SEC Bowl Preview

Test’s abound for the Nations top conference
by Cody McClure | @SEC_Cody |

Duck Commander Independence Bowl – Shreveport, LA
Miami vs. South Carolina – Dec. 27, ABC, 3:30 p.m.

If there’s one thing Steve Spurrier needs for Christmas, it’s a defense. The Gamecocks have been brutalized all year both in the run game and the pass game, with no hope in sight. Miami brings in a daunting rush attack led by Duke Johnson, who has accumulated 1,520 yards and 10 touchdowns. South Carolina is good enough on offense to make a game out of this, but they’re far from prolific. Dylan Thompson needs to find Pharaoh Cooper on the deep routes for South Carolina to win.

Prediction: South Carolina 31, Miami 21.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl – Memphis, TN
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – Dec. 29, ESPN, 2 p.m.

Looking for an offensive shootout? This game has all the makings of a thriller. The defenses are virtually nonexistent in respect to their conference competition. However, there is no shortage of offensive playmakers for either side. The Aggies will look for Kyle Allen to throw the ball around, but Texas A&M is somewhat more balanced than West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ Clint Trickett was great at times, leading the ‘Neers to a 41-27 win over Baylor earlier in the year, but concussion issues have caused him to retire from football. It’ll be fun to watch, but A&M gets the nod due to a minimal advantage on defense.

Prediction: Texas A&M 48, West Virginia 44.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl – Houston, TX
Arkansas vs. Texas – Dec. 29, ESPN, 9 p.m.

Batesville, AR native and Texas head coach Charlie Strong will make his debut against the team he rooted for in his younger days. Strong told reporters it will be the first time he isn’t cheering for the Razorbacks to win. Arkansas won’t need Strong’s support anyway if they show up with the same fire they brought to LSU and Ole Miss. Texas must stop the Arkansas rushing attack and control the offensive clock themselves if they expect to have a chance in this game.

Prediction: Arkansas 35, Texas 17

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Nashville, TN
LSU vs. Notre Dame – Dec. 30, ESPN, 3 p.m.

Expectations are always high at LSU and probably even higher at Notre Dame. Early on, the Fighting Irish looked like one of the best teams in the country, but a brutal schedule eventually took over. Their disappointing finish included a pair of three point losses against Northwestern and Louisville, as well as two blowout defeats at the hands of Arizona State and USC. Similar, the Bayou Bengals of LSU lost two of their final three games to Arkansas and Alabama. Both of these teams need to get back on track, so momentum for 2015 could be at stake here.

Prediction: LSU 37, Notre Dame 17.

Belk Bowl – Charlotte, NC
Georgia vs. Louisville – Dec. 30, ESPN, 6:30 p.m.

Todd Grantham: meet Nick Chubb, one of the best freshman running backs to play college football in quite some time. Grantham, the former Georgia defensive coordinator now located in Louisville, will face an uphill battle in trying to stop his former team’s rushing attack. Even with the Todd Gurley dilemma and limited production from Keith Marshall, Georgia has been able to put up a multitude of yards on the ground against SEC defenses. Look for a high scoring game in Charlotte as the Bulldogs take on one of the best offensive minds in football, Bobby Petrino.

Prediction: Georgia 45, Louisville 30.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl – Atlanta, GA
Ole Miss vs. TCU – Dec. 31, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.

The Big XII has plenty of chances to earn respect this bowl season after being snubbed from the first college football playoff. The biggest stage for the conference will be in the Georgia Dome as TCU battles the mighty SEC’s Ole Miss Rebels. Both programs pride themselves on defense. This season, the Rebels have an edge in that regard, giving up the fewest points in the SEC. TCU has an edge offensively with dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin. It should be a thriller in Atlanta.

Prediction: TCU 24, Ole Miss 20.

Capital One Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State – Dec. 31, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Cowbell carousel against option fever in Miami? I’m sold. Georgia Tech took down rival Georgia in the final week of the regular season in a gutsy overtime performance. They have no fear of the SEC, but they don’t match up quite as well against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott will be the key for State against a fierce Tech defense. If Prescott can elude the Yellowjacket defense, Mississippi State will keep it close. On the other side, State’s run defense is their strength. Tech isn’t too fancy in the passing game, so it bodes well for more cowbell.

Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Georgia Tech 30.

Outback Bowl – Tampa, FL
Auburn vs. Wisconsin – Jan. 1, ESPN2, Noon

If there’s any team out there who can complain about a difficult schedule, it’s the Auburn Tigers. After a strong start to 2014, War Eagle pretty much just ran out of gas. Wisconsin, expected by many to knock Ohio State out of playoff contention in the B1G championship game, experienced a reality check losing 59-0 to the Buckeyes. The Badgers have a strong running game, but face instability with the loss of their head coach. That signifies a recipe for disaster with Gus Malzahn on the opposite sideline.

Prediction: Auburn 38, Wisconsin 24.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl – Orlando, FL
Minnesota vs. Missouri – Jan. 1, ABC, 1 p.m.

You can’t spell “citrus” without… wait, wrong decade. Quite possibly the least exciting Citrus Bowl – formerly the Capital One Bowl – we’ve seen in quite some time pits the Gophers against the Tigers. It’s a classic SEC-B1G showdown, just with unlikely foes. Jerry Kill has led Minnesota through an impressive season, coming up just short of a berth in the B1G championship game. Mizzou is coming off a hefty defeat from Alabama in the SEC championship game. Look for the Tigers to challenge Minnesota with their versatile receivers.

Prediction: Missouri 27, Minnesota 20.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinal) – New Orleans, LA
Alabama vs. Ohio State – Jan. 1, ESPN, 8:30 p.m.

Speaking of a classic SEC-B1G showdown, how does Saban vs. Urban sound? Arguably the two best coaches in the game, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are familiar with each other. During Meyer’s time at Florida, which concurred with Alabama’s rise to power under Saban, the coaches met three times. No. 2 Florida beat No. 1 Alabama for the 2008 SEC championship. Then, in the 2009 SEC championship game, the tables turned as No. 2 Alabama beat No.1 Florida for the crown. Alabama won the 2010 matchup in Meyer’s last season at Florida. Clearly, it’s a battle between two legendary coaches. The problem for Ohio State is that they just don’t stack up in talent on the field. Amari Cooper will go off against an average Buckeye secondary.

Prediction: Alabama 42, Ohio State 28.

Taxslayer Bowl – Jacksonville, FL
Iowa vs. Tennessee – Jan. 2, ESPN, 3:20 p.m.

Led by a stingy defense, Iowa could give Tennessee problems. The Hawkeyes have several defenders capable of forcing turnovers, and Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs is known to throw an occasional erratic pass. The Volunteers also have a defense that is much improved from a year ago. Their pass rush, led by Derek Barnett, will need to affect Iowa’s quarterback in order for Tennessee to stay in the game. As General Neyland once said, “the team who makes the fewest mistakes will win.” Expect that old adage to be crucial in the outcome of this game.

Prediction: Tennessee 24, Iowa 23.

Birmingham Bowl – Birmingham, AL
East Carolina vs. Florida – Jan. 3, ESPN, Noon

As the Gators fight to keep recruits committed and fill in the coaching staff, they have to squeeze in a bowl game. It’s not the loveliest of bowl games to get invited to, but it’s undoubtedly appreciated by a Florida team that went 4-8 last season. The Gator defense is good. It’s been punctured at times, but it’s still solid, and while there may be some trickery in the coaching change, Florida simply has too much momentum to lose this game.

Prediction: Florida 41, East Carolina 17

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