If we're being honest with ourselves, Vanderbilt's probably getting deported to Independence Bowl (in Shreveport) or the Birmingham Bowl (in Topeka). But what other lucky school will be permitted to view one of the South's finest crumbling infrastructures? Having wasted multiple minutes of my life looking at bowl projections across the Internet, let's take a look.
Independence Bowl vs. ACC (maybe)
I'd personally prefer a trip to Shreveport, so let's start here. The Independence Bowl is the ACC's final selection tier, along with the St. Petersburg, Military, and
Quick Lane Motor City Bowl.
The problem is that the ACC may have leave one bowl slot open (depending on how the New Year Bowl selections go). Let's ignore that problem, because the obvious solution is to leave the Military Bowl spot open and let 6-6 Army have it. College football is often stupid, but this one should be blindingly obvious.
1.) Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4)
- Pros: Pitt is by far the best potential opponent who might actually fall to Shreveport. They have a wildly entertaining offense (42.3 PPG, and lit up Syracuse for 76 this weekend). They also have a wildly incompetent defense (35.6 PPG, including 61 surrendered to Syracuse).
- Cons: The odds of the Panthers falling this far seem to be very remote. Calling Pittsburgh the best anything is generally a bad sign these days.
2.) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6)
- Pros: It would make a nice coda to the budding Vandy/Wake rivalry that was cut short. Come on, you know you'd love this. And I even predicted this actual matchup in September, although I still don't know why I left work that day to watch Division II football on ESPN3 (and probably never will).
- Cons: Presumably the Independence Bowl executives would see the projected TV ratings for this matchup and hang themselves.
3.) Boston College Eagles (6-6)
- Pros: They don't run a triple option offense, mostly because they don't run an offense at all. Lost conference games by scores of 52-7, 56-10, 49-0, and 45-7. Coached by Steve Addazio. Somehow managed to beat both Wake and NC State.
- Cons: We've already seen this in the Music City Bowl, but at least it was several years ago, unlike...
4.) North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-6)
- Pros: They beat North Carolina? I dunno. Oh wait, they won the season's funniest game when they beat Notre Dame in that typhoon. That was great. Both teams combined to go 3-29 on third down. It was like a real-life version of Pigskin 621 AD.
- Cons: We just saw this in an even more recent Music City Bowl.
5.) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4)
- Pros: None. No.
And that's the Independence Bowl. Now, Birmingham...
Birmingham Bowl vs. American (maybe)
Like the ACC, the American doesn't have enough eligible teams to fill its slots. Unlike the ACC, they don't have a pecking order for their bowls...so things may get really stupid in Birmingham. Here's a quick glance at what they could offer:
1.) Memphis Tigers (8-4)
- Pros: Having already defeated MTSU and Tennessee, Vanderbilt could outright claim the Tennessee State Champions title. Unless you think UT-Chattanooga has a case, or something weird. I mean, yes, they played Alabama better than UT-Knoxville, but come on.
- Cons: I have a very hard time seeing most of the fanbase getting excited about this particular matchup, but Memphis is a good team. It's not a bad matchup.
2.) South Florida Bulls (10-2)
- Pros: Have one of the best offenses in the country -- they haven't scored less than 30 in any game this year. It would be an extremely entertaining game if you like lots of points.
- Cons: USF seems like the least likely team to be assigned to Birmingham. I'd expect them to carry the American's banner into the Saint Petersburg Bowl instead.
3.) Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3)
- Pros: Tulsa is essentially a lesser South Florida -- lots of points, and a horrifically bad defense. They scored 30 in every game except for one -- they got clobbered 48-3 by Ohio State.
- Cons: That record is inflated and then some. They needed overtime to beat Cincinnati, SMU, and 1-11 Fresno State. Tulsa may well have the least name value of any potential AAC opponent, so it might be hard to get the fans excited.
4.) Temple Owls (9-3)
- Pros: WETHET TWO: HETTENING BOOGALOO
- Cons: WETHET TWO: HETTENING BOOGALOO
5.) Houston Cougars (9-3)
- Pros: Four weeks of AOG cougar jokes. Maybe I should put Houston at #1.
- Cons: We've already seen this twice in the last 3 years. In fact, we've even seen it in the Birmingham Bowl. Both fanbases deserve something different.
6.) Central Florida Golden Knights (6-6)
- Pros: It appears their most impressive win was...uh, Tulane. They took Maryland to double overtime? I got nothing.
- Cons: It's a bowl game against a 6-6 American team who couldn't beat Maryland.
Navy (9-3) is also in the American, but as best I understand, they're tied to the Armed Forces Bowl. Which is fine by me, we'll take a pass on their triple option (FOOTBALL HUMOR).
But if the American teams all pass on visiting Birmingham, then who knows? The opponent would likely be a leftover from the Sun Belt (UL-Lafayette, South Alabama), Mountain West (Colorado State, Hawaii), or maybe even Army.
Assuming none of them want to visit Birmingham, we'd be stuck with a 5-7 opponent -- and since Mississippi State is in the SEC, that leaves North Texas. And if playing a 5-7 Conference USA team in Birmingham isn't the most Vanderbilt bowl game ever, then really, what is?