On Sunday afternoon, the bowl selections started trickling out after the Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls were announced, like so:
Kentucky-Indiana will play in Gator Bowl, sources told @Stadium— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 8, 2019
This would have been an interesting matchup, if only because Kentucky and Indiana, the resident basketball schools in the SEC and Big Ten, respectively, have been cromulent on the football field lately. Except somebody had a problem with getting sent to the Music City Bowl, and that somebody complained to the SEC office and got that changed, and I bet you know which school would be entitled enough to complain about a bowl assignment after a 7-5 season in which it lost to Georgia State.
Oh, did I just give it away?
Bottom line:— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) December 8, 2019
SEC had agreement where Tennessee was in Music City and Kentucky I’m Gator
Tennessee changed its mind this afternoon and made Gator the preference . Because they had same record and Beat UK head to head, deference was given to them by SEC
Huh. Yeah, I guess when you say that they have the same record and one beat the other head-to-head (and also had a better conference record, although again, they had the same overall record because one of these schools lost to Georgia State and BYU out of conference), then it makes sense... but, really, we all know why this happened.
If Tennessee had accepted a traditionally less prestigious bowl than UK just days after not publicly fighting harder against the Jauan Jennings suspension, I absolutely would have written a column saying #Vols couldn’t let the league smack it around like that.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) December 8, 2019
Don’t have to now.
Right. Entitlement is a hell of a drug.
In the best-case scenario, Tennessee simply changed its mind, perhaps because it realized that its fans would prefer a trip to Jacksonville rather than spending the holiday season in Nashville, and the SEC — because Tennessee actually placed ahead of both Kentucky and Mississippi State in the standings — honored that preference. (Mississippi State got switched from the Belk Bowl to the Music City Bowl; presumably, with Louisville being on the other side of the Music City Bowl, that bowl didn’t want a rematch of the regular-season finale.)
On the other hand, it’s only been six years since an 8-4 Vanderbilt team got sent to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
At first glance, it seemed like a very good thing when the SEC office decided to start getting involved in bowl selections, ostensibly to prevent injustices like the one that happened in 2001, when 6-5 Alabama went to the Independence Bowl while 7-4 Ole Miss stayed home. But this being the SEC, we just knew it was only a matter of time before the SEC would use this power to help one of the league’s traditional powers get its way in a bowl selection.
You can view it as just a coincidence that the league office shifted Kentucky and Mississippi State around to accommodate Tennessee, but if you know anything about how the league office works, of course this is what happens; the records and head-to-head results are just the excuse they needed.