Bowl Schedule 2010: 10 Legitimate Reasons Why SEC Will Have a Losing Bowl Season
Since the Florida Gators defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, the SEC has reigned as the supreme conference in college football.
The conference has claimed the last four national titles, and the SEC Championship Game has become a de facto national semifinal matchup.
And despite having 10 of its 12 schools receive bowl berths, the seemingly untouchable conference, particularly the SEC East, has had a down year.
Here are 10 legitimate reasons why each bowling SEC squad could lose their postseason game.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee Volunteers
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Why Tennessee Could Lose: The Volunteers are 1-6 against bowl-eligible teams in 2010.
Let's face it, while the Tennessee Volunteers have vastly improved over the course of the season, they are still very far from where head coach Derek Dooley wants them to be.
True freshman quarterback Tyler Bray (1,537 yards, 14 touchdowns) has been a revelation as the starter, but other than that, the Vols don't have much going for them.
The six teams Tennessee defeated this season (Tennessee-Martin, UAB, Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky) have a combined 20-51 record, and only the Wildcats will go bowling this year.
The North Carolina Tar Heels may be merely 7-5, but they have a very talented team and a very sharp coach in Butch Davis.
Also, the Volunteers' No. 82 pass defense (229.3 yards per game) will likely struggle to stop the Tar Heels' air attack, led by senior quarterback T.J. Yates (3,184 yards, 18 touchdowns).
Don't be surprised if an SEC squad falls to an ACC opponent in Nashville for a second consecutive season.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs
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Why Georgia Could Lose: The UCF Knights know how to control the clock.
George O'Leary's squad may play in Conference USA, but when you look at their numbers, it's hard to refute that the Knights have a great plan to win.
First, UCF has a stellar defense that ranks No. 12 in scoring defense (18.0 points per game) and No. 18 total defense (318.1 yards per game) nationally.
Add in the fact that the Knights surrender just 17.2 first downs per game, and you have a defense that is aggressive and gets the opposition off the field quickly.
And that's when UCF's game plan really goes to work.
Offensively, the Knights wear their opponents down in the run game with quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey and running backs Ronnie Weaver and Latavius Murray (1,969 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns combined).
Making matters worse for the Bulldogs is that their rush defense ranks No. 60 nationally and yields 149.2 yards per game.
If Georgia doesn't get out in front early, UCF will make it a very long day for Uga and Co.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina Gamecocks
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Why South Carolina Could Lose: The Gamecocks have a poor pass defense.
With former Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier taking on the Florida State Seminoles, the anticipation is high for this New Year's Eve bowl matchup.
Pitting the losers of the SEC and ACC Championship Games, the Chick-fil-A Bowl looks like it will be one of the better bowl games this season.
Spurrier made a name for himself as a head coach by running a high-powered air attack, but a disadvantage in that category could potentially be South Carolina's downfall in Atlanta.
The Gamecocks rank No. 107 nationally in pass defense (253.6 yards per game), which could spell trouble for USC's plans to stop Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder.
Also, if South Carolina falls behind, passing will be problematic for Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia (2,816 yards, 20 touchdowns) because the Seminoles rank second in the country with 46.0 sacks.
South Carolina has relied heavily on true freshman halfback Marcus Lattimore and a strong running game in 2010 and they need to control the clock and keep the 'Noles' offense off the field if they want to give Spurrier his sixth career win against Florida State.
Outback Bowl: Florida Gators
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Why Florida Could Lose: The Gators are shaky at the quarterback position.
This year's Outback Bowl is a game of big names and little substance, and when the dust settles, there may not be much scoring.
Penn State and Florida have both been awful offensively in 2010, ranking No. 68 (374.1 yards per game) and No. 80 (356.8 yards per game) nationally in total offense, respectively.
The difference comes down to the quarterback position and that factor will likely decide this game.
The Gators have tinkered with a three-quarterback system featuring John Brantley, Trey Burton, and Jordan Reed that, for the most part, has suffered due to predictability and a lack of consistency.
The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, have found a solid option with sophomore quarterback Matthew McGloin, who has thrown for 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns since taking over as the starter after freshman Robert Bolden suffered a concussion.
Penn State's stability at quarterback, combined with a strong and reliable running back in Evan Royster (also something Florida lacks), brings a nice balance to their offense that the Gators cannot match.
Capital One Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide
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Why Alabama Could Lose: The Tide's running game can be shut down and they're nothing without it.
With arguably the nation's best one-two punch in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, the Crimson Tide are a force to be reckoned with offensively.
The duo of Ingram and Richardson led the 'Bama ground game to an average of 209.8 rushing yards per game in their nine victories this season, but in their three losses, it was quite a different story.
In games against South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn, Alabama averaged just 69 yards on the ground per game and scored four total rushing touchdowns in those three contests.
Michigan State ranks No. 20 nationally in rush defense (121.9 yards per game) and has given up just 10 touchdowns on the ground, which is tied for the sixth-best mark in the NCAA.
Stopping the Crimson Tide's rushing attack is a really tall order, but the Spartans are up to the task.
Progressive Gator Bowl: Mississippi State Bulldogs
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Why Mississippi State Could Lose: Denard Robinson is tough to bottle up.
Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson burst onto the scene in September as an early frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, and for good reason.
Despite racking up 3,959 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns this season, Robinson missed out on a trip to New York due to some struggles with injuries and the Wolverines' so-so record.
However, that won't discourage a healthy Robinson from proving his worth against a tough SEC defense like the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Dan Mullen's team did a good job of containing Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton earlier this season in a 17-14 loss, but they may have a more difficult time catching the swifter and quicker Robinson.
Also, with his job potentially on the line, expect Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez to pull out all the stops to get his eighth victory of the season.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Arkansas Razorbacks
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Why Arkansas Could Lose: Ohio State has the best defense the Razorbacks will see this season.
Led by gunslinging junior quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Arkansas Razorbacks are one of the country's most prolific scoring teams, boasting the nation's No. 3 pass offense (338.4 yards per game).
And if they thought going toe-to-toe with top SEC defenses like LSU and Alabama was difficult, they're in for a special treat with the Buckeye defense.
Ohio State has arguably the best defense in the country, ranking second in total defense (250.6 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (13.3 points per game).
But the most important stat is the Buckeyes' pass defense, which ranks as the nation's fourth-best unit (156.3 yards per game).
If Ohio State's secondary wins the battle against the Razorbacks' talented receiving corps, then the Buckeyes will finally win their first BCS game against an SEC opponent.
AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU Tigers
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Why LSU Could Lose: The Tigers are very one-dimensional on offense.
With just one game left in his junior season, it's hard to believe how big of a disappointment Jordan Jefferson has been.
In a season where strong leadership and just average play probably would have the Bayou Bengals in Glendale to play for the national title, Jefferson threw just four touchdown passes against nine picks.
So, LSU instead has had to rely on the legs of running back Stevan Ridley (1,042 yards, 14 touchdowns) and a great defense led by star cornerback and kick returner Patrick Peterson.
The bad news for the Tiger offense is that Ridley may be ineligible for the AT&T Cotton Bowl due to an academic violation that is awaiting the results of an appeal.
But even if LSU does have Ridley, they'll face a difficult task in moving the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies' defense, which ranks No. 14 nationally in rush defense (117 yards per game).
The Tiger defense is great, but if relied on too heavily, it may become too much for Peterson and Co. to handle.
BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky Wildcats
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Why Kentucky Could Lose: Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis will run all over the Wildcats.
In his first two seasons as a college football player, Lewis has been an offensive force for the Panthers, racking up 2,755 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns for Pitt.
And with all due respect to the Kentucky Wildcats, Lewis has probably been salivating since he learned which team the Panthers would be facing in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The Wildcats, the nation's No. 80 rush defense (204.1 yards per game), have surrendered 28 rushing touchdowns and have had eight different players rush for 100 yards or more against them in 2010.
The Kentucky offense is actually quite capable of putting up points, but without quarterback Mike Hartline (3,178 yards, 23 touchdowns), who was suspended after his arrest for disorderly conduct and public intoxication, the Panthers can easily gain control of this game.
The Panthers want to play their style of football and keep the Wildcats' lone remaining game-changer Randall Cobb (2,250 all-purpose yards, 16 total touchdowns) on the sidelines as long as they can.
Tostitos BCS Championship Game: Auburn Tigers
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Why Auburn Could Lose: The Oregon Ducks can outscore the Tigers.
Leading Auburn into the BCS Championship Game is none other than Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (3,998 yards of total offense, 48 touchdowns), who was just voted the nation's best player in a landslide victory.
However, the Tigers are a one-man team.
Granted, other Auburn players have risen to the occasion and played on a championship level this season, but without Newton, the Tigers don't win the SEC this year.
Oregon, on the other hand, is a very well-rounded football team.
Not only do the Ducks score a lot (a nation-leading 49.3 points per game), but they also keep their opposition out of the end zone, yielding just 18.4 points per game (No. 14 in the country).
Also, they have multiple options on offense ranging from quarterback Darron Thomas (2,518 yards, 28 touchdowns) to running back LaMichael James (1,682 yards, 21 touchdowns) to wide receiver Jeff Maehl (68 catches, 943 yards, 12 touchdowns).
If Oregon can keep Newton from rolling out and finding space to run, they can at least slow down the Auburn offense like Mississippi State, Clemson, and LSU did.