama goes to the BCS title game and the Sugar picks 11-1 Florida. Or, Georgia upsets Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, earning the automatic berth in the Sugar and sending 12-1 Alabama to another BCS bowl. The Capital One, gun-shy about picking a Florida team finishing 10-2 with a loss, picks LSU.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The great thing about the Capital One is it’s in Florida. The bad thing for LSU about the Capital One is its proximity to the SEC East powers.

OUTLOOK: If Alabama and Florida are in the BCS, the Cap One could go for LSU over Georgia because the Tigers are ranked higher. That’s a possibility, but geography seems like it’s against LSU.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Michigan

AT&T Cotton Bowl

7 p.m., Jan. 4;
Arlington, Texas (Fox)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Alabama and Florida or Georgia are in the BCS, Florida or Georgia are in the Capital One and South Carolina is in the Outback. At 10-2, LSU is highly attractive to the Cotton as a top-10 team.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: You have to believe the Cotton craves a first-ever bowl matchup between bitter rivals Texas A&M and Texas, even though LSU beat the Aggies and could finish with a better record and ranking. Plus, LSU will definitely be playing in Cowboys Stadium in August against TCU.

OUTLOOK: The Cotton is LSU’s most likely landing spot, according to most national experts. If LSU is 10-2 and isn’t in the BCS, this still seems like the place the Tigers will spend New Year’s.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Texas

Outback Bowl

Noon, Jan. 1;
Tampa, Fla. (ESPN)

MOST LIKELY PATH: Alabama and Florida or Georgia are in BCS bowls, Florida or Georgia is in the Cap One, 9-3 South Carolina is in the Chick-fil-A and Texas A&M is in the Cotton. LSU, having dropped one of its last three games to finish 9-3, tumbles here.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: The Outback Bowl has not invited a team west of Alabama since it hooked up with the SEC after the 1995 season. Some say LSU’s poor turnout for what was then the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl with Syracuse has stayed in the mind of Outback organizers, and they will hold it against the Tigers.

OUTLOOK: If LSU is 10-2 or 9-3 and A&M is in the Cotton Bowl, this seems like a natural. But we’ll believe the Outback will invite LSU when we see it.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Wisconsin

Chick-fil-A Bowl

6:30 p.m., Dec. 31;
Atlanta (ESPN)

MOST LIKELY PATH: LSU loses one or more games down the stretch to tumble out of January bowl contention.

BIGGEST OBSTACLES: LSU’s own success. The Tigers will be playing in January if they win out.

OUTLOOK: Only great big November meltdown will have LSU playing in Atlanta this year against an ACC opponent.

LIKELY OPPONENT: Clemson