vandy can't fill their own stadium with name brand opponents, a good coach, and a chance to become relevant. i'd almost be willing to bet that there will be more on the travel squad than vandy fans at this bowl. too bad, but i'll be surprised if franklin hangs around should he get a serious offer.
Ten SEC squads are heading to bowl games this holiday season. That’s one more from a season ago, two more from the 2011 season (when the league consisted of just 12 schools). Both Missouri and Texas A&M are going bowling this year, so you could easily say that they’re the reason the league has 10 teams in bowls and will have 10 hauls of bowl cash to split evenly among the league and its members (there are 15 slices to the SEC revenue pie).
For those who hate having the SEC’s games all bunched together and overlapping, you’re out of luck. The league knows that most fans watch bowl games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and they partner with bowls accordingly. They also know that by “roadblocking” across the dial on New Year’s Day afternoon, it’s almost impossible to evade Mike Slive’s league. That’s not fun for fans who’d like to see all of the SEC games, but it is smart marketing.
Below we give you a quick take — with a cinematic theme — on each of the SEC’s 10 bowl games.
So here come the good, the bad and the ugly…
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Dec. 30th, 3:15pm ET
Ole Miss (7-5) vs Georgia Tech (7-5)
The Good: Take your pick — Hugh Freeze’s high-speed offense versus Paul Johnson’s old school triple-option… or the fact that these teams used to be conference rivals. We’ll go with the latter because it’s a better story. Before the days of schedule rotation, the Rebels and Yellow Jackets were both in the SEC but seldom faced one another. In fact, Tech won their two SEC meetings in 1956 and in the 1953 Sugar Bowl. The last meeting between the schools was a 1971 Peach Bowl win by Ole Miss. Matchups we rarely see are a good thing.
The Bad: This one will likely be trumped by the Alamo Bowl (Oregon versus Texas). Here’s betting Mississippi and Tech fans will both be tired of hearing Mack Brown promos by the time the Music City Bowl broadcast ends.
The Ugly: If the Rebels can hold up against the Johnson’s triple-option, there could be an ugly mismatch in the passing game. Ole Miss ranked #3 in the SEC this season in passing offense. Georgia Tech’s pass defense finished at #13 in the 14-team ACC. In their last game out, the Rambling Wreck lived up to its name by allowing first-time Georgia starter Hutson Mason to complete 22-of-36 passes for 299 yards and two scores. If Bo Wallace improves over his Egg Bowl performance, the Rebels should have the aerial weaponry to swat the Yellow Jackets.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 31st, 4:00pm ET
Mississippi State (6-6) vs Rice (10-3)
The Good: Mississippi State is going bowling for the fourth straight season. We all know there are more bowls now than ever before (and the number will jump to 39 bowls next year), but this is history for a State program that’s traditionally been an SEC cellar-dweller. Kudos on another round of holiday football.
The Bad: When folks look at the SEC’s bowl record at year’s end, few make note of the fact that lesser-seeded SEC teams are often facing higher-seeded teams from other leagues. MSU was arguably the 9th or 10th best team in the SEC this season. Rice is the champion of Conference USA.
The Ugly: In a perfect example of how the bowl has worked since its inception, a 6-6 MSU team was tabbed for this Memphis trip over an 8-4 Vanderbilt team because… Cowbell-totin’ State fans helped break the Liberty Bowl’s attendance record back in 2007. Said it before; will say it again: Bowls are about tourism. Period.
Dec. 31st, 8:00pm ET
#21 Texas A&M (8-4) vs #24 Duke (10-3)
The Good: In its perfect New Year’s Eve timeslot, the Chick-fil-A Bowl usually draws in plenty of viewers. That’s good news for A&M and even better news for a Duke program that’s trying to establish itself. The last collegiate performance by Johnny Manziel should have viewers tuning in, too.
The Bad: Plug your ears, Vandy fans… No one ever wants to play a service academy of a high-academic school in a bowl game. If you beat Duke, Northwestern or Vanderbilt, so what? And if you lose to them, you never hear the end of it. Sorry, but those are the facts and Texas A&M fans would have probably preferred to play a Virginia Tech or Miami from the ACC.
The Ugly: Defense. Duke ranked 12th in the ACC in total defense. A&M ranked 14th in the SEC. A month after Auburn and Missouri burned up the rug in the Georgia Dome, the Aggies and Blue Devils might trade points with equal vigor.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Jan. 1st, 12:00pm ET
#22 Georgia (8-4) vs Nebraska (8-4)
The Good: These are two monster programs. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Dawgs and Huskers’ meeting last year in the Capital One Bowl ranked #5 in terms of last season’s bowl ratings. A one-hour jump on the other two SEC/Big Ten games should help ratings this year, too. (Unless folks wanna watch UNLV/North Texas which is opposite this one.)
The Bad: It’s a stinking rematch from a year ago. Yes, Georgia is just a stone’s throw from Jacksonville. Nebraska traditionally travels well. And we already mentioned the television numbers. But it’s still a stinking rematch (which is what happens when you schedule all your bowls against just two or three conferences).
The Ugly: Aaron Murray — the holder of a number of SEC career records — won’t be in action, felled by an ACL tear in the Bulldogs’ next-to-last game. Shame. It’d be fun to see Murray lace ‘em up one more time in the college ranks.
Jan. 1st, 1:00pm ET
#16 LSU (9-3) vs Iowa (8-4)
The Good: The Outback tabbed an SEC West squad for just the third time since 1997. That gives this SEC/Big Ten matchup a little bit of a different flavor. In 2005 these two teams met in the Capital One Bowl with the Hawkeyes winning on a last-second Hail Mary pass in Nick Saban’s final game as Tiger coach.
The Bad: LSU will be without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Anthony Jennings — the hero of the Tigers’ win over Arkansas — will make his first start. Nothing against Jennings, but we’d like to see the guy who led LSU to the Outback Bowl get a chance to finish his career on the field.
The Ugly: Unless this one turns into a tight game, we’ve got a feeling the Capital One Bowl and the Gator Bowl could eat into this bowl’s ratings. If that’s the case, it will give LSU less of a bounce with recruits than Les Miles would like. You play in a New Year’s Day bowl, you want to be the top draw.
Capital One Bowl
Jan. 1st, 2014
#9 South Carolina (10-2) vs #19 Wisconsin (9-3)
The Good: Finally, an SEC bowl featuring two ranked teams. This one will also be the final game for USC stars Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney.
The Bad: Another of the SEC versus a-Big-Ten-team-wearing-red-and-white bowls. Seriously, doesn’t it seem like Carolina and Wisconsin have already met in a recent bowl game? There’s just no fun in seeing the same conference year after year after year. The games all run together. And unfortunately the SEC didn’t fix matters moving forward as league teams will face a regular dose of Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 teams throughout the next bowl cycle.
The Ugly: How many times do you think we’ll be shown the big hit Clowney put on a Michigan running back last New Year’s Day? Fifty times? A hundred? Betcha it’s in the open to the game. Clowney has been a great player and his work this season has been underappreciated. Ask Kelcy Quarles if having Clowney on the line has helped his game. Still, it’s time to retire #7′s big hit to the ESPN vaults. They played it so much last offseason that it actually set the expectation level for Clowney at an unreachable high.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
New Orleans, LA
Jan. 2nd, 8:30pm ET
#3 Alabama (11-1) vs #11 Oklahoma (10-2)
The Good: These two juggernaut programs have only played five times in their history. They’ll both arrive in New Orleans with double-digit wins and rabid fans. Just an awesome, awesome bowl matchup. (This one’s also a preview of the league’s new Sugar Bowl deal with the Big 12. So enjoy a matchup like this while it’s fresh.)
The Bad: The blood between Bob Stoops and the SEC. Stoops has popped off time and again about the SEC and it’s “propaganda machine.” Asked about those comments this week he said that he was only pointing out that the bottom of the SEC wasn’t very strong. Whatever. This Bama team will likely be ticked that it blew a shot at a BCS threepeat. Expect AJ McCarron and crew to talk after the game about how they were playing for their conference which had been disrespected by OU.
The Ugly: We got nothing. Give us more bowls like this, please!
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Jan. 3rd, 7:30pm ET
#8 Missouri (11-2) vs #13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
The Good: Well, for starters, it looks like the game should be a pretty doggone good contest. Both squads are averaging more than 440 yards of offense per game. So this one could turn into a shootout.
The Bad: Mizzou fans would have liked to have experienced a new bowl in a new region against a new team. Flip-flop the Tigers and the Gamecocks and both the Capital One (MU versus Wisconsin) and the Cotton (Carolina vs Okie State) would have provided unusual, fun matchups. Instead, the Tigers head back to Texas to play a team that was a sorta/kinda rival in the old Big 8 and Big 12. In terms of blood feuds, Missouri/Oklahoma State fails to make the list. With the Tigers now trying to recruit Georgia and Florida more than they recruit the Lone Star State, the failure to land an Florida bowl has to be doubly disappointing.
The Ugly: One hour after this game kicks off, the Orange Bowl with Clemson and Ohio State will commence. Even the ghost of Woody Hayes will flip over to watch that one. A tough break for the Tigers.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Jan. 4th, 1:00pm ET
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs Houston (8-4)
The Good: First, Vanderbilt’s team finally gets to leave the state of Tennessee to play its bowl game. Second, the Commodores will get a chance to knock off a team with a winning record (though the Cougars did drop three of their last four to UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati).
The Bad: The Commodore team deserved better. At 8-4, Vandy should’ve gotten a better bid. The trouble is they’d played in the Music City and Liberty bowls the last two years and the Gator Bowl wanted nearby Georgia fans as well as the TV ratings a UGA/Nebraska clash should bring.
The Ugly: Fan reaction from Vanderbilt fans. Apparently years of not going to bowls has kept Dore fans from paying attention to how the system works. One or two SEC teams gets hosed every single season and that’s not going to change in the future. Everyone wants to land in a great bowl. Not everyone can land in a great bowl. So whether it’s the bowls doing the picking or the SEC, some fans will always feel that they’ve been shafted. (As for the notion that the SEC should dump the BBVA Compass Bowl, here’s the problem: The SEC’s snazzy office building was built with taxpayer money and is leased to the SEC for $1 per year. So, yeah, the SEC will always lend a hand to any bowl played in the Iron City.)
Vizio BCS National Championship Game
Jan. 6th, 8:30pm ET
#2 Auburn (12-1) vs #1 Florida State (13-0)
The Good: Are you kidding? The SEC has a shot at its eighth consecutive BCS championship. It took a shocking loss by Ohio State last weekend to secure said shot, but the Buckeyes did go down and the Auburn Tigers did benefit. Game on!
The Bad: The SEC’s seven-year run of titlists has been the product — mainly — of great defense. Auburn shut down Oregon in 2010. Florida shut down Oklahoma in 2008 and Ohio State in 2006. Alabama poleaxed Notre Dame last year. But this time around, the better defense belongs to Florida State (3rd nationally in total defense, first in passing defense, 14th in rushing defense, etc). Will defense win out again, ironically ending the SEC’s streak? Or will Auburn win proving that the SEC hasn’t been winning with superior defense… but with superior athletes all over the field?
The Ugly: The Noles aren’t just built on defense. FSU ranks second in America in scoring offense. The Seminoles have scored 90 touchdowns on the season, five more than any other team in the country. Against ranked foes they’ve averaged 48 points per game (they’ve only played Clemson and Duke). Auburn’s defense has allowed a staggering 36.8 points per game against ranked opponents. Tiger fans had better hope their team can run the ball on Florida State, ’cause odds are the Seminoles will score early and often.