LITTLE ROCK — Not that it matters to Arkansas fans this year, but the bowl game in Shreveport, La., is back in the Southeastern Conference rotation.
The announcement was overlooked; the news spotted in the SEC football guide. If, as usual, the SEC has a representative in the BCS title game and the league fulfills its other bowl obligations, 11 of the 14 teams will be in the postseason. That’s one more bowl slot than was available last year when there were 12 teams in the league.
By comparison, the Pac-12 has seven bowl tie-ins and the 12-team Big Ten has eight.
The so-so SEC teams must sweep their four non-conference games or win three league games to record the six victories necessary to be bowl eligible. Arkansas is likely to qualify before the Oct. 20 open date. On the other side are Ole Miss and Kentucky, expected to finish last in their divisions. The Rebels have an early-season game with Texas and Kentucky opens against nationally ranked Louisville.
Each of the last two years, their two SEC teams won one or none in league play and 2-6 Kentucky did not qualify for a bowl last year because of a loss to Louisville. As a result, the SEC was one team shy and the bowl in Birmingham, Ala., matched SMU and Pittsburgh.
Yes, the SEC had two teams in the BCS title game, but, under normal circumstances, the league would have had one each in that game and the Sugar Bowl.
Last year, Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State entered bowls with 6-6 records. The year before, bowl-bound Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky were also 6-6. At best, Shreveport is in for more of the same.
Originally the Independence Bowl, the Dec. 28 game revives a partnership with the SEC that lasted from 1995 through 2009. The Mountain West Conference had an agreement with the game in Shreveport but adjusted its bowl partnerships because of conference realignment and signed on with a bowl in Fort Worth.
Despite being at the bottom of the bowl pecking order in the SEC, the Independence Bowl understandably jumped at the chance to reconnect with the SEC. The league is the nation’s best in football and Shreveport is more in the middle of SEC country than ever with the addition of Texas A&M.
The SEC opponent is to come from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Picking just in front of the Independence Bowl are the games in Memphis and Birmingham.
The current set-up is temporary. Looming is the Champions Bowl, set to debut in prime time on Jan. 1, 2015 — the date of the second of two semifinal games in the playoff recently approved by the NCAA.
Supposed to match the winners of the SEC and the Big 12, the Champions Bowl will get something less most years because at least one league champion will be in the national semifinals. In that case, the league is to provide another team. Considering the status of the Champions Bowl, the SEC would likely delegate its No. 2 team. Currently, the Capital One Bowl has the pick of SEC teams after the BCS makes its selections.
Ten cities had an opportunity to bid on the Champions Bowl, but only five followed through, because Arlington, Texas, and New Orleans are the heavy favorites. Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta also submitted bids.
A decision on the site is due next month, but remember that when the four-team playoff begins, the semifinals are to be rotated among six sites. Jerry Jones’ stadium is bound to be included with the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar. If so, the Champions Bowl could be in Arlington when the Cotton Bowl is not hosting a semifinal and in New Orleans when the Sugar Bowl is not hosting.
That would be a nice twist for fans and players.
(Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org).