With the SEC championship finished, life got quiet in the Bold Prediction department. Too quiet. When the bowl pairings came out, it was time to go back to work. Based on a series of gut hunches, here’s a way-too-early bold prediction for each SEC bowl game.
Texas Bowl: Vandy’s Kyle Shurmur keeps it rolling
Baylor playing bowl game in its home state will be a snoozer, and so will its offense. Baylor scored 14 and 9 points in two of their past three games. Meanwhile Vandy finished the season playing well offensively — and playing well against passing teams. At first glance, this looks like Kyle Shurmur having another 250 yards passing and Vandy winning by two scores.
Music City Bowl: Auburn comes to life
Yes, Purdue has a formidable passing attack. That said, Auburn did beat A&M and Ole Miss in its last five games, and managed to give Alabama a tough half. Meanwhile, Purdue lost two of its past three games, giving up 47 to Wisconsin and 41 to Minnesota. Auburn’s defense will have Purdue turning drives into 3s instead of 7s, and Auburn will use that to win by two scores.
Peach Bowl: Michigan takes down the Gators
Florida looks good because it finished the year with Florida State and Idaho. Wipe off those two and Florida’s last three SEC games were two losses and another game in which they came back from a big hole. Yes, Michigan was awful against Ohio State … but we’re inclined to think the stingy Michigan defense we saw all year was real, and the Ohio State game was the aberration. If that’s the case, Michigan wins this one going away.
Belk Bowl: South Carolina wins late
Virginia is another team that struggled down the stretch. The Cavs went 2-3 in their last five games, beating only North Carolina and Liberty. Yes, South Carolina gagged up a game against Florida and watched Clemson hang 56 on them. But the Gamecocks scored on both teams, and they’ll score on UVA too. This feels like a good game, but Jake Bentley will hit a 4th-quarter touchdown throw for the win.
Orange Bowl: Return of Tua
This is new and different: Tua Tagovailoa will come back from his first career bad game and play like Gangbusters. Alabama might put up 60 on an Oklahoma team that doesn’t believe in defense. Consider this — Oklahoma allowed 291 passing yards per game. Alabama allowed 295 total yards per game. Tide by 30.
Liberty Bowl: Missouri and OK State hit 80
This will be easily one of the best games of the SEC’s bowl season. Oklahoma State spent the end of its season playing down to the wire games — seriously, their final five games were all one-score games, and those opponents included Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia. At the same time, Missouri has banked some legitimate mojo this season, and they’ll have the final answer in this one. After Missouri’s heart-breaking loss to Kentucky earlier, they’re due for some last play magic in a shootout — a 42-40 kind of shootout.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: N.C. State outlasts Texas A&M
Texas A&M finished the regular season with an unforgettable game, and if the bowl is anticlimactic, it won’t be by much. Both A&M and N.C. State play lights-out run defense, but can be beaten by the pass. Both teams also are good passing, with N.C. State averaging 327.7 passing yards per game and led by an NFL prospect in Ryan Finley. A&M will lead at the half, but we’ll take Finley and the Wolfpack to deliver a fourth-quarter win.
Citrus Bowl: Defense or de loser for Kentucky
The Citrus Bowl matchup is pretty simple. If Kentucky can play the kind of defense that tamed Mississippi State and South Carolina early in the season, the Wildcats will be fine. If not, the Penn State offense that put up 34.6 points per game will create distance that UK can’t overcome. If this game is in the teens or low 20s, we’ll take UK by a field goal. If not, we’ll take Penn State by 14.
Outback Bowl: State shuts down Iowa
Iowa is another one of those Big Ten teams that kind of blur together in mediocrity. The Hawkeyes closed 2-3, including a 3-point win against the worst Nebraska team in memory, and a butt-kicking of Illinois. State, on the other hand, closed 4-1, losing only to Alabama, and winning the others by 32, 46, 42 and 15 points. We’ll say State keeps Iowa out of the end zone and gets a nice 31-6 kind of win.
Fiesta Bowl: LSU rushes for 250, wins easily
If UCF still had McKenzie Milton, this game would be much more interesting. Of course, LSU will be without two starters in the secondary, so maybe that evens things out. There’s no way UCF is going to run the ball down LSU’s throat without their QB. Meanwhile, LSU hated losing to A&M, but they had to like the play of Joe Burrow and Nick Brossette, who will pound UCF on the ground, take an early 2-touchdown lead and win easily.
Sugar Bowl: Texas, you’ve got to be kidding me
Let’s be honest — this game shows up in one of two ways. Either UGA is sulky about missing the Playoff, doesn’t show up and gets beat by and inferior Texas team … or UGA accepts this Sugar Bowl game as an opportunity to make a statement. Considering that virtually nobody could stay in the same stadium as the Bulldogs, while Texas was doing things like winning against Kansas and Texas Tech by 7 points, we’ll assume it’s the second. If so, give us Georgia by 28.