SEC Football: What We Learned in the Jan. 2 Bowl Games
Jan. 2 provided SEC football fans with three more bowl-game viewing opportunities.
It is a shame (and pretty ridiculous) that all three games were on at the same time across the ABC/ESPN networks. However, switching between the three games gave us fast and furious action all afternoon long.
Florida edged out Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
South Carolina blew out Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
Georgia lost in three overtimes to Michigan State.
All three games gave us tidbits of information about each program as well as peeks into 2012.
Click through the slideshow to see what we learned...
Richt Cost Georgia a Win
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With a 16-point lead at halftime and all the momentum, Richt and Georgia coaches failed to keep their players keyed up for the second half.
Michigan State stormed back in the game and sent the matchup to overtime.
However, overtime is where Richt made his worst mistakes.
In the first overtime Georgia, via an interception by talented Bulldog safety Bacarri Rambo, took the ball away from the Spartans and simply needed a field goal to win the ball game.
In a curious move, Mark Richt elected to run the ball to the outside with Georgia's smallest back on the first play. A play that gained just over one yard.
Richt then had quarterback Aaron Murray step back, take the ball to the middle of the field and take a knee to set up a field goal.
Then on third down he elected to kick a long 42-yard kick with a field goal kicker that has missed twelve kicks this year.
If you only wanted it centered? Why run to the outside on the first play?
If you want to kick early, why kneel and lose yardage backward with a kneel play on second down? Wouldn't a lean forward have worked better.
Why not take first and second down and pound the ball forward and protect the ball?
Even if it is just one or two yards per run, the kick could have been from 38 or 39, instead of 42. Seems like quite a difference to me. Especially considered the kicker.
Coach Richt mad a bonehead mistake on this drive and with these calls and just may have cost Georgia the victory.
Aaron Murray Doesn't Deliver for UGA
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With 288 passing yards in the game, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had a pretty productive day.
However, he threw two costly interceptions, including an ugly pass returned for a touchdown by Michigan State in the third quarter.
That pick six brought the Spartans within two points of Georgia late in the third quarter and let Michigan State back into the game.
Murray really disappointed me in overtime where he was unable to lead his Bulldogs to a first down, much less a score.
In overtime, Murray was a poor 0-4 passing, rushed for negative two yards and was sacked for a four yard loss.
Georgia needed Murray to be a star today and lead the Bulldogs to a victory. In the end he could not deliver.
Murray may have a bright future at UGA but this season he is 0-4 against teams now ranked in the top 20 in the nation.
He will need to step up in big games next season for Georgia to reach their full potential.
Connor Shaw Effective in South Carolina Offense
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South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier has been frustrated all season by ineffective quarterback play.
Whether it was Stephen Garcia early in the season or Connor Shaw in later games, Gamecock QBs have struggled at times throughout the year.
In the big Capital One Bowl win over a good Nebraska team, Spurrier got solid play from quarterback Connor Shaw.
The young quarterback showed promise for the future by avoiding costly turnovers, ending the game with zero interceptions.
He also showed he can throw the ball, passing for a solid 230 yards on the day. He connected with big wide out Alshon Jeffery, who had seemed to be forgotten in the Gamecock offense in some games this season, for several big plays in the game.
Adding 42 yards of rushing, Shaw lead a nice effort by the South Carolina offense against a capable Cornhusker defense.
Lorenzo Ward Solid at Defensive Coordinator for the Gamecocks
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South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier named Lorenzo Ward, already on the Gamecocks defensive staff, as defensive coordinator.
In his first game as coordinator, Ward's unit impressed.
The Gamecock defense created two key turnovers and held Nebraska to a low 253 offensive yards.
South Carolina allowed just 116 passing yards and 137 passing yards on the day and gave up just one offensive touchdown in the game. Those kind of defensive numbers will win you plenty of football games.
Losing solid defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who took the head coaching job at Southern Miss, had the potential to dampen expectations in Columbia.
However, with Ward sliding in and running the show effectively in the bowl game against a quality opponent, the expectations may should be high.
Muschamp Leads Florida to Needed Win
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No coach wants to start their era at a major program with a losing record.
Will Muschamp may never say it publicly, but he wanted this win badly.
Muschamp is extremely competitive and knows this win will help cool off his seat a bit (just a bit) and kick start his second season as the Gators head man.
He will use the victory as a springboard for recruiting and speak of it as he makes the rounds to booster clubs across the state.
Muschamp needed this win and the program needed this win.
7-6 efforts won't help you last long in Gainesville, but 6-7 records could get you gone even faster.
Where Is the Young Talent on Offense for the Gators?
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As I watched the Florida versus Ohio State game, I couldn't help but notice that almost everyone that touched the ball was a senior.
Quarterback John Brantley played every snap. He is a senior.
Running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are seniors and they received a huge bulk of the carries in the Gator Bowl. They ran for 23 of the 33 carries by a Gator back.
Rainey was the leading receiver too, with three catches.
The other top wide out, with two grabs for 40 yards, was 22 year old junior Omar Hines.
Why not play some younger guys?
More carries for sophomore Trey Burton?
Why not give a few snaps to another QB?
Throw the ball to some young receivers like freshmman Quinton Dunbar or tight end A.C. Leonard?
The guys the Gators used in this game are now gone. In 2012 they will have to lean on players that received very little, if any, experience in bowl play.
Curious plan by Florida.