The blessing of bowl season in the SEC is that you don’t have to overdo it with SEC previews until pretty much the last minute. Well, thank God for the NFL Sabbath, which gave yours truly a little more chance to digest some (more) turkey and adult beverages and put together his SEC preview. And don’t worry: We haven’t forgotten you, Auburn. We are just doing yours seperately.

MONDAY DECEMBER 30TH

 MUSIC CITY BOWL: OLE MISS VS GEORGIA TECH 

Georgia Tech and Ole Miss ended the season in heartbreaking fashion. Georgia Tech by giving up a 20-point lead over hated rivals Georgia, and then losing in double overtime, while Ole Miss quarterunning backack Bo Wallace fumbled on his way to the end zone in overtime in the Egg Bowl, and Ole Miss lost against hated rivals Mississippi State. In other words, both had two stinging losses to end the year.

During the year, Ole Miss had last minute wins against Vanderunning backilt and LSU, and last minute losses to MSU and Texas A&M, as well as kicking Texas in the ‘Horns, although if you’re really honest, you’d say that the team was pretty mediocre this  year (see 3-5 SEC record for details). As for Georgia Tech,  their top win of the season was a 28-20 win over North Carolina….and they lost who they should have lost to, and beat who they were meant to beat. Although we’d argue that if wins over Elon and Alabama A&M ensure that a team gets a spot in a bowl game, we need to talk about the bowl system.

Ole Miss is a 3-point favorite (thanks to its tougher schedule and the fact that it’s got better players – on paper – than Tech). But to win, they are going to have to stop Georgia Tech’s triple option rushing offence. And hope their QB Bo Wallace doesn’t make any more mistakes going into the end zone.

BOTTOM LINE: We’re taking Ole Miss to win, and win by a touchdown.

LIBERTY BOWL: MISSISSIPPI STATE VS RICE

Mississippi State fans are on a high after beating Ole Miss in their end-of-season game. And despite the fortuitous nature of their victory, they actually outplayed their hated rivals, and it would have been unfair on them if Ole Miss had gone home with the victory.

This season, MSU has struggled to have anyone on their feet, and it’s not been helped by a poor defense and injuries to QB Tyler Russell and a loss of talent to the NFL last year.

On the other side of the ball, they face a Rice team who won Conference USA, going 10-3 and has a four-game winning streak going. Rice is used to battling unfriendly atmospheres and doing well in the process, after giving Texas A&M everything it could handle in Week 1. They’ll face one in Memphis against a Mississippi State fanbase that brings cowbells to the game (yes, you read that one right).

This is going to be closer than many expect.

Mississippi State’s a 7-point favorite.

BOTTOM LINE: We’re going to take MSU to win, but it’s going to be UNDER the seven point spread. This Rice team’s pretty good, folks.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL: TEXAS A&M vs DUKE

This year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl will be a chance for the Texas A&M faithful to  “Thanks for the memories” to quarterunning backack Johnny Manziel, who launched A&M into the stratosphere last year with his arrival on the scene. He’s expected to bolt for the NFL in the off-season. They’ll also get a chance to say: “No thanks for the memories” to their goddawful defense, which has been vomitous to watch all year long, and was a major reason for the Aggies’ lack of BCS or New Year’s Day Bowl this year. Of course, the offence struggled at the end of the year

Anyway, A&M has a ton of weapons, and is widely expected to smash a Duke side which just announced that its offensive co-ordinator Kurt Roper is off to Florida to take the OC job. Roper, along with Peyton Manning’s favorite coach head coach David Cutcliffe), helped to take the Blue Devils to their first division title in their history, before they were schellacked by Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Both Duke (24th) and A&M (21ST) will be ranked going into their

If it’s NFL-ready talent you want to watch, make sure you pay attention to Aggies WR Mike Evans, who is something special. Oh, and if you want some fun, watch Johnny Manziel, too.

BOTTOM LINE: Texas A&M’s a 11-1/2 point favorite. We like Texas A&M – despite its  horrible ‘D’- by 17. 

 WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1ST, 2014

 GATOR BOWL: NEBRASKA VS GEORGIA 

There are a lot of coaches on the hot seat, and Nebraska’s Bo Pellini’s on it. In fact, he’s been on it all season. His most memorable performances included mocking the team’s loyal fanbase, or a photo of spittle flying out of his mouth as he berated as a referee in the Cornhuskers’ end-of-season loss to Iowa.

Georgia coach Mark Richt, on the other side, has managed to keep the wolves away from his door, which is strange bearing in mind how much flak he gets from the Bulldogs tormented and tormenting fanbase. Unfortunately for Richt, injuries have hurt his team all season long, and it even affected his star QB Aaron Murray, who blew out his knee against Kentucky and will be replaced by Hutson Mason in the Gator Bowl.

The game’s going to be all about the running escapades of Todd Gurley, who’s one of the best running backs in the game, and Ameer Abdullah for Nebraska, who put up 1,500 yards for the Huskers. It should be pretty interesting – particularly with two defenses who are – to be polite – pretty adept at not being able to stop the run (Georgia gives up 141 yds per game vs Nebraska’s 161), or simply being bad (Georgia’s 80th in the country in points given up to Nebraska’s 55th….in each of their losses the Huskers gave up over 30 points).

Skybet makes Georgia a nine-point favorite. What, without the Murray factor?

BOTTOM LINE: Go with Georgia on the nose, we’re not confident about the Bulldogs and the spread. However, take the ‘over’ on the total points of 60.5. This is going to be FUN.

OUTBACK BOWL: LSU vs IOWA 

LSU’s missing starting QB Zach Mettenberger for this clash against Iowa after his left knee went against Arkansas on the final game of the season. He’ll be replaced by Anthony Jennings, who led them on a game-winning drive. But will he be able to do the same against an Iowa side that’s won it’s last three, including wins over Michigan and on the road at Nebraska?

One thing’s for certain: Jennings has weapons. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are two future NFL wide receivers (in other words: They are brilliant), and Jeremy Hill, his RB, is effective. We think that Les Miles might try and put Jennings through the air – Iowa’s got the 17th best rush ‘D’ in the country, and 11th best pass ‘D’…and the 11th over all.

On the offence, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is going to look to chew up clock, so expect running back Mark Wiseman to see a lot of the ball, although in short yardage, tight end CJ Fiedorowitz is going to cause a fairly leaky LSU defense some problems, but will Iowa’s defense be able to stop LSU’s talent- especially with Iowa giving up 20 TDs this year through the air, and the fact that opponents have scored 22 times in 26 Red Zone attempts (to have 26 Red Zone attempts at them all year says a lot for the ‘D’, right?).

LSU’s a seven-point favorite in The .341 Bowl, by the way.

BOTTOM LINE: We like LSU to win (they’ve got more athleticism), but we think it might be by a field goal. This one’s going to be a defensive war.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL: SOUTH CAROLINA VS WISCONSIN 

The last time Jadeveon Clowney was in a bowl game, he nearly beheaded a Michigan player in a play that became the soundtrack for the off-season. But after 12 weeks of 2013, you could say that Clowney’s season was pretty mediocre, where injuries and a seeming loss of self-belief (or effort, if you believe the cynics) hampered progress. In fact, the quickest he looked all season was when he collected two speeding tickets in about a month recently! Saying all that, South Carolina still had the 11th best defense in the country.

But this game’s going to be much more than Clowney’s Carolina Swansong. Wisconsin comes to Orlando ready to play with one of the best running back duos in the nation in Melvin Gordon and James White. Both had 1,300 plus seasons on the floor. South Carolina brings their own ground threats, with 1,100 yard rusher Mike Davis and QB Connor Shaw, who’s one of the most elusive players at his position in the country. Oh, and Shaw’s got a good arm, too (2,100 yards passing, 21 TDs, just 1 INT). I would trust Shaw with a fourth-quarter drive much more than Badgers’ QB Joel Stave, despite his 1,000-yard receiver  Jared Abbrederis.

Expect Chris Borland, Wisconsin’s star linebacker who will also be making a lot of money in the NFL. He’s had 45 tackles in his last four games, and led a Wisconsin defense that was fifth-best in the country at rushing defense (and 5th best over all).

Wisconsin’s a 1-1/2 point favorite in this one.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a battle of great defenses, and on the other side of the ball, great rushers. We’re going to go with South Carolina in the mild upset for one reason only: Connor Shaw. Expect Shaw to cause trouble. We’ll also take the ‘under’ on 51 points as a score total, because shoot-out, this won’t be.

SUGAR BOWL: ALABAMA VS OKLAHOMA

Alabama probably should be playing for a National Championship Game this year. But if it wasn’t for the Field Goal Return That Changed The World against Auburn, they probably would have done….and been favorites to take home their third straight National Championship.

In this game against Oklahoma, there is no doubt in my mind that Alabama coach Nick Saban will have his team prepared to play an Oklahoma team who got into the BCS more because of its excellent support than its excellent play during the year (see the fact that they were routed by Texas and Baylor for details).

Alabama is better than OU at every position, starting with quarterunning backack AJ McCarron, who’s threw for 2,600 yards, 26 TDs, and is going to the NFL next year. OU doesn’t know who its QB is going to be this year. And although both teams are pretty even on the ground (OU’s 235 vs ‘Bama’s 212), Alabama’s got more to offer through the air. And although OU’s defense is pretty stout (22nd in the nation in points conceded, and they’ve gained two more turnovers than Alabama have), Alabama’s is absolutely tremendous (2nd in the nation, giving up 11.3 points per game).

Oh, and be prepared to see of OU running back Brennan Clay, and Alabama running backs TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.

And although we love OU coach Bob Stoops, it’s difficult to see his Sooners stopping an Alabama team who will be doing everything to prove that the fluke loss was a fluke.

The big factor in this game’s going to be Alabama’s readiness after the Auburn loss, which must have hurt them badly. Because we know this: Oklahoma’s going to be up for this one!

Alabama’s a 15-point favorite.

BOTTOM LINE:  Alabama by two touchdowns in a game that’s really not that close, but Saban slacks off at the end. 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 3RD

COTTON BOWL: MISSOURI VS OKLAHOMA STATE

It’s interesting, because if you consider all things, Oklahoma State should be kicking itself more about playing in the Cotton Bowl than Missouri are. And although Missouri battled Auburn in the SEC Championship Game right until one of the cheaper shots in college football put out running back Henry Josey (the move seemed to take wind out of the Tigers’ sails, and Auburn’s kept their sails on warp speed), Oklahoma State was busy self-destructing to local rival Oklahoma. If they had won, they would have won the Big XII instead of Baylor – who they actually beat earlier in the year.

Anyway, this game’s probably one of the most intriguing in the 2013-4 Bowl Calendar. Here’s why: Oklahoma State and Missouri are used to playing each other – they’ve played each other 51 times and Missouri leads the rivalry 28-23, according to ESPN. From 1996-2011, they played each other nine times, with OSU taking home the victory in the last occasions. It’s great to see both teams reunited after the ‘Texas tragedy’, which saw Missouri and Texas A&M bolt to the SEC after Texas’ backfired decision to take TV revenue for itself. Anyway, as they’d say in Oklahoma (and Missouri): Screw Texas.

If you love high scoring, then this game could be right for you. Both teams put up nearly 40 points per game, although defensively, Oklahoma State’s probably a little bit better. Although is that a function of conference?

Funny this: Oklahoma State started the season with a SEC team. And it won. Can it take its SEC scalps to two for the 2013-4 season?

BOTTOM LINE: We actually like Oklahoma State in this year. Despite the return of James Franklin and the two great wide receivers that Missouri has in L’Darius Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, we fancy the Cowboys to pull off the slight upset (they are 1-point ‘dogs). This will be fun,though. So take the over/under on 61-1/2!

SATURDAY 4TH JANUARY

COMPASS BOWL: VANDERBILT VS HOUSTON

If James Franklin’s totally psyched about Vanderbilt getting to the Compass Bowl against Houston BECAUSE HE’S ALWAYS PSYCHED LIKE THAT, then he’s a better man than us. Because for us, Vanderbilt’s season’s was too mixed to call outstanding. Vanderbilt lost a heartbreaker to Ole Miss in one of the best games of the season on the first Thursday of the season, but – despite losing starting QB Austyn Carta-Samuels – rebounded to take out Georgia and Florida. And off-the-field, there’s a gang rape case going on which saw some of the school’s starters thrown off the field.

Patton Robinette, Carta-Samuels’ cover, got a C+ for this efforts, throwing for 488 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTS, and you can only imagine what life would have been like if SEC defenses had been able to stop Jordan Matthews, who had 1,300 yards and 5 TDs receiving. Can’t wait to see him on Sundays. Robinette had better watch out for Houston’s defence, which caused 40 turnovers this year and will be looking for more on Saturday.

Facing the Commodores will be a Houston side that puts up 33.9 points per game (34th in the country), and their secondary will have to watch out for sophomore Deontay Greenberry (over 1,100 yards receiving) and QB John O’Korn, who threw for over 2,800 yards passing.

BOTTOM LINE: Houston’s not exactly coming into this game with confidence, having lost three of their last four. Despite the excellence of their defence (15th in the country in points scored), Vanderbilt’s soooo much of a bigger test than anything they’ve faced this season. We’re going with Vandy for the win, probably by a field goal, therefore beating the spread of 2.5. Oh, and we like the ‘under’ on 52.5. Both QBs are good, but not that good.

 

 

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