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December 8, 2013

Sugar Bowl likely BCS destination for Alabama

Two-time defending national champion Alabama will learn its bowl destination - and opponent - when BCS pairings are revealed tonight, but the announcement of a Jan. 2 date in the Sugar Bowl for the Crimson Tide appears to be a certainty.

Oklahoma is Alabama's most likely opponent while Oregon has an outside shot of earning the bid opposite the Crimson Tide.

The Sugar Bowl has a contract to take the Southeastern Conference champion, unless the SEC Championship Game winner is playing in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. Auburn is expected to move into the national championship contest by virtue of Saturday's victory over Missouri in the SEC title game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, coupled with Ohio State's upset loss to Michigan State on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game.

Alabama came into the weekend at No. 4 in the official BCS ratings, and the top four teams in the final rankings that will be released tonight are guaranteed berths in one of the five BCS games: the BCS national title game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.

Under BCS selection rules, bowls that lose the champion of a conference to which they are contractually tied to the national championship game - such as the Sugar Bowl with the SEC - get to choose teams to replace those conference champions before at-large selections take place. The Sugar Bowl needs a replacement for Auburn, so there is little doubt that the Crimson Tide will fill that slot.

Two-time defending national champion Alabama will learn its bowl destination - and opponent - when BCS pairings are revealed tonight, but the announcement of a Jan. 2 date in the Sugar Bowl for the Crimson Tide appears to be a certainty.

Oklahoma or Oregon is Alabama's most likely opponent.

The Sugar Bowl has a contract to take the Southeastern Conference champion, unless the SEC Championship Game winner is playing in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. Auburn is expected to move into the national championship contest by virtue of Saturday's victory over Missouri in the SEC title game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, coupled with Ohio State's upset loss to Michigan State on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game.

Alabama came into the weekend at No. 4 in the official BCS ratings, and the top four teams in the final rankings that will be released tonight are guaranteed berths in one of the five BCS games: the BCS national title game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.

Under BCS selection rules, bowls that lose the champion of a conference to which they are contractually tied to the national championship game - such as the Sugar Bowl with the SEC - get to choose teams to replace those conference champions before at-large selections take place. The Sugar Bowl needs a replacement for Auburn, so there is little doubt that the Crimson Tide will fill that slot.

The Orange Bowl, which has to replace ACC champion Florida State, gets the first replacement pick if FSU is ranked No. 1 in tonight's rankings. Clemson is expected to be the Orange Bowl's replacement selection for FSU.

By BCS protocol, the Orange Bowl would not take Alabama because the Sugar Bowl also has a replacement pick, and the Sugar will get first choice of another team from the SEC with the league's championship winner elevated to the BCS title game.

The big question is who Alabama will play if it ends up in the Sugar Bowl, and those possibilities changed over the last 48 hours.

Before Friday night, Central Florida seemed to be a lock to play the SEC representative in New Orleans. That changed when Northern Illinois lost in Friday's Mid-Atlantic Conference title game, costing the Huskies an automatic bid to a BCS bowl and opening up the field for other major-conference teams.

With Northern Illinois out of the BCS picture, Central Florida is now expected to fall to the Fiesta Bowl, which has the last pick. Oklahoma played its way into the BCS picture when it upset Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The Big 12 champion is slotted in the Fiesta Bowl, played Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., and Baylor claimed that bid Saturday with a victory over Texas, coupled with Oklahoma's victory over Oklahoma State.

Things could get more interesting if the Orange Bowl doesn't take Clemson. That would leave the bowl choosing two teams from among Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Oklahoma, with the team left over going to the Sugar. For the Orange Bowl to take Alabama, it would have to work out an agreement with the Sugar Bowl.

Sugar Bowl teams will arrive in New Orleans on Dec. 27 to begin final preparations.

Alabama last played in the Sugar Bowl to close the 2008 season, losing to Utah. UA also played in New Orleans in the BCS National Championship Game at the end of the 2011 season, defeating LSU.

Other BCS matchups expected to be announced tonight are Michigan State against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, possibly Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and Baylor vs. Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.



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