SEC Bowl Projections
TUSCALOOSA — It’s that time of year again, to some it’s like an early christmas present and fans rejoice like a kid opening a present on Christmas morning. No matter how you feel about it, the College Football bowl season is officially open. This year the SEC is represented by 12 schools, a new high career record. The SEC has dominated this season against each other, knocking each other down and bringing each other to the highest number of team in a conference this bowl season.
Of course the big game in the SEC is the classic Allstate Sugar Bowl as the SEC champion Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the inaugural College Football Playoff.Fans seem to forget that two other SEC teams will represent their conference in the “New Year Six” bowl games. Both Mississippi school manage to find their way into the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and the Capital One Orange Bowl. While these games are huge, let’s not forget about the other schools and how proud the SEC should be of them.
Let’s dive in a take a look at every SEC bowl game and how they will each pan out in the end.
DUCK COMMANDER INDEPENDENCE BOWL- Miami vs. South Carolina
For two teams that at the beginning of the year were supposed to turn their programs around, this definitely is not where these two teams wanted to end up. Both the Gamecocks and Hurricanes finished with 6-6 records and neither coach can really afford a loss with neither team really making expectation.
While Dylan Thompson isn’t Connor Shaw by any means, he still has had some success this season. With over 3000 passing yards and 22 touchdowns,Thompson can do damage against this very weak pass defense. Keep all eyes on Mike Davis though as this will more then likely be his last game in a Gamecock uniform.
As for Miami, all eyes should be on freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. In his first season Kaaya has 25 touchdowns with a completion percentage of close to 60 percent. Add Duke Johnson into the mix against a uibismile South Carolina defense and the Hurricanes might be able to pull one of coach Steve Spurrier’s eyes. Sadly for the ‘Canes, the Gamecock defense will some how manage to pull this out.
Prediction- South Carolina-24, Miami-20
OUTBACK BOWL- Wisconsin vs. Auburn
There is no other game to watch when talking about the running back position. Two great running backs will square off in Orlando as the Auburn Tigers face off against the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Auburn Tigers (8-4) definitely are playing for respect after losing three of their last four games, including their rival game against Alabama. Still, in that game quarterback Nick Marshall was on fire both on the ground and through the air. His recovers in Sammie Coates and Duke Williams will be able to man handle Wisconsin’s secondary. Not to mention Curtis Artis-Payne in that triple option will definitely be able to put up some yards and find the end zone multiple times in this game.
The Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) just were blown out to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big 10 championship. Not only that but their head coach Gary Andersen just bolted from that sticky situation to head west to Oregon State. While the Badgers are in a mess of issues, they still have one thing that no one in college football has; Melvin Gordon. This entire season there hasn’t been a running back who has dominated football like Gordon has on the ground. His running style will be the only reason Wisconsin is able to stay in the game for a while. Sad to say the Badgers luck will continue to drop due to all the issues in the coaching staff.
Prediction- Auburn- 34, Wisconsin- 21
BUFFALO WILD WINGS CITRUS BOWL- Missouri vs. Minnesota
Last time the Tigers were on the field, Maty Muak was blessed to have Jimmie Hunt While that’s fine and dandy, lighting never strikes twice and Mauk probably won’t be that lucky when the Missouri Tigers face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Missouri Tigers (10-3) just went to their second consecutive SEC championship last week and found themselves losing to the other Alabama school in Atlanta. The loss of Shane Ray really was a nail biter for the Tigers defense but this game he will be electrifying. The combo of Ray and Markus Golden have combined for 17.5 sacks this season. If Maty Mauk can make magic happen again, the defense will be able to hold pressure against Minnesota.
For years the Golden Gophers have been the laughing stock of the Big 10…if that’s possible, but Jerry Kill has revamped that team and has given them glimpse of being champions in the near future. Minnesota may not have any big time names on the field but they do have a great future in tight end Maxx Williams. Williams has torn up Big 10 defenses and leads the Gophers in touchdowns with seven. Still, a Big 10 defense isn’t the same as a SEC defense, and Williams can’t do it all. Minnesota still is a few players away from being a powerhouse so for that reason, the Tigers will finally get their big win.
Prediction- Missouri 30, Minnesota-20
ADVOCARE V100 TEXAS BOWL- Arkansas vs. Texas
While many fans were upset that it wasn’t the Longhorns vs Aggies, the Razorbacks are a nice constellation prize. Both teams were hot down the stretch and both coaches have earned a chance to go head to head against each other to prove who was hotter down the stretch.
The Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6) really have played better then their record appears. When playing in the toughest division in college football, shutting out two powerhouses at home defiantly is something to pay attention too. The Razorbacks will have to rely on their tag team running backs in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. These two have been dominated against very talented defenses week in and week out and definitely will be able to hold their own against a pretty average Texas defense. Leave the defense to Trey Flowers and the Razorbacks will have a chance to dominate.
The Texas Longhorns (6-6) did the best they could in the first year of the Charlie Strong era. While dismissing many players and having to deal will the end of David Ash’s career, in step Tyrone Swoop to save their season. Swoop has played above expectation for the Longhorns this season and has shown glimpse of Vince Young this year. But the key player for the Longhorn’s in on the other side of the ball in defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. Brown leads the Longhorns in tackles and sacks, in fact no one even comes close. Unfortunately for Brown, he’s one man and the dynamic duo of running backs will get the best of him as the Longhorns won’t be able to handle the Razorbacks in their own home state.
Prediction- Arkansas-34, Texas-21
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL- West Virginia vs. Texas A&M
For a part of the season, the West Virginia Mountaineers and Texas A&M Aggies actually looked like pretty decent teams who could fight for big time bowl games (remember the 15 second fame Kenny “Trill”). As time went on both teams ended up being just a tad over average and find themselves in Memphis fighting for one more win.
The Texas A&M Aggies (7-5) just couldn’t really get it together after the loss to Mississippi State to start the season. Although Kyle Allen has shown glimpses of greatness when on the field, that Texas A&M defense has been the laughing stock of the the SEC. Allen may be in too deep of water this time around.
The West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) may have beaten a great Baylor offense and even held Alabama to a close 10 point win, theres not a lot more to say about them. They however do have something that Texas A&M will find to be their achilles heel; Kevin White. White has only 9 touchdowns this year, but over 1000 yards in passing. If Clint Trickett can hit White, he’s gone. Sorry A&M but honestly, who do you have that can cover Kevin White? Because of that, expect the first loss for the SEC.
Prediction- West Virginia- 42, Texas A&M- 35
FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL- LSU vs. Notre Dame
When fans think of LSU and Notre Dame, the Music City Bowl isn’t what they expect to end up going. However with both teams losing both tight games against top opponents and blowouts in so called “easy wins”, these teams should just be lucky they’re even playing at all this bowl season.
The LSU Tigers (8-4) have been a swinging pendulum in the SEC west all season. While able to beat Ole Miss at home, they manage to get blown out by Arkansas at Fayetteville. While multiple reasons can spark to mind, the quarterback issue probably is the most reason for the struggle of the Tigers this year. Anthony Jennings is just staying in until freshman Brandon Harris can get it together. The thing is, Jennings may not be the answer at quarterback for this game and Harris might have to grow up a little bit more if the Tigers want to win.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5) have been just gut-wrenching to watch ever since that loss to Florida St all those weeks ago. Quarterback Everett Golson who at one point looked like a Hiesman contender has been a turnover machine with 8 interceptions in his last five games. With Notre Dame being ranked 79th in pass defense and Golson being lucky to get the ball off, LSU should win this game easily.
Prediction- LSU-42 Notre Dame- 20
BELK BOWL- Georgia vs. Louisville
How proper it seems for this matchup to happen after the history these two teams share. If there is one SEC game to watch other then the Sugar Bowl, all eyes should head to Charlotte as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham returns to face off against his former team.
The Georgia Bulldogs (9-3) always seem to find themselves in a game like this either by losing in the SEC championship or blowing an easy SEC win like they did against Florida . No matter, Nick Chubb has been the saving grace of the Bulldog offense since Todd Gurley went down with a torn ACL. With a dozen touchdowns and over 1000 yards, Huston Mason may want to hand it off rather then trying to pass it and possibly hurt themselves.
The Louisville Cardinals (9-3) couldn’t have made a better hire when they brought back former head coach Bobby Petrino home. Not only has Petrino kelts the Cardinals hot all season, but he has also been able to beat a SEC team whose record isn’t as bad as it may seem. With Jeremy Pruitt and Mark Richt not being able to to click with their players and Grantham knowing Georgia’s offense better then anyone else on the Cardinal’s staff, except Georgia to pull a Georgia move and fall short against an up and coming Cardinal’s team.
Prediction- Louisville- 30, Georgia- 27
CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL- Ole Miss vs. TCU
In the Peach Bowl’s first year back, fans and the committee couldn’t have ask for a better game to rechristen this famous “New Year Six” Tradition. While TCU may be sour about not getting into the playoff, the get to settle with a great constellation prize in the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Horned Frogs (11-1) have every reason to play angry in Atlanta with missing out on a chance to bring their school back a National Championship. Trevone Boykin has been the most electrifying quarterback to watch this year with how well he has moved. The TCU offense has averaged 46 points a game this year, but that was against average defensive backs.
The TCU offense vs the Ole Miss defense should be giving you dreams at night.
The self proclaimed “Land Shark“ defense at Ole Miss (10-2) has stopped major power houses all season and they can definitely slow down the Horn Frog offense no problem. Robert Kniemdiche will be able to put pressure all day on Boykin and Cody Prewitt and Tony Connor just need to be in the right place to get those mistakes. In the end, that old saying “defense wins championships” will be TCU’s downfall and give the committee some relief on making the right call.
Prediction- Ole Miss- 38, TCU-31
CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL- Mississippi St vs Georgia Tech
Sometimes a loss can be the difference in making a big game or making a decent game. For the Mississippi State Bulldogs, that’s all their historic season will be remembered by as they face off against the runner ups of the ACC in the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Missisppi State Bulldogs (10-2) still have so much left to play for even after the losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. Dak Prescott has still played great and now has all the pressure off his back to preform even better. If he can just take his time and get the ball off to Derunnya Wilson and Jameon Lewis, Prescott should handle the Yellow Jackets defense like it was LSU’s.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2) have made a huge turn around in 2014 under Paul Johnson. The triple offense has been able to confuse defenses for years, but probably no more then under Justin Thomas. While Thomas may be able to give the Yellow Jackets some hope, Bernardick McKinney will lead the Bulldogs to the most over power matchup of the bowl season.
Prediction- Mississippi State- 45, Georgia Tech- 13
TAXSLAYER BOWL- Tennessee vs. Iowa
It may seem like forever ago since the Volunteers were in a bowl game but believe it or not, Tennessee has made it back to bowl season for the first time since 2010.
The Vols (6-6) have shown pieces of becoming a powerhouse team like they were in the 90’s but just are missing the spark. Since Butch Jones arrived in 2013, his greatest accomplishment has been in finding quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Since Dobb’s start against Alabama, he’s thrown eight touchdowns and won three crucial SEC games. The issue for Tennessee won’t be Dobbs but rather who is protecting him, and for how long.
The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) really has disappeared this season as the Big 10 has basically been all about Melvin Gordon and JT Barrett. While Iowa hasn’t dominated in any game this season, Kirk Frientz has been able to give them a winning record. Expect this to be the lowest scoring game of all the SEC games, but a run by Josh Dobbs in the final minutes seals a win for the ever growing Vols.
Prediction- Tennessee-20, Iowa-13
BIRMINGHAM BOWL- Florida vs. East Carolina
While the future looks bright for Florida under new head coach Jim McElwain, he’ll have to wait until next year to start coaching instead of next month in Birmingham. The Florida Gators may have made it into a bowl game, but they definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on East Carolina.
The Florida Gators (6-5) at one point looked like they had a chance at the SEC East title, but that was all smoke and mirrors in the end. While rookie Treone Harris has seemed to look like the future of the quarterback position, he will defiantly need to play smart if they plan to stand a chance in the passing game.
The East Carolina Pirates (8-4) on paper look like the better team but still have many issues up against them. Of course playing in the AAC is very sub-par compared to the SEC, the Pirates did have some success by hanging in close with the South Carolina Gamecocks in week 2. Shane Carden has been the answer for East Carolina this season and he will have to be lights out against a quick pass rush in Dante Fowler Jr. In the end, Carden will play great but that doesn’t always mean a win. Expect something big from Vernon Hargreaves as the Gators end the season with a win and look to regroup in the offseason.
Prediction- Florida-24 East Carolina-20
Cole Thompson is the Lead Sports Writer for WVUA-FM. Follow him on Twitter at @ColeThompson32