What to watch for: Previewing SEC Bowl matchups
It seems like every year there’s a growing amount of preposterous bowl games. Stadiums seem to sell only 3,000 seats and who’s really turning into the Dollar General Bowl to watch Troy take on Buffalo? The answer is a lot of people.
The games exist, in part because ESPNowns a ton of them, but also because people want to watch football around the holidays. So when you’re sitting at home around the Christmas vacation, here’s what to watch for in the SEC Bowl Games, even without an Ole Miss presence.
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (-4)
Thursday, Dec. 27, 8 p.m. CT on ESPN
Vanderbilt closed the season really well, winners of three of their last four games. Senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur is a legitimate mid-round NFL draft prospect, but it’s an incredibly balanced team. They rank 40th In both offense and defensive efficiency by Football Outsiders. Baylor, meanwhile is ranked 101 in defense by the same metric.
Vanderbilt 30 – Baylor 24
Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Auburn (-3.5)
Friday, Dec. 28, 12:30 p.m. CT on ESPN
How Purdue has managed to hang on to head coach Jeff Brohm after Tennessee offers last year and an offer from his alma mater, Louisville, this year is remarkable. After the wild upset of no. 2 Ohio State, Purdue dropped three of its last five to settle at 6-6. Auburn is simply unexplainable to me. The talent at QB is there with Jarrett Stidham, but they have not been able to utilize the NFL talent whatsoever.
Purdue 27 – Auburn 24
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan (-7.5)
Saturday, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT on ESPN
The only time Florida saw a defense the remotely measures up to the one Michigan will field was an October meeting with then no. 7 Georgia. They lost by 21 and scored only 17 points. Expect much of the same here against a remarkable Michigan front.
Florida 13 – Michigan 27
Belk Bowl: South Carolina (-3.5) vs. Virginia
Saturday, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT on ABC
Not a lot to talk about here. Jake Bentley’s talent at quarterback for the Gamecocks is enough to put away Virginia.
South Carolina 38 – Virginia 23
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Alabama (-14.5) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Saturday, Dec. 29, 7 p.m. CT on ESPN
Playing Alabama is like being in a car accident. Playing an angry Alabama is like being tied to train tracks while a freight train isn’t slowing down. When Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray beat out Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa for the Heisman, Alabama became angry. This is besides the fact that Alabama has the nation’s no. 2 offense and no. 1 defense by FEI ratings. Oklahoma may have the no. 1 offense, but their defense is ranked 98.
Alabama 41 – Oklahoma 31
Liberty Bowl: Missouri (-4.5) vs. Oklahoma State
Monday, Dec. 31, 2:45 p.m. CT on ESPN
Similarly to South Carolina and Virginia, this is a talent battle for me. Mizzou fields a quarterback in Drew Lock that is in the running for a first round selection in the NFL draft. Oklahoma can score too, but talent wins out.
Missouri 42 – Oklahoma State 37
Gator Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M (-3)
Monday Dec. 31, 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN
North Carolina State is a sleeper offensive unit. Like Vanderbilt’s Kyler Murray, Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Findley is a mid-round NFL draft prospect, and the offense is no. 13 nationally in FEI. This one should be close, as Texas A&M was playing its best football of the year when they beat LSU in overtime to end the regular season. Jimbo Fisher is beginning to put his stamp on the Aggies, but it’s not going to be enough this time. We have an upset.
North Carolina State 32 – Texas A&M 30
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State (-4) vs. Iowa
Tuesday Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2
Yet another talent wins out game. Iowa has only played two ranked teams this year and lost both by a good bit. Losses to Purdue and Northwestern down the stretch aren’t great either. The Bulldog defensive line will be too much for them.
Mississippi State 28 – Iowa 13
Citrus Bowl: Kentucky vs. Penn State (-7)
Tuesday Jan. 1, Noon CT on ABC
At an underrated 8-3 on the year, Kentucky has one of the most underrated defenses in the country, ranking no. 18 by FEI. But Penn State’s defense is just as good, and their offense, led by Miles Sanders’ 1200 rushing yards is better. Watch Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen in this one – the kid can flat out play.
Kentucky 24 – Penn State 27
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU (-10) vs. No. 8 UCF
Tuesday Jan. 1, Noon CT on ESPN
After capping off its second consecutive undefeated season, UCF missed the playoff again. Why? Because they don’t play anyone good. They certainly haven’t played anyone with LSU’s talent. Too add gas to the fire, the Knight’s starting quarterback got hurt is knee in week 13 and is out for the season. LSU in a route.
LSU 35 – UCF 23
Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia (-11.5)
Tuesday Jan. 1, 7:45 p.m. CT on ESPN
Is Texas back? Not until they win a meaningful bowl game like this. As much as Tom Herman is turning the Texas program back to its 2000s powerhouse status, this just isn’t a good matchup for the Longhorns. Georgia is angry about a playoff snub, and has a considerably better defense than anything Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has faced all year.
Texas 23 – Georgia 37
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