In the next two weeks, the SEC plays nine bowl games – and the SEC is favored in all nine of those games. But rationally, you can’t expect the SEC to go 9-0, right? It would be great, but it’s likely not to happen.
So, which teams should be on upset watch?
Here’s all nine games, ranked in order of the greatest chance for an upset:
1. Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
The Buzz: MSU should be the team on the biggest upset watch against the Wildcats. Losing four of the last five games was no way to finish after the 7-0 start. The way MSU was taken to the woodshed in those games was rather brow raising, too. The defensive line, namely, was pushed around and looked ineffective against the running game. And what does Northwestern do so well? Run the football. So, even though MSU is favored, Northwestern could have the edge with their rushing attack, and the Wildcats won three of their last four games, including their last two against a tough Michigan State team and a blowout against Illinois.
2. Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
The Buzz: This game should come down to your classic Big 12-like shootout game. The strength of the Sooners’ offense – the passing game – is the weakness of the Aggies’ defense. However, Oklahoma doesn’t have the caliber of defense to slow down Johnny Manziel, either. After all, Oklahoma’s only two losses came against top-ranked Kansas State and national championship contender Notre Dame. The Sooners were picked by most to be in the national championship. But we all know how Big Game Bob fares in tough bowl games…
3. Compass Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Pittsburgh
The Buzz: Pitt isn’t an explosive team overall, but the one thing they do excel in on offense is protecting the ball. QB Tino Sunseri has only thrown just two interceptions all season compared to 19 touchdowns, and we know how erratic QB Bo Wallace has been at times, too. Both teams are playing their best football right now and riding momentum heading into the Compass Bowl. Ole Miss must be careful.
4. Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska
The Buzz: Everyone is calling this game a virtual lock for the Bulldogs, but let me warn you about Mark Richt’s short history in bowl games. Georgia has lost the last two against UCF and Michigan State when they were clearly the more talented football team. Now, they are coming off a heartbreaking defeat against Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Are they really going to get up for Nebraska? They surely have more talent, but it’s the motivation and the want-to I question within the Georgia locker room. If Georgia shows up playing Georgia football, this game will be over at halftime, with Nebraska’s offense being suffocated in the process. But the SEC Championship could provide a hangover for UGA.
5. Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson
The Buzz: On paper, Clemson’s offense looks very explosive led by QB Tajh Boyd, but Clemson’s weakness plays right into the hands of LSU’s strength up front defensively. Clemson has trouble blocking any type of good caliber defensive linemen, and LSU will throw four or five great ones at them. However, we know how up and down Zach Mettenberger has played all season, and he’ll have to make some plays downfield in the passing game. Clemson does have an explosive offense, but I surely don’t see their offensive line blocking Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, after seeing what Jadeveon Clowney did to them.
6. Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan
The Buzz: Just yesterday, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said in reference to Jadeveon Clowney that ‘anyone can be blocked one-on-one’. I’m not so sure he’ll be thinking that after the first quarter if he tries to block Clowney one-on-one to start. Nonetheless, South Carolina’s defense is one of the best units in the entire country, led by the aforementioned Clowney. Michigan is not very good on offense, but they do have a worthy defense to keep USC’s scoring to a minimal. I fully expect Carolina’s defense to suffocate Michigan’s offense, though. This could turn into a lower scoring affair.
7. Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. NC State
The Buzz: Vanderbilt is gearing up for Tennessee 2.0, who they thrashed just a few weeks ago. The Wolfpack feature a strong passing game, but that’s it. And it plays right into the hand of the Commodores’ strength on defense in the secondary. With Zac Stacy, Jordan Rodgers and company playing their final game as a Commodore, I expect this group of seniors to go out on top. I love the momentum James Franklin has created. Commodores will roll.
8. National Championship: Alabama vs. Notre Dame
The Buzz: Yeah – I’m feeling confident about this one. I don’t think that Bama will blow out the Irish, but I think the Tide will roll in Miami. I just don’t see Notre Dame finding enough offense to win the game, nor do I think Everett Golson can transform from being a game manager into the impact player he needs to be. The Irish need Golson to be dynamic, and they must win the turnover battle to beat Alabama. The Irish have to play a perfect game, and their margin for error is oh so slim. Alabama just has too much experience and a massive offensive line.
9. Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Louisville
The Buzz: Florida vs. Louisville is a very uninteresting game to anyone outside of Gainesville or Louisville. But there’s a big difference in the physicality of the two leagues, and Florida’s convincing beat down against Florida State looks like this is the most winnable game and the least likely upset in the SEC for this bowl season. However, I fully expect Florida to keep the Cardinals in it through three quarters and pull away in the end. Louisville’s strengths play right into the hands of the Gators’ strengths on defense in the secondary. Florida is a stingy and physical defense, and the Cardinals have to throw to win. It will be tough for Louisville to move the ball on arguably the best defense in the country.
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