Don’t be surprised if Alabama is left to carry the reputation of the Southeastern Conference this bowl season.
A year ago the SEC set a NCAA record with nine combined bowl victories with Alabama (2x), Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee all winning. That total, of course, counts Alabama’s national championship in the post-season wins column.
Don’t expect any such repeat this year.
While the SEC has 13 potential games — should Alabama knock off Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinal (Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl) and advance to the national championship game — the league will fall well short of last year’s mark, punctuating what has been a rather underwhelming year for the supposed best league in college football.
Lets start at the top: Alabama will repeat, and it won’t be close. The Tide annihilated the competition weekly during the regular season and won’t mix things up now. Go ahead and send condolences to Washington and whoever advances out of Ohio State and Clemson.
The rest of the SEC West pairs up against Miami (Ohio), Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Oklahoma. Expect the group to go 2-3.
Mississippi State (-14) is probably the best lock of the West and should roll Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Granted the RedHawks went from 0-6 to 6-6, but the Bulldogs are riding high after an electric Egg Bowl experience. Don’t be surprised if MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald winds up on SportsCenter yet again after carving up the other Miami 34-14.
The other West win comes from Texas A&M. The Aggies were a better team than they showed with their 2-4 finish. K-State has dropped seven of its past eight bowl games and the Aggies (-2) — with Myles Garrett announcing he WILL play — will win 42-35.
Other West predictions: Virginia Tech (-6) 44, Arkansas 25; Louisville 38, LSU (-3) 21; Oklahoma (-5) 35, Auburn 31.
The East’s matchups don’t look a lot better against N.C. State, South Florida, TCU, Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Iowa.
Vanderbilt (-4) may be the underdog against N.C. State heading into the Independence Bowl, but I like how the Commodores closed the season. Derek Mason will pick up his first bowl victory with a 28-24 win over the Wolfpack.
Georgia-TCU may be the most intriguing matchup out of the East, if only for the fact that both teams were wildly inconsistent this year. UGA (-1) wins 32-21.
Other EAST predictions: South Florida (-10 1/2) 38, South Carolina 14; Nebraska 35, Tennessee (-3) 28; Georgia Tech (-5) 28, Kentucky 24; Iowa 40, Florida (-2) 28.
Date, Time (TV)
Dec. 26, 10 a.m. (ESPN)
St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami (Ohio) v. Mississippi State
Dec. 26, 4 a.m. (ESPN2)
Camping World Independence Bowl
N.C. State v. Vanderbilt
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Texas A&M v. Kansas State
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
USF v. South Carolina
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Arkansas v. Virginia Tech
Dec. 30, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
AutoZone Libery Bowl
Georgia v. TCU
Dec. 30, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Nebraska v. Tennessee
Dec. 31, 10 a.m. (ABC)
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
LSU v. Louisville
Dec. 31, 10 a.m. (ESPN)
Georgia Tech v. Kentucky
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
CFP Semifinal; Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Washington v. Alabama
Jan. 2, noon (ABC)
Florida v. Iowa
Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Auburn v. Oklahoma
Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College Football Playoff National Championship
Washington/Alabama v. Ohio State/Clemson