The SEC enters another bowl season with an impressive 10 teams qualified for postseason play (sorry, ‘Dores and Rebel Bears). We, SEC fans, always take pride in the performance of our conference, hoping to beat the Big 10/11/12 as often as possible and simply reinforce in the minds of all Americans what we’ve always known to be true- that the SEC is the best in the land. For the fourth straight year we have a conference team playing for the national title. There are four opportunities to remind the Big 10/11/12 that they are slow and fat. There are two chances to put the “parity=mediocrity” ACC in their place. And of course the Dawgs can claim supremacy over the C-USA with a win in Memphis, woohoo!
Here are some brief predictions on each SEC bowl, just in time for bowls to kick off this weekend (and the good ones to start in three weeks);
Tennessee vs. North Carolina- This seemed very unlikely for the Vols at one point (namely, late October), but their fight back to 6-6 has been rewarded with a virtual home game in Nashville. Scanning the UT schedule this year it’s not hard to realize that they never beat a legitimately good team (Kentucky is the only bowl-eligible team they defeated). But I think Bray will continue to play well and the “home field” advantage will give the Vols the win over a UNC team that has disappointed all year long.
Georgia vs. UCF- We’ll have a full preview of this game closer to the 31st, but I’ll let the cat out of the bag- the Dawgs aren’t losing this game. Since the SEC and C-USA have been matched up in this contest the SEC is yet to drop a game. UCF had a great season, but didn’t beat anyone from an AQ conference, though they played Kansas State and NC State close. I don’t predict a dominating win, but the difference in talent level will be too much for the Knights.
South Carolina vs. Florida State- This is basically the consolation prize for the losers of the SEC and ACC championship games. It’s been a great season for USC, but since Spurrier arrived they have severely underperformed in bowl games. After getting blown out by Auburn you have to wonder how they’ll respond. You also have to wonder if their fans will be excited to return to Atlanta for the second time in a month. It’s no more than a gut feeling, but I think the Noles will win this ballgame.
Alabama vs. Michigan State- The first of four straight SEC-Big 10/11/12 matchups pits Saban against one of his former teams. Though Michigan State was a co-champion of their conference, Bama, who finished fourth in their division, is a heavy favorite. And while Orlando is certainly not where Bama hoped to spend the holidays, Saban-coached teams rarely come out flat. The Tide should roll in this one. SEC: 1 Big 10/11/12: 0.
Florida vs. Penn State- You can never be sure how a team going through a coaching transition will play in a bowl game. And what’s going on at Florida right now is especially unusual. I’d love to pick Penn State, but when you look at who they beat this year it’s impossible to justify. In the end the Gators will pull it out to send Meyer out on top. When Mike Pouncey and Ahmad Black carry him off on their shoulders try not to jump for joy or throw up in your mouth, whichever your impulse might be.
Mississippi State vs. Michigan- Like the spread? If so, this is the game for you. Mullen and Rodriguez run very different versions on if, but both have been offensive innovators since the spread hit college football. It will be a good chance for us SEC fans to see the phenom that is Denard Robinson. The difference between these two teams is that Mississippi State has a defense, and a pretty good one at that thanks to new DC Manny Diaz. The other Dogs should get a win in that Jacksonville stadium where our Dawgs so rarely taste victory.
Ohio State vs. Arkansas- To me, this is one of the more intriguing games involving an SEC team. Arkansas has slipped into the Sugar Bowl for the first time as an SEC member to face An Ohio State University that all SEC fans love beating. This game is really a toss-up but I think Mallett’s arm and Ohio State’s mental block when it comes to SEC teams will give the Hogs a memorable end to a memorable season. And in case, you’ve been scoring at home, that’s SEC: 4 Big 10/11/12:0.
LSU vs. Texas A&M- Outside of the BCS Title game I think this will be the best bowl game featuring an SEC team, and one of the best overall. Two rabid fanbases, both within driving distance of Dallas, and two very good teams facing off in the JerryDome. TAMU hasn’t lost since switching quarterback mid-season and is a much better team than the one the Dawgs played in Shreveport last year. But LSU’s only losses were close games with teams that made BCS bowls. As crazy as it sounds LSU may be disappointed to be here. In a toss-up I’m taking the Aggies. On a side-note, I just realized I’ll be in Dallas for work while this game is played- if by chance you’ve got connections to any tickets help a blogger out!
Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky- Pitt failed to be any good for the third straight year under Dave Wannstedt so they fall into the hard to predict, coach-less team category. On the other hand, the reality that Kentucky is in a bowl game is evidence that teams should have to play somebody decent in their non-conference schedule. This is undoubtedly the least interesting SEC game, but I’ll give it to the Wildcats solely because they have Randall Cobb.
Oregon vs. Auburn- I’m in a dilemma. For a few years my stance has been that I’d cheer for any SEC team in bowls except for Florida. And this SEC streak of national champions really is great. But I’m so over Auburn. If they lose and the NCAA takes the season away, their fans don’t have to experience the agony of a title taken away (which I would very much enjoy watching). If they win and the NCAA doesn’t vacate the season then they get the dream season every fanbase fantasizes about. Regardless of my internal conflict, we should be glad we’re getting to see the two best teams, two unbeatens face off. In the end I think Auburn’s magic lasts one more game and the Tiger Eagles come out on top.
Those predictions give the SEC an 8-2 bowl record. Not too shabby. Realistically a 10-0 sweep isn’t out of the question. Only Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas are underdogs in Vegas and none by more than 3 points.
What are your thoughts? Was I too generous to the SEC or do we have a shot at the sweep?