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December 3, 2013

Aggies likely headed to Atlanta or Jacksonville

After Texas A&M's 28-21 loss to Missouri Saturday night, A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said he expected the Aggies would be playing a top-notch opponent in their bowl game.

He's probably right -- but where? Hopes for a BCS bowl bid have long been scuttled, and it appears a bowl game in the Eastern Time Zone will play host to Texas' lone entrant in the SEC. The two likeliest destinations: Atlanta, for the Chic-fil-a Bowl, or Jacksonville, Fla., home of the Gator Bowl. Here's a look at both possibilities:

Chic-fil-a Bowl, Dec. 31:

Matchup: ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5

Likely opponent: The loser of the ACC championship game -- probably No. 20 Duke (10-2, 6-2 ACC). If the Blue Devils shock the world and No. 1 Florida State, then everything will put put into flux. If FSU falls out of the top four in the BCS, then they'll probably be the team here. If they don't, and two ACC teams are in, No. 11 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) would probably get the call.

Why the Aggies could end up there: The SEC will almost certainly get two teams into the BCS: the winner of Auburn-Missouri and Alabama. The Capital One Bowl, where A&M nearly ended up last year, has the next pick and would take the SEC runner-up (either Auburn or Mizzou); the Cotton and Outback Bowls have no specific tie-in in terms of placement in the league, but both LSU and South Carolina are ranked higher than the Aggies and have better records. That leaves the Chic-fil-a Bowl, which actively scouted the Aggies for months and would likely jump at the opportunity to land the likely final game of the biggest draw in the sport, Johnny Manziel.

Why the Aggies may not end up there: Georgia is 8-4, but has a 5-3 mark in the SEC. They're ranked 25th, behind A&M in the AP poll, but the bowl is in Georgia's backyard and, in its various incarnations, has only hosted the Bulldogs five times in 44 years. The thinking could be that the state's major team would be a bigger draw than an Aggies squad coming off a disappointing season. And, if Duke does beat FSU and causes two teams from the ACC to get into the BCS, that chaos could mean Alabama gets bumped -- and a reshuffling of everyone else.

The Gator Bowl, Jan. 1, 2014:

Matchup: Big 10 4/5 vs. SEC No. 6

Likely Opponents: Michigan (7-5, 3-5) or Nebraska (8-4, 5-3). With Ohio State and Michigan State likely BCS bowl teams, the conference has to do some scrambling. Wisconsin and Iowa would be the second and third seeds from the conference, leaving the Gator with its choice of the fourth or fifth seed (the other goes to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl). In spite of their better record, Michigan retains a higher national profile and is considered the more attractive pick.

Why the Aggies may end up there: See the reason the Aggies may not end up in the Chic-fil-a Bowl.

Why the Aggies may not end up here: They played in Atlanta the night before.

Reminder: Make your travel arrangements at your peril if you do so before Sunday. The Capital One Bowl/Cotton Bowl flip-flop last year should be a warning.

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