LSU will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31 against Clemson.
Many thought an Alabama win Saturday night over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game would secure the top-10 ranked Tigers a spot in the Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, but that result was actually another part of the series of events beyond LSU's control conspired to drop them down the bowl pecking order.
The Cotton Bowl favored in-state Texas A&M and their Heisman hopeful freshman Johnny Manziel, but the powers-that-be with the Aggies were hoping to avoid a matchup with a Big 12 team after just leaving that conference. But A&M will face Oklahoma due to the BCS Bowl fallout from Northern Illinois of the MAC reaching the Top 16 of the BCS standings and earning an automatic spot. The Huskies cost the Sooners a likely BCS at-large invite to the Sugar Bowl, which settled for Big East Champion Louisiville to face one-loss at-large choice Florida.
Oklahoma's drop to the Cotton Bowl cost Texas a spot in that game and paved the way for Texas A&M to accept the bid. It is believed that both Texas and A&M wanted no part of a head-to-head matchup after ending their annual series due to the acrimony from the Aggies departure from the Big 12 to the SEC.
If Texas had been the Big 12's representative in the Cotton Bowl, LSU (10-2) would have been the clear choice as their SEC opponent. A large LSU alumni base in the Metroplex would have guaranteed a huge crowd for massive Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Any interest the Capital One Bowl may have had in LSU was likely swayed in Georgia's direction due to conference politics. The SEC East champion Bulldogs were spared the drop from a few yards away from the BCS title game to the Chick-fil-A Bowl with the invite to the Orlando-based bowl that has first choice of SEC teams not taken by the BCS bowls.
Ironically, LSU went through a scenario in 2005 similar to the one Georgia finds ended up in this season. The Tigers entered that SEC title game at 10-1 and ranked No. 3 in the nation but lost the championship to Georgia. What happened to LSU, which fell all the way to the Chick-fil-A, was something the SEC office wanted to prevent from reoccuring.
Even the Outback Bowl in Tampa would have been preferred by LSU but circumstances of fate again worked against the Tigers. South Carolina will face Michigan in that New Year's Day game in large part because to avoid a rematch for the Gamecocks with in-state rival Clemson. The Palmetto state foes met in the regular season finale for both teams won by South Carolina, 27-17.
Thus, the battle of Tigers from Death Valleys in Atlanta is the result of the many behind-the-scenes havoc. The Chick-fil-A Bowl matches an SEC team against an ACC opponent annually.
Clemson (10-2) presents an potentially exciting opponent for LSU. The ACC's Tigers have an explosive offense led by the quarterback voted as All-American over Johnny Manziel, dual-threat Tahj Boyd. Top-15 ranked Clemson opened their season in the Georgia Dome with a win over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
LSU is 5-0 in the Chick-fil-A, formerly the Peach Bowl, including a win in the inaugural game back in 1968, a 31-17 triumph over Florida State. The Bengal Tigers faced Clemson in the bowl back in 1996 and won a lackluster 10-7 contest. LSU has notches three wins in the Atlanta bowl game since including two over hometown school Georgia Tech and another victory over Miami.
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