ATLANTA — The LSU Tigers could once again be the Cotton’s pick.
Alabama’s 32-28 victory over Georgia on Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game made it appear likely, though not official, that the Tigers would be heading to the AT&T Cotton Bowl for the second time in three seasons.
Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain told the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday night that LSU is “the favorite in the clubhouse.”
If LSU does play in the Cotton Bowl, its opponent is likely to be Texas. The Longhorns finished 8-4 on Saturday after a 42-24 loss to Big 12 co-champion Kansas State.
The Cotton Bowl is Jan. 4 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. on Fox.
With LSU shut out of a BCS bowl because of 11-1 Florida (currently No. 4 in the BCS and likely to finish above No. 3 Georgia), the Cotton Bowl became the Tigers’ most appealing postseason destination.
The trip to Dallas-Fort Worth is an easy one for LSU fans from Louisiana, LSU has numerous alumni in the area and the eastern third of Texas is a fertile recruiting ground for the Tigers.
“I believe we should be headed to the Cotton Bowl,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said Saturday night.
CBSSports.com and CollegeFootballNews.com projected an LSU-Texas Cotton Bowl matchup. Still, with a glut of two-loss SEC teams, the conference’s bowl picture was far from settled. Several media outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported that No. 9 LSU (10-2) would be headed to Atlanta to play Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The opponent likely would be No. 15 Clemson (10-2), though there was an outside chance Clemson could wind up with an invitation to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The Sugar, which will be played Jan. 2, is expected to land Florida and Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma (10-2).
There remained a possibility that if the Cotton does take Georgia that LSU could wind up in the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Michigan (8-4), which LSU has never played, and Northwestern (9-3) were the likely opponents.
Bowl invitations will not be officially extended until Sunday night, after the BCS bowl matchups are announced.
There has been speculation that the SEC would like the Cotton to protect the SEC Championship Game loser. Alabama could well have been the Cotton Bowl’s selection had it lost, but Bain said LSU has made a strong impression with its fans.
LSU season-ticket holders pre-ordered 16,546 Cotton Bowl tickets, university spokesman Herb Vincent said. Each team is allotted 12,500 tickets according to Cotton Bowl spokesman Charlie Fiss, who attended the SEC title game. Aside from each school’s allotment, the Cotton Bowl is sold out.
There was once strong sentiment for a first-ever Texas/Texas A&M Cotton Bowl, but the Aggies (10-2) appear likely to get snapped up by the Capital One. There was also concern over the political viability of such a game since the Aggies just bolted from the Big 12 to the SEC.
“The political truth is a lot of people don’t want (a Texas/Texas A&M) matchup,” Bain told the Austin newspaper. “I’m not going to say who pushed hardest.”
This would be LSU’s third trip to Cowboys Stadium. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 41-24 in the 2011 Cotton Bowl and topped Oregon 40-27 in their 2011 season opener.
LSU will open the 2013 season Aug. 31 in Cowboys Stadium against TCU, but Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said Friday that his game isn’t worried about “Cowboys Stadium fatigue” among LSU fans.
If the opponent is Texas, it would be the first game between the Tigers and Longhorns since the 2003 Cotton Bowl, a 35-20 Longhorns win. LSU is 3-1-1 in the Cotton Bowl all time.