Stuart McNair

Alabama is the SEC team playing in the most important bowl

Our Almost Perfect Picks Department picks all the bowl games of the SEC, plus the elimination game at the Orange Bowl, and our group of crack calculators likes Alabama

The Almost Perfect Picks Department of has the same problem that Nick Saban has: how to keep the momentum going after such a long layoff.


To be honest, though, Nick Saban and Alabama had quite a bit better year than the APP, though our crack calculators point out that they have to figure the winner, the point spread (the number of points by which a team is favored, also known as the line), and the over/under (the predicted number of points to be scored by both teams).


Here are the unfortunate facts:


For the year, the APP finished at 83-28 in picking SEC winners and 58-39 against the over/under, but only 45-54 vs. the spread. Not bad, but nothing like Alabama’s football team going 12-1, winning the Southeastern Conference championship, and being the No. 2 seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff.


The APP eased back into the predictions business by paying close attention to the pre-Christmas bowls, and now you have their picks from the Texas Bowl through the Liberty Bowl, and quite a few in between that are more important than those.


Here are the predictions for the 10 bowl games in which SEC teams are involved plus a bonus prediction for the Orange Bowl’s Clemson vs. Oklahoma game, which will produce the College Football Playoff finalist to play the winner of the Cotton Bowl winner, Alabama or Michigan State.


LSU (8-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5) in Texas Bowl at NRGH Stadium in Houston, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 8 p.m. CST on ESPN (LSU favored by 7 points, over/under 73 ½) – There are 128 teams in the FBS division of NCAA football and Texas Tech ranks 126th in rushing defense. There are, approximately, 128 featured running backs in the FBS and LSU’s Leonard Fournette is right up there with the best of them. The seat for Les Miles doesn’t heat up until next fall. LSU 35, Texas Tech 24


Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3) in Birmingham Bowl at historic Legion Field, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 11 a.m. CST on ESPN (Auburn favored by 2 ½, o/u 62) – Can Auburn, somehow a favorite for this year’s SEC Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff, avoid a losing season? Is this the start of the 2016 campaign for Jeremy Johnson for Heisman? Is Lance Thompson going to be Auburn’s defensive coordinator going forward? Does the Gus Bus have plenty of seats available? Can we get a “War Eagle!” for a winning season? A questionable pick: Auburn 31, Memphis 30


Mississippi State (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (7-5) in Belk Bowl at BAS Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 2:30 p.m. CST on ESPN (MSU favored by 5, o/u 60) – Has it really been 20 years since these two teams played in the Peach Bowl with the Wolfpack taking a 28-24 win? That matters about as much as anyone cares about this game, but it is the end of the Dak Prescott era for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State 35, North Carolina State 17


Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5) in Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, at 6 p.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 30, on ESPN (Louisville favored by 5, o/u 47) – Ordinarily, one would expect the Aggies to manage an over of 47 by themselves, but the Kevin Sumlin offense depends on having a quarterback. As the season comes to an end, it appears the QBs are AWOL. Just how many SEC West head coaches are going to get the axe next year? Louisville 30, Texas A&M 12


Tennessee (8-4) vs. Northwestern (10-2) in Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 11 a.m. CST Friday, Jan. 1, on ESPN2 (Tennessee favored by 8 ½, o/u 47 ½) – Tennessee would love to have another chance in those four losses, but regardless of a so-so record the Vols played better this year than in a long time. UT takes another step forward playing the Vanderbilt of the Big Ten. Tennessee 30, Northwestern 17


Florida (10-3) vs. Michigan (9-3) in Citrus Bowl in Orlando at noon CST Friday, Jan. 1, on ABC (Michigan favored by 4 ½, o/u 40) – Wonder if the self-proclaimed Ball Coach has noticed that his alma mater is playing in the Citrus Bowl, which you can’t spell without some of the letters from “I Quit!” The best defensive mind in college football left Florida Coach Jim McElwain with too big a mess. Michigan 21, Florida 17.


Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2) in Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1, on ESPN (Mississippi favored by 7, o/u 68) – There is no truth to the rumor that Rebels defensive star Robert Nkemdiche is going to be a surprise reinstatement and float to the Ole Miss sidelines on an aromatic cloud just before kickoff. We are told that the players at Ole Miss are good kids, but there seems to be a lot of smoke around that program. They do have good players, though, and, fortunately, there’s no chance any of them will get into trouble in New Orleans. Mississippi 38, Oklahoma State 31


Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5) in TaxSlayer Bowl at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., at 11 a.m. CST Saturday, Jan. 2, on ESPN (Georgia favored by 7, o/u 41 ½) – Kirby Smart may be missing his chance for his first head coaching win; or, his first head coaching loss. Smart, of course, is spending bowl preparation time with Alabama as defensive coordinator before moving on to his alma mater. If the Bulldogs had Mark Richt still coaching, there is no doubt Georgia would win. With him gone, it’s more of a sure thing. Georgia 17, Penn State 7


Arkansas (7-5) vs. Kansas State (6-6) in Liberty Bowl in Memphis at 2:20 p.m. CST Saturday, Jan. 2, on ESPN (Arkansas favored by 12 ½, o/u 55) – How do you get so lucky to play a Kansas State type team in a bowl game? Play like Arkansas in the regular season. The Hogs should be able to handle Kansas State, though. Arkansas 45, Kansas State 17.




Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1) in Orange Bowl at Miami Gardens at 3 p.m. CST Friday, Dec. 31, on ESPN (Oklahoma favored by 4, o/u 64) – Remind us again, which of these teams gave up 50 points to Texas? Oklahoma got its three biggest wins against teams that didn’t have their starting quarterbacks. Clemson expects to have Deshaun Watson available. Clemson 45, Oklahoma 31


Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1) in Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 7 p.m. CST Friday, Dec. 31, on ESPN (Alabama favored by 9 ½, o/u 46 ½) – Michigan State says Alabama hasn’t played a defense like the Spartans. Michigan State says Alabama hasn’t seen a quarterback like Conner Cook. We haven’t seen any Michigan State opponent that looks anything like Alabama. Alabama 31, Michigan State 17

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