Why the SEC Is Bound to Sweep All Its Bowl Matchups
It's that time of year again when anti-SEC fans unite in vitriol against the best conference in the nation, in hopes that the SEC will finally falter in postseason play.
Let's end the suspense right now—it won't.
As a matter of fact, there is a very real possibility that the conference could sweep this bowl season, providing a very nice holiday gift for fans of the conference.
Read on for a rundown of SEC bowl games, along with the way each team can win its bowl game. It might be easier for the conference to go undefeated this bowl season than you would imagine.
The only thing that would make this better for SEC fans is if Big Ten teams were underdogs in all their bowl games.
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. N.C. State (7-5)
Game Info: Music City Bowl, December 31, Noon, ESPN
Yep, Vanderbilt is in a bowl game for the second time in two seasons. Head coach James Franklin has done a great job of getting this program headed in the right direction.
The Commodores are not flashy, they do not overwhelm teams, and they don't have the kind of star power that certain other SEC programs boast.
But they are a steady, balanced team that is efficient in the run and pass game.
The 'Dores averaged 170 yards rushing per game this season and 222.2 passing, which gives you and idea of the team's balanced offensive approach.
But it's on defense where this team's bread is buttered. Vandy is allowing only 18.3 points per game and has allowed seven or fewer points in three contests this season.
N.C. State has some coaching changes to deal with, and against a defense that can be terribly stingy, that is not a recipe for success.
The 'Dores may not be a premier SEC team, but they spent the season playing against such opponents and know what it takes to get it done.
LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2)
Game Info: Chick-fil-A Bowl, December 31, 7:30 pm, ESPN
"Clemson's 10-2 record is so much more impressive than LSU's 10-2 record." — No one, ever.
Yes, Clemson has a great offense with incredibly good receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Yes, Tajh Boyd has been incredible at quarterback this season, racking up over 3,550 yards and 34 passing touchdowns.
But Clemson's two losses have come against opponents featuring great defensive lines—Florida State and South Carolina.
Guess what LSU's position of strength just happens to be?
Throw in the fact that LSU has faced a much tougher schedule and Les Miles' anemic offense might even wind up looking good against a woeful Clemson defense.
Clemson was pummeled last season in the Orange Bowl by West Virginia, 70-33.
While this one won't be that bad, if Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery find any level of success rushing the passer, it won't be pretty.
Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3)
Game Info: Gator Bowl, January 1, 12:30 pm, ESPN2
This is going to be one of the toughest games for the SEC to win.
Pat Fitzgerald has the Wildcats rolling, and their 9-3 record is the team's best since 2008.
Behind running back Venric Mark, the Wildcats feature a strong rushing attack that averages over 230 yards on the ground per contest.
Here's the real problem: The Bulldogs have yet to beat an FBS team with a winning record this season.
As a matter of fact, the combined record of the FBS teams they did beat is 16-44.
Northwestern has not exactly beaten a murderers' row of teams this season, but MSU has struggled with any team that is better than atrocious, and the Wildcats are definitely that.
Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3)
Game Info: Capital One Bowl, January 1, 1:00 pm, ABC
Both of these teams lost their conference championship games, but the similarities end there.
Georgia came within four yards of beating Alabama and heading to the national title game; Nebraska was embarrassed 70-31 by Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Georgia deserves a BCS berth and stood toe-to-toe with Alabama to prove it.
Nebraska gave up an astonishing 539 yards on the ground against Wisconsin and now must try and stop the dynamic duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Not good—at least, not for the Huskers.
Gurley and Marshall have combined for 24 rushing touchdowns already this season and the Georgia offense, unlike Wisconsin, features a quarterback that will punish defenses for cheating up on the line of scrimmage.
Expect a blowout in this one.
South Carolina (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4)
Game Info: Outback Bowl, January 1, 1:00 pm, ESPN
South Carolina is yet another SEC team that lost two or fewer games. And yet, the best they can do is the Outback Bowl against a four-loss Michigan team.
This is another game that could be over by the end of the first quarter.
Michigan has started Devin Gardner at quarterback for the last few games of the season, so there is no telling for sure if he or Denard Robinson will be starting at quarterback.
Either way, the Wolverines have not played well this season against opponents with stout defenses.
Alabama decimated them in the season opener 41-14. The Wolverines followed that up with losses to Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame, all teams that feature solid defensive lines.
South Carolina boasts, arguably, the best defensive line in the nation led by Jadeveon Clowney, who put up monster stats:
Jadeveon Clowney ends the regular season with 21.5 tackles for loss, 2nd nationally. He also had 13 sacks, tied for 1st in the nation. #SEC— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) December 4, 2012
No matter who plays quarterback, it's going to be a long introduction to 2013 for the Wolverines.
Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2)
Game Info: Sugar Bowl, January 1, 8:30 pm, ESPN
In what universe is this even close to an appealing matchup?
Yes, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has had a great year and has the potential to provide plenty of highlights. But this is a Florida defense that absolutely dominates opponents.
The Gators have spent this season beating everyone in their way, with the exception of Georgia. Meanwhile, Louisville fell to the likes of Syracuse and UConn.
The Cardinals are just not on the same level as the Gators, and that's not a slight to the Cardinals players, it's just a fact.
While Louisville had to win its final game of the season to even sneak into a BCS bowl, Florida plowed through top-flight competition.
The mismatches on the edges are all in Florida's favor and will lead to a big, big win for Will Muschamp's team in the Sugar Bowl.
Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)
Game Info: AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 4, 8:00 pm, FOX
This one is going to be interesting.
Johnny Manziel and the upstart Texas A&M Aggies meet an opponent from their old conference, Oklahoma.
The Sooners fell just short of winning the Big 12 and were squeezed out of the BCS by Northern Illinois when the Huskies nabbed an at-large BCS bid.
Both teams have something to prove, each has an excellent quarterback, and each will be looking to continue some positive momentum heading into the offseason.
Oklahoma lost to Notre Dame and Kansas State, both teams with mobile quarterbacks. It's not a stretch to think that this Sooners defense, which has been porous at times, will struggle to slow Manziel as well.
Ole Miss (6-6) vs. Pitt (6-6)
Game Info: BBVA Compass Bowl, January 5, 1:00 pm, ESPN
If you are not a fan of either of these teams, you will skip this game unless you are absolutely desperate for some college football...any college football on January 5.
Two .500 teams battling it out in a bad bowl game is not the ideal way to spend three hours.
Better ways to spend that time include cleaning the garage, poking yourself in the eye and watching The Bachelor reruns. But somebody has to win, and the way the Rebels can do so is by stopping the run.
Pitt's Ray Graham is the catalyst for the Panthers offense, and stopping him will be key to the Rebels' success.
On the surface, this seems like an even matchup, but Ole Miss is vastly improved over last season's woeful squad. The Rebels have stood toe-to-toe with top competition and fallen just short in the SEC.
This game is not even going to be close, in favor of the Rebels.
Alabama (12-1) vs. Notre Dame (12-0)
Game Info: BCS National Championship Game, January 7, 8:30 pm, ESPN
It's the game to end all games. The two most storied programs in the country face off in the national title game for the crystal ball.
Here's how the Tide win: contain Everett Golson and Theo Riddick and run the ball on offense, early and often. That's it.
Notre Dame's competition has been questionable, no doubt, but they have found ways to stay undefeated.
The teams that have come closest to beating them, Pitt and Stanford, have great power rushing games they used against the Irish.
While Manti Te'o and the rest of the Irish front seven pose a difficult proposition, Alabama moved the ball at times against Georgia in the SEC title game, and Notre Dame's front seven is very similar.
If the Tide don't get away from running the ball, they will win this game by at least a touchdown.
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