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Georgia loss caps up and down bowl season for Southeastern Conference

Minutes before kickoff at the Sugar Bowl, Texas’ famed live longhorn mascot Bevo took a charge at Georgia’s live bulldog Uga. The moment that at the time was simply entertaining seemed symbolic of a game that went the way no one really expected. Texas would go on to beat the Bulldogs 28-21, in a game that was never all that competitive.

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who’s three rushing touchdowns fueled the Longhorns in the upset, had a strong message to fans after the game. “Texas is back.” Those words pierce just as deep to a Georgia fanbase who thought they deserved the fourth spot in the playoffs.

Georgia losing on a primetime stage to cap the regular bowl season – the national championship is next Monday night – was a low moment for Southeastern Conference in a bowl season filled with peaks and valleys. In total, the SEC went 6-5 in bowl games. SEC teams went 3-1 in New Year’s Six games, the most prestigious of the bowl games, with the only loss credited to aforementioned Georgia.

Surprising no one, Alabama ran Oklahoma out of the building in the opening round of the playoff, winning 45-34. It was another game that was hardly as close as the final score indicated. In the other two New Year’s Six games that SEC teams participated, LSU beat Central Florida 40-32 in the Fiesta Bowl and Florida beat Michigan 41-15 in the Peach Bowl.

Out in Arizona, LSU prevented Central Florida from claiming it’s second questionable national championship, ending the nation’s longest win streak at 25 games. Despite the final score, 40-32 Tigers, the game was dominated by the LSU defense. They won by only eight, but LSU won the yardage battle 555 to 250. Coming into the game, UCF posted the nation’s third-best offense at 545 yards per game.

Mississippi State lost a 27-22 game to Iowa that can be blamed on self-inflicted wounds. The Bulldogs committed eight penalties for 90 yards while Iowa had no penalties. Nick Fitzgerald also threw two interceptions in the loss.

An interesting takeaway from the season, the SEC scored an average of 38.2 points per game in the bowls, with five of the ten SEC schools putting up 40 or more. In a conference that once thrived on defensive prowess and bully-ball, it was the offenses that led the way. To be fair, it’s worth noting that three SEC teams (Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn) held opponents to 15 points or fewer.

Auburn’s 63-14 shellacking of Purdue was symbolic of everything that could have been with this team. A very talented quarterback in Jarrett Stidham had his best game of the season, throwing for 373 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns, thus raising the junior’s draft stock. Auburn set records in the game for bowl points, scoring 56 in the first half.

Another thought-provoking note: SEC schools went 1-3 in bowl season against the Big-12 (therefore 5-2 against all other conferences). The only SEC team to beat a Big-12 team was Alabama knocking off Oklahoma.

Ultimately, a 6-5 record is still a winning record. The conference would’ve liked a Georgia win, but what really matters is what takes place this upcoming Monday in the National Championship Game. Alabama will play Clemson on Monday night – the third time these two have met in the championship game. An Alabama win will mean the SEC has crowned 10 of the last 13 national champions.