Analysis: With bowl eligibility secured, where could MSU find itself playing?


Mississippi State’s Deddrick Thomas (2) runs with the ball during the Egg Bowl Thursday in Starkville.

Mississippi State’s Deddrick Thomas (2) runs with the ball during the Egg Bowl Thursday in Starkville.
Photo by: Stan Beall/Dispatch file photo



Ben Portnoy



STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State is headed to the postseason


Following Saturday's 21-20 over in-state rival Ole Miss, the Bulldogs (6-6, 3-5 SEC) reached bowl-eligibility for a record 10th-straight season. It also marks the third time over that streak a senior class has been to a bowl game every year it's been at MSU.


And while the Bulldogs have extended their season for one more month, where they'll head and who they'll play remain a mystery.



For context, bowl-eligible schools send three preferred destinations to the SEC, while the bowl games themselves do the same for potential schools. From there, the conference matches teams to bowl games as best it can.


At present, nine of the 14 SEC teams are bowl eligible -- Missouri has the required six wins but will not be allowed to participate due to the NCAA's ruling on its academic misconduct scandal last week.


With LSU, Georgia and Florida all likely headed to New Year's Six bowls or the College Football Playoff, that leaves six SEC teams to fill the remaining games.


Of those six teams, Alabama or Auburn are likely to be the highest ranked teams of the bunch and one of the two could find its way into the New Year's Six. If not, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are likely bets to play in either the Outback Bowl or TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Tampa and Jacksonville, respectively.


That leaves MSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M to fill the following bowls:


· AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Big 12 -- Memphis, Tennessee


· Belk Bowl vs. ACC -- Charlotte, North Carolina


· Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl vs. ACC or Big Ten -- Nashville, Tennessee


· Texas Bowl vs. Big 12 -- Houston, Texas


Of note, representatives from both the Liberty Bowl and Music City Bowl have watched MSU at varying points this season -- though the decision remains up to the SEC.


Past history is also a major indicator of where the Bulldogs may end up. MSU has not played in Nashville since 2011 -- marking the longest gap of any of the four likeliest destinations. It's also been six years since the Bulldogs appeared in Memphis.


Geographically, Memphis is the closest of the four games, though Nashville is just four-and-a-half hours from Starkville. Texas A&M is also a likely option for the Texas Bowl as it sits just an hour and a half north of Houston.


Of note, ESPN's Mark Schlabach predicted MSU to the Music City Bowl against Louisville, while Kyle Bonagura listed the Bulldogs for a potential matchup with Indiana in the Gator Bowl in their latest projections.


And while prognostications will continue to spread over the next week, MSU will learn its official fate Sunday during the Selection Day Special on ESPN from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.




Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.


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