Sugar Bowl out of picture even if Texas slips below West Virginia in rankings

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Officials from West Virginia athletic department and the Big 12 confirmed the Sugar Bowl is off the table for the Mountaineers, squelching a brief glimmer of hope that popped up among fans and some journalists with the release of the latest College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night.

The sense of confusion stems from the fact that the SEC and Big 12 have different policies regarding which teams are selected to play in the Sugar Bowl.

The SEC clarified Tuesday that it will send its highest-ranked team that does not reach the CFP semifinals to the Sugar Bowl, which will be played at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 1.

The Big 12 later clarified its selection protocol: If the winner of the Big 12 Championship game is selected for a CFP semifinal, the runner-up team from the championship game would advance to the Sugar Bowl.

The issue wasn’t relevant last year since the Sugar Bowl was one of the national semifinals, negating its usual contractual obligation to match the best non-playoff teams from the SEC and Big 12. Last year was the first year for the Big 12 championship game, and with no automatic New Year’s 6 tie-in, loser TCU went to the Alamo Bowl after falling to Oklahoma.

No. 14 Texas is just two spots ahead of No. 16 West Virginia in the CFP rankings, and a blowout loss to the Sooners could drop the Longhorns below the Mountaineers in the final rankings that are to released Sunday. Given that West Virginia beat Texas on its home field, that scenario seems especially plausible. But it also won’t matter.

Multiple media outlets across the nation reported that Texas could lose its Sugar Bowl position if it dropped below WVU in the final rankings.

Depending on whether Oklahoma reaches the playoff, the Camping World Bowl in Orlando and the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio loom as the most likely postseason destinations for the Mountaineers.

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