COLUMBIA – The dominoes are starting to fall regarding the SEC bowl picture.

And all signs continue to point to South Carolina facing Northwestern in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa as long as the conference championship games have the predicted outcomes.

Outback Bowl president Jim McVay talked glowingly about Northwestern when he spoke with the Chicago Tribune earlier this week.

Northwestern lost an overtime thriller to Auburn in the Outback Bowl three years ago, and the Wildcats returned to Evanston, Ill. after making a favorable impression upon McVay and Tampa officials.

Contrary to the staid reputation of the Big Ten, Northwestern threw for 532 yards and rallied from 14 down with three minutes to play to force overtime against Auburn.

“It’s a special program, and Northwestern left quite a mark on Tampa Bay a few years back,” McVay told the Tribune. “They made it clear that we’re here to win. They’re first-class people. (Athletic director) Jim Phillips is organized and a spectacular promoter of the program. They’re fun and classy people to be around, and their fans are by and large very successful people.”

What could keep Northwestern out of the Outback? A Wisconsin victory over Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. If that happened, the Capital One could only select Nebraska or Northwestern under the “one loss rule.” At 8-4, Michigan would not be eligible for the Capital One Bowl if the Cornhuskers or Wildcats are available.

Bowl sources believe Northwestern would be the choice. Nebraska played in the Capital One last year, losing 30-13 to South Carolina, and the Huskers would be coming off a disappointing loss in Indianapolis.

Brett McMurphy of reported Friday afternoon that the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, which has first choice of SEC schools after the Bowl Championship Series, had decided to invite Texas A&M to the Jan. 1 game at the Citrus Bowl.

Earlier, the Austin American-Statesman reported the path was paved for the Aggies to land in Orlando.

“Texas A&M’s a very impressive team, and they have definitely caught the eye of our selection committee,” Capital One Bowl CEO Steve Hogan told the American-Statesman. “They’ve got potentially the most dynamic player in the country and finished hot, and their name has come up quite a bit. The Aggie fans have been hitting us pretty hard on social media as well, so we can feel the excitement around the program right now.”

Rumors have been rampant in the Lone Star State for weeks that the Cotton Bowl was trying to arrange a match-up between former Big 12 rivals Texas A&M and Texas for the Dallas Cowboys’ billion-dollar palace in Arlington.

However, the Austin Statesman reported that, according to “bowl insiders,” Texas A&M preferred the Capital One Bowl because it will be a new destination for the legions of Aggie fans after numerous appearances in the Cotton Bowl and other Texas-based bowls throughout the years.

Who will be Texas A&M’s Big Ten opponent? Likely Michigan, unless Wisconsin upsets Nebraska in that conference’s title game and the Cornhuskers fall out of the BCS picture. In that event, Nebraska could return to Orlando. But bet on quarterback Denard Robinson and the Wolverines landing in Orlando.

With Texas A&M now a virtual certainty to spend a week around Disney World, that means the top three rungs on the SEC bowl ladder are accounted for. The winner of Saturday’s conference championship game between Alabama and Georgia in Atlanta will square off with Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 7.

The SEC will also place a team into the Sugar Bowl. Right now, the favorite to claim that at-large berth is Florida (11-1) unless the SEC championship game is a thriller and voters don’t drop the loser down more than one spot and that team finishes ahead of the Gators in the final BCS standings released around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

In all likelihood, the losing team in the SEC title game will fall outside the BCS. Some analysts contend Alabama could end up in Orlando if they lost to Atlanta, but those prospects are fading.

If Alabama wins the SEC championship, LSU will likely head to Dallas for a Cotton Bowl matchup with Texas or possibly Oklahoma or Kansas State if the Big 12 gets only one team into the BCS.

If Georgia pulls off the upset Saturday afternoon, the Crimson Tide will head to Dallas, putting USC in the Outback and LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Based on the latest information on Friday afternoon, here are two probable bowl scenarios depending on which team wins the SEC championship game on December 1:

If Alabama wins:

National Championship Game (Jan. 7) - Alabama (BCS)

Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) - Florida (BCS)

Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1) - Texas A&M

Outback Bowl (Jan. 1) - South Carolina

Cotton Bowl (Jan. 4) - LSU or Georgia

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31) - Georgia or LSU

Gator Bowl (Jan. 2) - Vanderbilt or Mississippi State

Music City Bowl (Dec. 31) - Ole Miss

BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 5) - Mississippi State or Vanderbilt

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31) - No eligible teams

Independence Bowl (Dec. 28) - No eligible teams

If Georgia wins:

National Championship Game (Jan. 7) - Georgia (BCS)

Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) - Florida (BCS)

Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1) - Texas A&M

Outback Bowl (Jan. 1) - South Carolina

Cotton Bowl (Jan. 4) - Alabama

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31) - LSU

Gator Bowl (Jan. 1) - Vanderbilt or Mississippi State

Music City Bowl (Dec. 31) - Ole Miss

BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 5) - Mississippi State or Vanderbilt

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31) - No eligible teams

Independence Bowl (Dec. 28) - No eligible teams

NOT ELIGIBLE: Kentucky (2-10), Auburn (3-9), Arkansas (4-8), Tennessee (5-7), Missouri (5-7).

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