November 28, 2010 1:24:00 AM
Mississippi State''s 31-23 win over rival Ole Miss not only snapped a two-game losing streak, but helped catapult the Bulldogs to front-runner status for Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The New Year''s Eve bowl game, which is held in Atlanta, Ga., has tie-ins to the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Though final bowl selections won''t be official until conference championships are completed next Saturday, Chick-fil-A bowl representative Jack D''Arcy said MSU''s credentials make it one of the favorites to travel to Atlanta.
He pointed to MSU''s last bowl trip in 2007, when through an overwhelmingly pro-MSU crowd helped set a Liberty Bowl record of 63,186. MSU also helped sell-out the 1999 Cotton Bowl in three days and was last in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in ''99, when it beat Clemson 17-7.
MSU has sold-out each of its seven home games this season and set a year-long attendance record for the second straight year.
"I cannot say without the authority of the committee, but I believe that''s probably a fair assessment," D''Arcy said of MSU''s front-runner status. "You look at how they''ve traveled in the past, and you know they''re going to travel well.
"Usually, we''re looking for a team that''s finishing on a high note and has been competitive in most of their games -- like the Arkansas game next week. All those are pluses."
Still, a lot can change in the next week as the Chick-fil-A Bowl is behind the CapitalOne Bowl, Outback Bowl and Cotton Bowl in the selection pecking order. In addition, the Bowl Championship Series has an automatic tie-in to the Sugar Bowl. As has been a trend in recent years, the SEC could end up with one team in the national championship game and one in the Sugar Bowl following Arkansas'' win over LSU and Auburn''s win over Alabama, which preserved its undefeated record ahead of the SEC title game next Saturday. And if South Carolina beat Auburn in the SEC title game, the bowl selections process could be further complicated.
"You could conjecture all you want to, but that would put them in the BCS, then pick between Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama," D''Arcy said. "Then the next three teams in the (SEC) West versus whomever in the East."
South Carolina is the SEC East champion, but the division is suffering through a down year with one ranked team and three with six losses or more.
Should Auburn win the SEC title, the Bulldogs will be behind Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina in the current SEC bowl order.
D''Arcy stressed that all bowl contracts differ, but its typical for most bowl contracts to protect a team with a one-loss record right down the pecking order.
He added the Chick-fil-A Bowl negotiated to be higher in the pecking order and didn''t get it, which allows its selection committee more flexibility.
"We want the best matchup possible," D''Arcy said. "What we do is, we''ve had such tremendous games and the best atmospheres than any bowl game. We try to match Team A versus Team B that will bring it and have that electric atmosphere. We know that MSU will bring a good crowd."
Other bowl possibilities for MSU include the Gator Bowl and Music City Bowl.
As for the ACC tie-in to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the selection committee usually has the first pick after the BCS selections. Virginia Tech and Florida State will play for the ACC title.
"We''re not bound to take the loser," D''Arcy said. "We could take the third-place team."
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