We said for months in this space that Alabama was the king of the SEC mountain until somebody proved it is not.

LSU proved it in the 2019 season. Not just the SEC, either. The Tigers rolled past Clemson on Monday night to cap their perfect season. They are college football’s new king.

Along the way, the Tigers won in Tuscaloosa in November.

Will it be more of the same in 2020?

It is ridiculously early to start guessing, of course. Does that stop us from guessing anyway? If you said yes, it’s too early, you don’t know us very well.

We think LSU and Alabama will continue their epic battle to rule the SEC in 2020, but a few other contenders will have their say as well. We will be optimistic and predict that SEC teams will take 4 of the 12 spots in New Year’s Day 6 bowls and that 12 SEC teams will be bowl eligible (sorry, Vanderbilt and Arkansas). The SEC had just 9 bowl-eligible teams in 2019 (Mizzou would have been 10).

In 2019 the SEC announced a couple of changes to its bowl lineup, which will kick in this coming fall. The new bowl tie-ins run from 2020 through 2025. This year the Las Vegas Bowl begins an alternating deal with the SEC; it will get an SEC team in even-numbered years. The Belk Bowl will get an SEC team in odd-numbered years (the SEC and Big Ten share this deal and will alternate in these bowls).

The other new SEC bowl is the Gasparilla Bowl, which replaces the Independence Bowl at the bottom of the league’s pecking order. Fair warning to folks in Tampa hoping for an SEC team in the Outback and Gasparilla bowls: The Independence Bowl got an SEC team just once in the past 5 years and that was Vanderbilt in 2016. The SEC’s success — it gets 3 teams in the New Year’s 6 every year and sometimes 4 — pushes everyone else back in the pecking order, and the league simply runs out of eligible teams before it can fill all of its bowl tie-ins.

After the CFP and New Year’s Day 6 make their selections, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando will get the next selection among eligible SEC teams, just as in recent years. After that, the next 6 bowls are considered equal in the SEC’s eyes and the conference works with the bowls to make those selections. Again, the Las Vegas Bowl will be 1 of those 6 bowls in 2020. The others — Outback, Liberty, Gator, Texas and Music City — retain their SEC tie-ins from recent seasons.

After that, if any eligible SEC teams remain, the Birmingham Bowl will again pick an SEC team, followed by the Gasparilla Bowl.

So, here is the way-too-early first set of bowl projections for the 2020-21 season.

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