SEC Week 13 bowl projections: It's Alabama or bust for CFP spot


There are no mysteries regarding SEC teams and the College Football Playoff. It's either Alabama or bust for the conference.

The Crimson Tide (11-1) is still in the thick of the playoff hunt -- Nick Saban's team is ranked second in the selection committee's newest rankings -- and is a lock to reach the playoff as long as it beats No. 18 Florida (10-2) in Saturday's SEC championship game.

Assuming that happens, the most intriguing secondary storyline is what happens with Florida.

The Gators' offense has been putrid for the last month, and if Florida loses to Alabama, it will enter bowl season on a two-game losing streak. However, its closest competition for an Allstate Sugar Bowl bid is No. 13 Ole Miss, a team Florida manhandled 38-10 in October. Still, the Rebels (9-3) are ranked higher and seem like a lock for the Sugar, especially if Florida struggles to keep it close against Alabama on Saturday.

Of those two, the team that doesn't go to the Sugar Bowl seems like the odds-on favorite to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The Orlando-based bowl gets first pick out of the remaining SEC teams, and the home-state Gators would make sense after a bounce-back season under first-year coach Jim McElwain.

Georgia (9-3) might also have some appeal as a choice for the Citrus since the Bulldogs will be playing their final game with Mark Richt as head coach. A sendoff for a popular coach in sunny Florida probably would appeal to Bulldogs fans even after a somewhat disappointing season.

Let's keep Florida in the Citrus for now, though. The SEC office, in conjunction with the schools and bowls, will set the matchups for the next six bowl games, which makes those projections a difficult endeavor.

The SEC has five teams in this week's CFP rankings -- LSU jumped back into the rankings at No. 21 and Tennessee is No. 25 -- so the conference office should have some promising matchups available. Butch Jones' Volunteers would make sense for the Outback Bowl, and those at LSU believe either the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl or TaxSlayer Bowl is the Tigers' most likely destination. We'll go with nearby Houston for Les Miles' Tigers.

Auburn seems to be a lock for the home-state Birmingham Bowl, and the SEC will not have an 11th team to fill its Independence Bowl, particularly since Missouri (5-7) declined to seek a possible bowl bid based upon its high APR score.

By the end of the week, we'll know for sure where the SEC teams will go bowling. Here are our projections for the final week of the season:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Cotton Bowl): Alabama

Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Year's Six): Ole Miss

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Florida

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas

TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia

Outback Bowl: Tennessee

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State

Belk Bowl: Texas A&M

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU

Birmingham Bowl: Auburn