Stuart McNair

Almost Perfect Picks Department, as always, likes Alabama to win

The APP Geeks predict the SEC bowl games plus one other

He was walking down the hall with the air of a Golden Geek, so we knew something was coming. “There’s confidence ooooozing from the Situation Room,” said the Geek, throwing his thumb over his shoulder to indicate that area where the Almost Perfect Picks Department does its work in the offices of

“You have had some extra time to work your magic,” we said. “But you’ll probably understand that if you predicted a drought, we’d start buidling an ark.”

The nerd explained that the APP doesn’t just look into the future. Time had been spent in quality control, analyzing why things had gone wrong in the 2016 predictions business.


“It was mostly bad luck, but in some cases the coaches just blew it,” he said.

So not your fault?

“Maybe in 2014, but things were a lot different then, as Coach Stupe pointed out.”

Hopefully, the APP has good luck and bowl coaches perform well, and the APP finishes strong.

The first bowl games involving SEC teams are Monday, Dec. 26. There are 12 SEC teams in bowl games. Additionally, it has become customary when Alabama is in the College Football Playoff (which, so far, is every year), the APP will also pick the other playoff game. Thus, the APP will be picking Alabama vs. Washington in the Peach Bowl and Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, making a total of 13 selections.

For the year, the APP is now 84-27 in predicting winners, 41-55 against the points spread, and 49-48 on the over-under.

Points spreads (also known as the line) and over-under (number of predicted points to be scored by both teams) are from a random morning newspaper.

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Monday, Dec. 26

Mississippi State (5-7 overall, 3-5 in SEC Games) vs. Miami of Ohio (6-6), 11 a.m. EST (10 central) on ESPN in St. Petersburg Bowl — Mississippi State favored by 14, over-under 58 1/2 —If you can believe that Mississippi State is in a bowl game with a losing record because of its academic performance, and if you can believe the Bulldogs Coach, Dan Mullen, was seriously mentioned as a possibility as an NFL head coach, you are probably expecting lots of gifts to be brought into your home late Saturday night by a stranger. MAC teams frequently feast on lower level teams from power conferences, but Miami is hardly top tier. Mississippi State 38, Miami 21.
Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5) vs. North Carolina State (6-6), 4 p.m. CST on ESPN in Independence Bowl — North Carolina State favored by 4, o-u 44 — Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur has been excellent as the Commodores rallied down the stretch to earn a bowl bid. The running game has been good, but Vanderbilt will face an excellent run defense in NC State, so the passing game is important. Vandy’s pass defense will also be important, and handicapped because the Commodores don’t have much of a pass ruh. Vanderbilt does, however, have one of the best linebackers in the nation in Zach Cunningtham. This could be a low-scoring, grind-it-out game. Vanderbilt 20, NC State 17.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4), 9 p.m. 8 p.m. CST on ESPN in Texas Bowl — Texas A&M favored by 2, o-u 56 1/2 — Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin is not on the hot seat, and inquiring minds want to know, “Why not?” Remember when the Aggies wre 6-0 and ranked fourth in the initial College Football Playoff poll this season? But then opponents realized Texas A&M can’t tackle, despite having some great individual defenders (well, one anyway, Miles Garrett). It didn’t help that quarterback Trevor Knight got hurt. But the Aggies have four losses in the last six games and Kansas State has won five of its last six. Bill Snyder has been doing things the right way for a long time. He has good run defense and can run the ball, which is where it starts. With very little confidence, Texas A&M 25, Kansas State 24.
Thursday, Dec.29
South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) vs. South Florida (10-2), 1 p.m. CST on ESPN in Birmingham Bowl — South Florida favored by 10 1/2, o-u 62 1/2 — Auburn used its success in Legion Field last year to jumpstart this year’s 8-win season. This would have been the perfect game to have a player or two quit and not play in the bowl. Last year the self-proclaimed Ball Coach quit on his South Carolina team midway through the season. This year Willie Taggert quit on South Florida to take the Oregon job, and so the Bulls will be coached by former Alabama player T.J. Weist, co-offensive coordinator. (New South Florida Coach Charlie Strong will observe the game from the press box.) South Carolina may be good again some day, but it won’t be this day. USF 28, USC 21.
Arkansas (7-5, 3-5) vs. Virginia Tech (9-4), 5:30 p.m. EST (4:30 central) on ESPN in Belk Bowl — Virginia Tech favored by 7, o-u 61 — Who would have believed that after only four years, Bret Bielema would have been able to forge a 25-25 record at Arkansas? And not be on the hot seat? We know that VPI under new Coach Justin Fuente almost won the ACC, and we know that Arkansas has been wildly inconsistent and sometimes defensively challenged (such as on third downs), but we’re going with Pigs QB Austin Allen to have a big game. Arkansas 35, Virginia Tech 31.
Friday, Dec. 30
Georgia (7-5, 4-4) vs. TCU (6-6), 11 a.m. CST on ESPN in Liberty Bowl — Game is pick it, or even; o-u 48 1/2 — If Kirby Smart didn’t learn but one thing this season it is that it’s easier to be a coordinator under Nick Saban than it is to be calling the shots. Smart has a history of having good defenses against mediocre offenses, which is what TCU has this year. Moreover, the Bulldogs have some good running backs, and TCU is not so hot on run defense. Mainly, though, we believe in UGA QB Jacob Eason. Georgia 28, TCU 24.
Tennessee (8-4, 4-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3), 2:30 CST on ESPN in Music City Bowl — Tennessee favored by 3 1/2, o-u 61 — Former Alabama player Mike Riley knows what it’s like to beat Tennessee, and right off we give the check mark to the Cornhuskers in the “Coaching” box. This should be something like a home game for the Vols, but it may not seem like much of a bowl trip. We think UT QB Joshua Dobbs will have a big game, but we’ve thought that before. What we really think – and don’t let the College Football Playoff Selection Committee hear this – is that the Big Ten is wildly overrated and the SEC way underrated. Tennessee 35, Nebraska 28.
Saturday, Dec. 31
Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) vs. Georgia Tech (8-4), 11 a.m. EST (10 central) on ESPN in TaxSlayer Bowl — Tech favored by 3, o-u 61 — Coach Stupe’s brother, Mark Stoops, isn’t coaching like it’s 2014, because if he was Kentucky wouldn’t be in a bowl game. The Wildcats this year finished very strong with five wins in the final seven games to be bowling for the first time since 2010. Everyone knows that Georgia Tech will be running the ball with its triple option offense, but so will Kentucky with Boom Williams and Ben Shell. We give a lot of credit to the Cats for beating Lamar Jackson and Louisville and we give the edge to SEC over ACC. Kentucky 37, Georgia Tech 31.
LSU (7-4, 5-3) vs. Louisville (9-3), 11 a.m. EST (10 a.m. central) on ABC in Citrus Bowl — LSU favored by 3, o-u 60 — Not many teams could lose a Leonard Fournette and just say, “Oroff bomp whanal dorp, Jo Jo,” but that’s roughly what LSU Coach Ed Orgeron seemed to say. Of course, he loses one of the nation’s top backs, but still has one of the best in Derrius Guice. And that’s the thing about LSU. The Tigers have about as much talent as any team in the nation on both sides of the ball, but here they are playing Louisville. The Cardinals, of course, have Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, but LSU’s defense is very, very tough. And it’s SEC vs. ACC again. LSU 28, Louisville 21.
Alabama (13-0, 8-0) vs. Washington (12-1), 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. central) on ESPN in Peach Bowl — Alabama favored by 15, o-u 54 — First of all, we always think Alabama is going to win, and we’re almost always right. But we’re not so sure about this overwhelming favorite business. We don’t think Washington is going to be able to do much on offense, Coach Chris Peterson’s reuputation for being tricky notwithstanding, but we do think the Huskies defense will give Bama plenty of problems. Admittedly, we have a tough time looking at Alabama 52, Southern Cal 6, and Southern Cal 26, Washington 13, and not seeing Alabama 38, Michigan State 0. We do think Alabama has better players, the best coach in college football, and the game is in the Georgia Dome. Alabama 28, Washington 17.
Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1), 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. central) in Fiesta Bowl — Ohio State favored by 3, o-u 60 — This is a bonus pick because if Alabama wins against Washington, the Crimson Tide will be playing the winner of this game in the national championship game on Jan. 9 in Tampa. Last year we told you Clemson would blow out Coach Stupe’s Oklahoma, and we expect Coach Dabo Swinney’s Clemson to make it to the national championship game again this year with a win over Coach Urban Meyers’ Ohio State. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson may not have had the season he had last year, but he was very, very good – probably the guy who should have won the Heisman Trophy. Clemson has great talent and coaching. Clemson 35, Ohio State 31.
Monday, Jan. 2
Florida (8-4, 6-2) vs.Iowa (8-4), 1 p.m. EST (Noon central) on ABC in Outback Bowl — Florida favored by 3, o-u 40 1/2 — This game probably should have kicked off a little earlier in order to give the teams time to muster scoring drives. Like started on Dec. 30. These are two very, very good defensive teams, but not so hot on offense. Even without knowing whether Coach Jim McElwain starts Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby at quarterback, we think the Gators will make a few more plays. Florida 24, Iowa 14.
Auburn (8-4, 5-3) vs. Oklahoma (10-2), 7:30 p.m. CST on ESPN in Sugar Bowl — Oklahoma favored by 3, o-u 62 1/2 — Hey, look! Coach Stupe has his Sooners in the Sugar Bowl! (And, yes, we remember he did that on Jan. 2, 2014, too, and blistered Bama, but, as Coach Stupe said, things are different two years later.) We are aware that people are laughing at how Auburn made it into the Sugar Bowl with an 8-4 record, but the Tigers will be healthy (although we’re sure they’ll still be young). Even without knowing the status of Sooners TB Joe “Slugger” Mixon, we know that OU has Heisman Trophy finalists Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Dade Westbrook at wide receiver, and even without Mixon a fine runner in Samaje Perine. We also know there is no chance Oklahoma can stop Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway and that Auburn has been pretty good on defense this year. Auburn 49, Oklahoma 14.

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