At the top, the SEC bowl projections are same old, same old.

No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 6 Florida and No. 9 Georgia each won by at least 2 touchdowns on Saturday. The Crimson Tide and Gators remain on a collision course for a near-certain SEC Championship Game matchup.

And the fact that the first College Football Playoff rankings had 4 SEC teams in the top 9 confirmed our belief that the conference will send 4 teams to the New Year’s Day 6 bowls. Unless Georgia or Texas A&M suffers an upset loss, the Aggies and Bulldogs will be invited to major bowls even without winning their divisions. With Northwestern’s loss on Saturday, there’s every reason to think that Georgia will rise to No. 8 when this week’s CFP rankings are released on Tuesday. So if form holds, the SEC will land 4 teams among the 12 that get to go to the 6 top bowls.

But the gap between those 4 teams and the rest of the SEC is growing.

Two teams that currently have winning records, Auburn and Missouri, are deserving bowl teams under any circumstances, even after Auburn’s Iron Bowl rout at the hands of Bama. In a normal season, those teams and maybe 4-4 Ole Miss would be the only safe postseason picks in the SEC beyond the top 4.

Of course, “in a normal season” is utterly meaningless in 2020.

So the question rises: With no wins requirement for bowl eligibility this year, how many SEC teams with losing records will be invited to bowls? How many should go?

Every coach wants those extra December practices (though with a compressed schedule, most teams won’t get the normal 15 practices between the end of the regular season and their bowl games). But what to do with an LSU team that’s likely to finish 3-6? What if Arkansas also ends up there? Assuming Kentucky beats a listless South Carolina team in their finale, is a 4-6 Wildcats team appealing enough for a bowl to invite? Would any of these sub-.500 teams dare to say “no thanks” to a bowl invitation?

These are difficult questions, though our suspicion is that contracted bowl tie-ins and network involvement (ESPN being the ultimate postseason puppetmaster) will hold even more sway than normal. Translation: At least a couple of SEC teams that, frankly, don’t deserve anything for the holidays will get to go bowling anyway.

Now let’s look at this week’s projections:

Sugar (CFP semi)
Jan. 1
New Orleans
Alabama vs. Notre Dame
Jan. 2
Florida vs. Miami
Dec. 30
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Jan. 1
Georgia vs. Cincinnati
Jan. 1
Auburn vs. Northwestern
Jan. 2
Jacksonville, Fla.
LSU vs. Boston College
Jan. 2
Tampa, Fla.
Missouri vs. Wisconsin
Dec. 31
Ole Miss vs. West Virginia
Dec. 31
Arkansas vs. Texas
Music City
Dec. 30
Kentucky vs. Maryland