SEC Should Bowl Well

Nine SEC teams are getting ready for their post-season contests and in most cases the league seems to have pretty good matchups. Last year the SEC posted a 6-3 mark in bowl games, and I think they have an excellent chance to match it and a pretty good chance to top it. We'll pick the pre-New Year's games today and the five biggest contests tomorrow.

Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State vs. Central Florida --- MSU had a big year under Sylvester Croom and has won three of its last four games. UCF won its conference and has the nation's top runner in Kevin Smith against a defense that struggles against the run. However, State has faced much better competition than the Knights have, making this an interesting game. Wesley Carroll had a solid freshman season quarterbacking State, but the Knights have more explosiveness. Smith needs 180 yards to set an NCAA single season record, and should get it against a Bulldogs defense that just doesn't have quite enough.

UCF 34 Miss State 28

Independence Bowl, Alabama vs. Colorado ---
Nobody in the Alabama camp thought this would be where their season would end when Nick Saban was hired. They certainly didn't think they'd be spending the holidays in Shreveport when the Tide was 6-2 and getting ready for a showdown with LSU. Well, Alabama lost that game and staggered home with losses to Mississippi State, Louisiana Monroe and Auburn. The offense completely fell apart, scoring just 36 points in the final three games. The time off probably did them a world of good. Colorado on the other hand was inconsistent throughout the season and gave up more than 50 points in two of their final three games. The Buffalos will be loose and happy, the Tide angry and a little scared about ending up 6-7. I go with the fear factor. Well, that and the team that actually has a defense.

Alabama 33 Colorado 16

Music City Bowl, Kentucky vs. Florida State ---
On the surface this is the easiest pick of the year. FSU is taking more woodwinds to Nashville than scholarship football players. Between the academic scandal, the disappointing 7-5 season and the strange hiring of a "coach in waiting" you gotta believe most ‘Noles want this season to be in their rear view mirror. Meanwhile, Kentucky thinks a 7-5 season is a wonderful thing and they'll show up at this game in huge numbers. Kentucky is upbeat despite losing a wild one to Tennessee on the final day of the season. And while FSU's roster is depleted, Kentucky has Rafael Little at full speed for the first time in months. FSU gave up 40 points to both Florida and Virginia Tech with all of their defensive players. They'll do it again in Nashville.

Kentucky 45 Florida State 20

Peach Bowl, Auburn vs. Clemson ---
This is a tough one to figure because Clemson is one of the most mercurial teams out there. Love him or hate him, Tommy Bowden will surprise you with how well his team plays two or three times a year. And he'll stun you with how bad they play a couple of times, too. Both teams run the ball better than they throw it. And both teams defend the run better than they do the pass. There are two interesting side stories to this one. Auburn is without offensive coordinator Al Borges who went from genius to dummy in just three years. The new coordinator, Tony Franklin from Troy is on the job, but just how much "spread" can he add in a month? Also, Clemson is without two starting linebackers who are suspended and the third could be. Brandon Cox and Cullen Harper are the key guys and Harper must outplay Cox significantly. I don't think he will. Auburn makes a clutch field goal while Clemson misses one.

Auburn 16 Clemson 14

That's how I see the first four bowl games involving SEC teams. I'll have the others coming up tomorrow.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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