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So the bowl season is set. All 500 of the games! haha. Well, 35 to be exact. But I am going to walk us through just the ten bowls that have an SEC connection with my gut reaction about the matchup and the SEC’s chances in each bowl game for a victory. After each prediction,I put my level of confidence in my pick on a one to five scale with five being a feeling of metaphysical certitude and one being a Woody Allen level of self-confidence. We’ll go through this chronologically.
MUSIC CITY BOWL: Tennessee (6-6) vs. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (7-5) (Dec. 30th): Couldn’t they just move the bowl to Asheville, North Carolina, and meet in the middle? These are both halfway there teams based upon their records, the Vols more than UNC, which has that one additional win. Tennessee backed out of playing UNC for this upcoming season, so it interesting to see the bowl gods throw these two together anyway. The SEC normally doesn’t win this bowl, but my gut is saying they make it to 7-6 due to something good has to happen to the Tennessee program eventually, haha. And bowl games are largely about motivation, and I think Tennessee “wants it more” to use that tired cliche of sports talk. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 4
LIBERTY BOWL: Georgia (6-6) vs. Central Florida (10-3) (Dec 31st): One way to handle SEC East teams in bowl games is to judge them based upon their opponents’ geographical relation to SEC West teams. The closer the opponent is to an SEC West school, the more likely the SEC East team will lose. Central Florida is east of all the western teams, so Georgia has a chance here, haha. I think like last year (Independence Bowl) pride steps up for Georgia and they get a close win. But I think the Hogs took whatever good luck mojo was left for the SEC after last year’s Liberty Bowl escape. Georgia, it could be close. Bring a lot of pride! THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 2.5
PEACH BOWL (yeah, I know its current name): South Carolina (9-4) vs. Florida State (9-4) (Dec. 31st): I look forward to seeing Steve Spurrier face Florida State again, even if Bobby Bowden is no longer on the sidelines and is off trying to talk to “Peggy” about his credit card. I think round two in Atlanta is going to go better for the Gamecocks than round one. Florida State has no Cam Newton to ring their chicken necks in the Georgia Dome. South Carolina finishes off 2010 for the SEC with three bowl victories and gets the Gamecocks to ten wins for the season. Lattimore will have a much better game this go around, and Lord Alshon Jeffrey will colonize the FSU secondary. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 3
OUTBACK BOWL: Florida (7-5) vs. Penn. State (7-5) (January 1st): Meyer, the only SEC coach not to vote Auburn number one in the final poll (had them at two) doesn’t deserve to hear the SEC chant at the end of this game. And I don’t think he will. Paterno knows a thing or two about going down to the state of Florida and winning bowl games, and I doubt Florida finds an offense between now and 2011. Make it Penn. State 8-5 when this done. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 4.5
CITRUS BOWL (yeah, I know its corporate name): Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1) (January 1st): How would we feel if Arkansas had gone 11-1, best season in recent memory, and still didn’t make the BCS? Rather pissed. And that is what I feel like Michigan State will come to play with, a pissed off attitude, and they’ll give Bama all they want, maybe even a fake field goal. But at the end of the day, Michigan State is a program that lives under a black cloud of Murphy’s Law, and I think some epic goof will take place on their part and Bama secures a narrow victory. The confidence isn’t very high due to memories of Alabama vs. Utah two years ago. Bama could come out flat as a pancake. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 2
GATOR BOWL: Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Michigan (7-5) (January 1st): With Michigan’s defense, you have to think the Cowbellers are going to score in this game and score plenty. But so will Denard Robinson! The players on each team certainly want this win, but the factor here is how much does each coaching staff need this win? Michigan and Rich Rod need it way, way more than Mullen and his staff, the princes of Starkville for an 8-4 record and a Florida bowl, their first since WWII. Though I hate to say it, I think the Cowbellers leave Jacksonville with a loss in this one. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 3
SUGAR BOWL: Arkansas (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1) (January 4th): First off, I just hate that this bowl isn’t on January the 1st. I am pleased that the Hogs have sold out their allotment of tickets, but the 4th is not a good day for people who work and have kids in school. A Tuesday night? Anyway, I’ll start by saying I am nervous as hell about this game. Both programs have no lack of motivation. OSU looks to beat an SEC team in a bowl game for the first time and get that monkey off their back. The Hogs look to raise their level of college football street cred to a much higher level by going 11-2 and finishing possibly in the top five while beating a Big Ten team in a bowl game for the first time (thanks a lot, Houston!). Right now I am giving the edge to the Hogs based upon these factors. The Hogs have played a tougher schedule, having beaten three teams in the top 25 and five bowl teams. Their enemies have better prepared them than Ohio State’s enemies. If it is a tight game, the Hogs have the experience and confidence from having been in those type of games, MSU and Georgia. Though the Hogs have been gashed at times by the mobile quarterbacks they’ve faced, they do have the experience of facing that type of attack, so nothing new there. The Hogs have Bobby Petrino, who has coached a BCS game before with success. Tressel, of course, has coached in more of them, but also knows how to fail in them. I like that the game is inside a dome unlike the cold of the Liberty Bowl, so weather doesn’t act as an advantage for Ohio State, and Mallett won’t face any wind factors. Finally, I think our fans will be louder than the Buckeyes’s faithful and will have the dome rockin’ when the Hogs are out there on defense. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 1.5 (It would be higher if I didn’t know so well Arkansas’s history in bowl games and the Sugar Bowl in particular.)
COTTON BOWL: LSU (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3) (January 7th): How strange is it going to be to watch the Cotton Bowl on a Friday night? Friday Night Lights, Jerry Jones style, I guess. The Aggies got hot not too long after their game with the Hogs in Arlington. They changed quarterbacks, and that seems to have made a big difference in their overall play. This is a hard one to get a feel for. I could change my mind after more reflection, but right now I think the LSU defense (still a great defense) finds a way to shutdown the A&M offense just enough for Jordan Jefferson and Jared Lee to get the job done. Besides, the Aggies don’t have very much of a winning tradition right now in Jerry World, thanks to us. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 3
BBVA COMPASS BOWL: Kentucky (6-6) vs. Pitt (7-5) (January 8th): I don’t even know what BBVA Compass is??? Anyway, Kentucky got their 5th bowl in a row, but the Wildcats, I believe, are playing a basketball game that day, so don’t expect much blue in the stands! These two teams are just the opposites in conference records. Kentucky couldn’t hang with the SEC and went 2-6, but Pitt could hang with the Big East and went 5-2. But is hanging with the Big East saying much? haha. South Carolina lost here last year to a Big East team. I say Kentucky gives us the black eye here again with a loss in the heart of SEC country, Birmingham. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 2.5
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Auburn (13-0) vs. Oregon (12-0) (January 10th): Just too much has been going Auburn’s way, from tight games to the NCAA going all soft on them to the hail mary just before the half, so I think the storybook is due for a ripped page for its ending. And the Ducks, I believe, will rip right through that suspect Auburn defense. Yes, many, many points will be scored. And it will come down to the team that has the ball last, which will be Oregon. And Auburn will just not be able to make the last stop, and Oregon wins its first national championshp. Cam Newton will have a hell of a game, but so will LaMicheal James and the Ducks’ offense. The four SEC teams that played in the championship game before Auburn had a stellar defense to count on. Auburn really doesn’t compare to those teams. And I think of the two teams, the one most in danger of over-confidence in their mindset is Auburn, and that will be something of a factor in this outcome. “Everything has gone our way. We are the SEC! The SEC always wins this game. Team of destiny, blah, blah, blah.” Hmm, those whom the gods destroy, they first make proud! I think the football gods have set Auburn up for a heartbreaking last second touchdown fall. THE CONFIDENCE SCALE: 3.5 (would be even higher if I knew for certain that Cecil Newton didn’t also make a deal with the devil at some Mississippi crossroads.)
My gut says the SEC goes 6-4 this season.