Scott Ramsey might not go as far as wearing purple and gold on Saturday. But the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl president and CEO will be pulling for LSU.
If the top-ranked Tigers defeat No. 12 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Ramsey and the rest of the Nashville Sports Council staff, which organizes the Music City Bowl, will be able to choose between Vanderbilt and Mississippi State as the SEC representative for the Dec. 30 game at LP Field.
If Georgia wins and earns the league’s automatic BCS berth, though, three SEC teams could end up in BCS bowls — a first for any conference. The bowls higher up on the SEC pecking order then would have first picks on who remains. Thus, the Music City Bowl, which gets the seventh SEC choice, would be left with whichever team didn’t get taken.
“Hopefully, LSU will win and we’ll have the opportunity to make a difficult decision,” he said.
The difficult decision would be between the hometown team or Mississippi State, which would most likely draw many out-of-town guests who would fill up local hotels and pack restaurants.
Vanderbilt (6-6) played in the Music City Bowl in 2008, defeating Boston College. While it was a historic moment — it was the school’s first bowl in 26 years — Ramsey said economically the city didn’t cash in as much as in previous years.
Mississippi State (6-6), on the other hand, is just one of four SEC teams in the event's 13-year existence never to play in the Music City Bowl. Ramsey also noted that Mississippi State has a fanbase that “historically travels really well.”
“Certainly, I think any time you have a bowl game and you have a local team, every now and then, that is the right selection, but for the most part that probably is not your ongoing mission,” Ramsey said. “It is to kind of bring a lot of people to the city and hopefully spend a lot of money here. ... We created the event to primarily be a catalyst for economic impact and travel and tourism impact. I think that is our primary mission, and I think we have always adhered to that as much as possible.”
The general consensus is that if Georgia wins, Mississippi State would be picked to go to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., over Vanderbilt due to the larger fanbase that might be more inclined to travel. Therefore, Vanderbilt would land in the Music City Bowl. If LSU wins, though, most pundits have Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl and Vanderbilt off to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
“We had a great experience with Vanderbilt in '08. I think this year there is probably more excitement around a Vanderbilt football program than in the 15 years I’ve lived here and certainly the 14 years we’ve been doing the bowl game,” Ramsey said. “In '08, it was a very historic event for our city — the first time they played in a [bowl] game in almost 30 years and first time they had won a bowl game in almost 50 years. I think it was great to host them here that year.
“I think this year [Vanderbilt], on its own merits, certainly has a lot of pluses. But so does Mississippi State.”
Ramsey says every year the Music City Bowl field isn’t usually finalized until the last week or two. This year, though, he said the implications of the SEC championship game are unprecedented.
“You would have been laughed out of the room if you brought up a scenario that you can have two teams in the same conference, neither of which are conference champions, ranked one and two in the country,” he said. “It sounds so far fetched that it is unbelievable. But it could happen this year.”
Who the Music City Bowl's ACC representative will be also remains unclear.
Ramsey said Georgia Tech (8-4), Virginia (8-4), North Carolina State (7-5) and Wake Forest (6-6) are the top four choices. That decision will also be impacted by a conference championship game as Virginia Tech and Clemson play for the league’s automatic BCS bid on Saturday.
The Music City Bowl gets the sixth ACC pick.
“It is a little bit more muddy there [in the ACC] based on a lot of parity and all those teams pretty much being 8-4, 7-5, kind of in that range,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the bowl loves to snag teams that have exceeded expectations or wins their way into the bowl game. Virginia fits that first criteria, going 5-3 in league play after finishing 4-8 overall in 2010. N.C. State, on the other hand, had two wins over FCS schools — but only one can count toward bowl eligibility. So they won their last two games to lock up a berth, including rallying from a 41-14 deficit to stun Maryland for a 56-41 victory last weekend in the regular-season finale. Another factor is proximity, maybe attracting a fanbase that is only a four- to six-hour drive away — Georgia Tech.
It all makes for a busy final week leading up to the bowl selection on Sunday.
“Yes, it is nerve-racking and, yes, it is somewhat exciting,” Ramsey said. “You want to think it gets a little bit easier knowing that you can’t control what happens on the field with a bunch of 19- and 20-year-old guys playing football, but it tends to come down to that. You just have to be prepared and adjust to which ever way the games fall.”