The college football bowl season for the SEC begins this week and with it comes 10 games in seven days. The key to success in the bowl games is preparation and focus. Coaches always want to balance hard work with fun time during the bowl experience, because it is a reward for the student-athletes.
The most difficult thing to do is anticipate change from an opponent. Most good bowl coaches only add a few wrinkles here and there to their systems and schemes. They usually keep it simple and stick to what has been successful. It will be interesting to see how many and what the wrinkles will be on Jan. 6 when Auburn squares off with FSU.
Stat of the week: Alabama has the most bowl wins all-time and in the SEC at 35. But Ole Miss has the highest winning percentage with Auburn sitting at No. 2.
Georgia vs. Nebraska - This game may be a rematch from last year, but if the numbers are any indication, this should be a shootout. Both teams average more than 30 points per game and both went for over 5,000 yards of total offense. On the other side, neither defense was dominant this season, so this could be a game where last one with the ball wins. The difference will be turnovers and with both teams combining for a minus-18 turnover margin, it’s a wonder how they are 8-4. Georgia will force some fumbles and its run defense is solid.
South Carolina vs. Wisconsin - These two teams are very similar with Wisconsin having a slight edge statistically on defense. I do believe both will be motivated and the run game of James White and Melvin Gordon could be problematic for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. In Wisconsin’s three losses it has rushed for 175 yards less per game than in its nine wins. Joel Stave could be the difference against the Gamecocks secondary. Mike Davis will find it tough sledding against the Badgers defense that did not allow 200 yards rushing in a game all season.
LSU vs. Iowa - The Tigers should go to the air to attack the Hawkeyes stubborn defense. Iowa gave up nine touchdown passes in its four losses and 229 yards per game through the air. However LSU will start Anthony Jennings and will try to establish the run early. The Tigers ran for 662 yards and five touchdowns in their last two games. Jeremy Hill and Terrence Magee both had 100-yard games in the last two. The Tigers defense will look to put pressure on Hawkeye quarterback Jake Rudock whose offensive line allowed a Big Ten low 12 sacks this season.
Missouri vs. Oklahoma State - This old Big 12 matchup will be a tough one for Gary Pinkel and his Tigers. The Cowboys won their last three meetings against the Tigers when they were in the same conference. The Tigers defense will look to extend its streak of 43 straight games forcing a turnover. The Cowboys led the Big 12 in turnover margin at plus-15 but finished minus-2 in their two losses. James Franklin and the run game will need to get on track as the Tigers have won 13 of their last 14 when rushing for over 200 yards. Kansas was the only team to go north of 200 against Oklahoma State this season.
Alabama vs. Oklahoma - The Sooners will look to pull the upset by keeping the quarterback a mystery until game time. I don’t think that matters when facing the Alabama defense, but Jalen Saunders could be a tough matchup for the Tide. Saunders had eight touchdowns and 56 receptions and is a weapon on special teams. The Tide must find a way to stay balanced in this game, but I do see them opening up the game throwing. AJ McCarron is playing in his last game and I think he will throw it at least 30 times. The Sooners had the best pass defense in the Big 12. Oklahoma has won 17 straight games when it scores at least 30 points. Only two teams have scored 30 on Alabama since the beginning of the 2009 season. South Carolina in 2010 (35-21 loss) and Auburn this year (34-28 loss).
Vanderbilt vs. Houston - The Commodores will have Patton Robinette at quarterback and he has some quality experience this season. He will need to find Jordan Matthews plenty as he is going to have to have a huge game against the Cougars. He will also need to take care of the ball as Houston led the nation in turnover margin and forced 40 turnovers. Houston’s four losses are by a combined 20 points. Could this be James Franklin’s last game at Vanderbilt? His name has been rumored for jobs the entire month and now the NFL may also be a landing spot for his services.