I finally caught up with Music City Bowl president Scott Ramsey this afternoon, and we talked extensively about the three teams they’re considering: MSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
State and Vandy are both 8-4, while Ole Miss is 6-6. The unwritten rule in the SEC is that a bowl doesn’t take a team that has two fewer wins than another team that’s left on the board. But there are exceptions, and the Rebels’ 41-24 win over MSU could lead to such an exception being made.
“It’s kind of in play for that particular reason,” Ramsey said. “However, occasionally there are exceptions. It’s not a hard, fast contractual rule, but it’s certainly unwritten or a rule of thumb. It’ll be a very difficult decision, and it should be a difficult decision in any case regardless of the teams, to jump two wins. … The conference and the ADs, when you cut your deals and you’ve got a four-year deal, it’s one of those things you look everybody in the eye and say, unless there’s a really special circumstance, we’re all going to agree to be partners and kind of try to adhere to some semblance of that process.”
He later added, “It’s technically our decision as a bowl organization and as a city. Yeah, we communicate with the SEC, but not from the standpoint of them dictating to us a selection.”
My conversation with Ramsey has me thinking that, if the Gator Bowl doesn’t take MSU (it picks one spot ahead of Music City), then Dan Mullen‘s team could wind up in Birmingham for the BBVA Compass Bowl. Because in regards to the Music City Bowl, MSU has not only the Ole Miss loss working against it, but also the fact that it was in Nashville just last season. Bowls typically don’t like to have repeat visitors.
But, it was a good experience all around last year, when the Bulldogs beat Wake Forest.
“It’s a factor, but it was a great experience,” Ramsey said. “It would be a bigger factor if it was a poor experience and just wasn’t a fit. … It’ll be a factor, (but) I’m not sure it’ll be a significant factor if that was the case.”
The concern with Vanderbilt is that it’s located right there in Nashville, which means the city won’t get the flood of out-of-town visitors that it wants for the hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Ramsey is very clear about the objectives he’s trying to achieve when choosing teams.
“One, how can we fill the city up; two, how can we fill the stadium up; three, how can we maximize our broadcast exposure for our title sponsor and our city. In the ideal year, you hit all three of those. In reality, you’re trying to hit as many of them as you can.”
After speaking with Ramsey for 15 minutes, I can’t say that I have much more clarity on MSU’s chances of landing in Nashville. That’s because Ramsey is good at making each possible scenario sound as credible as the next. But, during this decision-making process, the Music City Bowl is going to have to compromise no matter the pick. If it picks MSU, that means taking a repeat team for only the second time in its history (Kentucky in 2006-07). If it takes Vandy, that means a lower economic impact. If it takes Ole Miss, that means an eight-win team will get jumped by a six-win team.
Odds are, the Gator Bowl will take either MSU or Vandy, and so Ramsey will be left to choose between the other and Ole Miss. In his talks with SEC officials and other bowl reps, he might be able to narrow his list to two before Sunday.
“That’s why this week is important, to try to forecast and narrow that down at least inside our office. It at least allows us to focus our workload. I’m trying to prepare for Sunday the best we can.”
On the ACC side, Ramsey said the main teams he’s looking at are N.C. State and Virginia Tech, and Duke could be in the mix as well. I’ll have more from Ramsey in tomorrow’s Journal.