Being smart helps.

Vanderbilt went to 5-6 with Saturday’s 38-17 win over Ole Miss and that should pretty much make the Commodores bowl eligible.

How? They have one of the best Academic Progress Rate scores in all of college football, and if there aren’t enough teams with non-losing records to fill the bowls, they will be filled by the 5-7 teams with the best APR. And Vandy’s APR is the third best among teams that might finish 5-7.

In other words, all it would take is three bowls that lack a .500 team to invite and Vandy is in. And right now, it’s looking likely we will be at least three teams short.

So Vandy’s as good as in, it would seem. It’s just a matter of which bowl they take. For our scenario, we are going with the Cactus Bowl against a Big 12 opponent (Texas).

In other notes:

  1. After LSU’s loss to Florida, we bump Tennessee to the Sugar Bowl. Florida won the East, but we like the committee going with Tennessee at 9-3 (assuming a win over Vanderilt) as we project Florida to lose to both Florida State and Alabama (in the SEC championship game) to finish 8-4. Couple Tennessee’s superior overall record with the head-to-head win over Florida, and the Vols make a more compelling Sugar Bowl team.
  2. Florida gets the league’s top non-New Year’s Six invite, the Citrus Bowl.
  3. LSU drops to the Tax Slayer Bowl, but a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday could send the Tigers as far down as the home-state Independence Bowl. An Aggies win would make them a viable candidate for the Sugar Bowl, particularly if Tennessee gets upset by Vanderbilt and Florida gets soundly routed in its last two games.
  4. Mississippi State could join the list of teams that can get in a bowl with a 5-7 record if the Bulldogs win the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. That would knock Ole Miss out of the bowls at 5-7 and without a high APR.
  5. Auburn would likely make the Sugar Bowl with an upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl, as a 9-3 Auburn worksheet that includes a victory over the Crimson Tide would trump Tennessee’s 9-3 resume.
  6. Florida is not out of the Playoff race. In the unlikely event the Gators upset Florida State and Alabama, they would be in the conversation at 10-2.

2016 SEC bowl projections after Week 12 (12 invites)

  • College Football Playoff semifinal (Peach Bowl): Alabama vs. Ohio State
  • New Year’s Six (Sugar Bowl): Tennessee vs. Oklahoma
  • Citrus Bowl: Florida vs. Virginia Tech
  • Music City Bowl: Georgia vs. Minnesota
  • Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Nebraska
  • TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU vs. Miami
  • Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State
  • Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. TCU
  • Belk Bowl: South Carolina vs. Wake Forest
  • Birmingham Bowl: Kentucky vs. Houston
  • Independence Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Boston College
  • Cactus Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. Texas

On the outside looking in: Mississippi State, Missouri