Rabalais: LSU bowl picture gains focus

A week after Earth-shaking BCS chaos, with No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both being felled by stunning upsets, the dust has cleared on a familiar LSU bowl scene with but a few games to influence the outcome.

For the Tigers, it basically comes down to their game Friday at Arkansas, Florida at Florida State on Saturday and the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Dec. 1.

If LSU takes care of its business as a nearly two-touchdown favorite over a discouraged (but dangerous) Razorbacks team, the Tigers will be in the clubhouse with a 10-2 record and wait for the BCS hotline (likely the Sugar calling) to ring.

The line will be disconnected, however, if Florida wins at Florida State. The Gators are No. 4 in the BCS, and if they stay would become an automatic BCS at-large team.

If Florida loses, the question for the Gators, LSU, and the rest of the two-loss SEC contenders is who gets picked.

Assuming Alabama beats hapless Auburn on Saturday and Georgia disposes of 6-5 Georgia Tech, next Saturday’s Alabama-Georgia winner is going to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game.

The loser could wind up in the Sugar Bowl, but the only time the Sugar has taken the SEC Championship Game loser, it was after Florida and Alabama locked up in a pair of 1-2 matchups in 2008 and 2009.

Alabama might get the Sugar if it loses to Georgia, but the Crimson Tide fans this close to another BCS title shot aren’t going to be excited about a Sugar-y consolation prize. And two-loss Georgia could slip behind LSU in the BCS, having lost by 28 to a South Carolina team LSU beat.

Some have trumpeted Texas A&M as an at-large Sugar pick, but the excitement over Johnny Football will lose out to the cold political reality of LSU being the Sugar’s backyard, being higher ranked and having beaten the Aggies.

But what if Florida wins? The Sugar, remembering those acres of empty Superdome seats for the Florida-Cincinnati game three years ago, would likely hold its nose and invite the Gators for the sake of SEC harmony.

Under this scenario, LSU could wind up in a Florida bowl (Capital One, Outback) or the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta. There has been much talk of a Texas-Texas A&M Cotton Bowl and almost as much chatter about how the Longhorns don’t want to bowl with their estranged relatives. That talk seems to have quieted, to the point where it now appears the Cotton would go with the Aggies to play Texas.

So LSU could potentially wind up being No. 5 or 6 in the final polls and not play in a January SEC bowl, though the Capital One could be the game if Bama and Florida are in the BCS and LSU is the highest-ranked SEC team left.

The bloom is off LSU’s Rose and Fiesta bowl hopes because the SEC champ now looks to be in the BCS title game with Notre Dame and two Pac-12 teams are now likely to be in the BCS.