Originally created 11/28/01

Georgia still confused by bowl picture



ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs can't make their travel plans for the holiday season just yet, though Charles Grant knows where he wants to be.

"Somewhere in Florida," the defensive end said Tuesday. "Fun in the sun, baby."

Grant might get his wish. The No. 16 Bulldogs (7-3) are one of the candidates for the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., if they beat winless Houston on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

In the Southeastern Conference, however, the bowl picture is still a couple of weeks from shaking out. The teams that will meet in the league championship game haven't even been determined.

"I've heard a lot of talk," running back Verron Haynes said. "But it's so confusing to me. Somebody had to win, somebody else has to lose. I just try to stay out of it."

Here's what we do know: The winner of this weekend's Tennessee-Florida and Auburn-LSU games will meet Dec. 8 in Atlanta to determine the SEC champion, which gets an automatic spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

After that, the picture is muddled. For instance, the SEC could place an at-large team in the BCS, which would bump everyone else to a better bowl.

The Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., gets the next SEC team and probably would pick South Carolina, assuming Florida and Tennessee weren't available. The Citrus already selected Michigan as its Big Ten representative.

Georgia could then be in line for the Outback, another New Year's Day game matching the SEC vs. the Big Ten.

The Bulldogs would be an attractive opponent for Ohio State, which already accepted a bid. Then again, they have played in the Outback two of the last four years, which could be a negative factor in the selection process.

Georgia defeated Wisconsin 33-6 in the 1998 Outback, followed two years later by a 28-25 overtime victory against Purdue.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of conversation between now and then," athletic director Vince Dooley said. "But because of the SEC championship game, we just can't do anything."

The Cotton Bowl also figures in the mix. After the BCS and Citrus make their picks, the SEC works with the Outback, Cotton and Peach bowls to determine which teams go to those postseason games.

The Cotton generally leans toward picking from the SEC West, which would mean LSU or Auburn. However, an Eastern team, Tennessee, played Kansas State last season.

Grant, for one, isn't thrilled by the idea of traveling to Dallas. His hometown, Colquitt, is in south Georgia, which would allow him to drive to Orlando or Tampa after the Christmas break.

"If we go to Texas, that means we have to fly," Grant said. "The way things are right now, I don't want to."

Two weeks ago, Georgia's flight to Mississippi was delayed several hours when the Atlanta airport was shut down for security reasons.

"I'd rather play in Florida anyway," Grant said.

Georgia played in the Peach Bowl three years ago, but the Atlanta game probably wants two out-of-state teams to help fill hotel rooms. The city's convention business has taken a beating this year because of the slumping economy.

Coach Mark Richt hasn't discussed the bowl situation with his team. He wants them to remain focused on Houston, a team the Bulldogs were supposed to meet Sept. 15.

The game, postponed after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, was moved to the end of the regular season since the teams did not have a common off date.

"The bowl picture is so far off in the future," Richt said. "I'm certain that we'll be in a bowl, but I'm not sure which one. The only thing we can control is how we play this ballgame."

Notes: Defensive end Arnold Harrison won't be in uniform for the Houston game, his punishment for getting ejected from last Saturday's victory over Georgia Tech. Harrison received a personal foul and was kicked out for punching Tech's Ross Mitchell in the fourth quarter. ... The four permanent captains for this season were elected Monday night, but Richt won't announce them until the team gala on Friday. There will be an overall captain, along with a captain from offense, defense and special teams.