Full disclosure, I thought about explaining the SEC's new bowl selection process here before the season started. But that seemed foolish considering what Arkansas' preseason expectations were. Then I thought about writing it throughout the season as we saw how much the team improved, but with every loss, it just seemed like it would jinx it.
But now, with the 6th win firmly in grasp, it gives me great pleasure to be able to write this.
Obviously, Arkansas' final bowl destination won't be known at least until after the Missouri game, because whether or not the Razorbacks win that game will have a big impact on where the Hogs end up going.
The big question is whether the Razorbacks end up in the "Pool of Six" or if they fall short of that.
As we all know, there's the four-team playoff, but there's also the other four bowls whose participants will be decided by the Playoff Committee. Think of these as the new BCS-level bowls. The big difference from years past to this year is that the 2-team-per-conference limit for those bowls is no more. That means that as many SEC teams as the committee deems worthy could play in those bowls. There's currently four SEC teams in the top 10 (but Ole Miss is probably going to fall out - you're welcome) and Auburn's in the top 15.
(One note for Arkansas fans: the days of winning 8 or 9 games and having a shot at the Cotton Bowl are over. That's now going to require a top 10 finish - or top 4 in years it hosts a playoff game.)
After the Selection Committee selects the teams for those top 6 bowls, the next pick goes to the Citrus Bowl.
After the Citrus Bowl, the Pool of Six comes into play. That's a group of six bowls that include the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Texas Bowl in Houston and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Instead of those bowls selecting teams in any order, the SEC will make the choices on which six teams to send to those bowls. We're used to the Outback Bowl being a higher caliber bowl than the Liberty Bowl, but they're equal now. You can bet that when Arkansas falls in that group, they'll almost always get Memphis, Houston, or Nashville for geographic reasons.
Whether Arkansas wins in Columbia next week could determine whether Arkansas falls in the Pool of Six or not. If the Hogs don't make that group, the next pick goes to Birmingham, followed by the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.
I'd expect the Hogs to try to push for Shreveport over Birmingham in that situation. Arkansas wants to recruit North Louisiana as much as possible so the coaches would certainly welcome a lot of time in Shreveport, plus it's closer for many Arkansas fans to travel.
What does all this mean? If I was a bettin man, I'll predict this: If Arkansas beats Missouri, they'll play in the Liberty Bowl. Lose, and they'll play in Shreveport. Those are just my guesses.
But I do know this: the Arkansas Razorbacks are going to a bowl game. The Missouri game will not be the last game of the year. That is incredible.