Even in a month when teams aren’t playing, plenty can happen in college football. You’ll see proof right here. A couple weeks ago, just after the bowls were announced, we had bold predictions for every SEC bowl game. But that was before NFL-bound prospects started dropping out of games, and the coaching carousel did the rounds.
So here’s a holiday gift from your bold predicting pals: We take another look, and change our minds about half of the things we thought a few short weeks ago. Boldly.
Sticking with Vandy
Geography is often a subtle part of the bowl process, and having Vandy go to Texas to play Baylor initially sounds like bad news for the Commodores. It won’t be. Baylor’s offense is fairly broken, Jalen Hurd is out and Vandy played stronger late. And the corollary to the geography issue is that playing too close to home just feels like another blah game against a 6-6 team. Advantage still Vandy. Take the Dores in a 27-10 kind of game.
We find out what a Boilermaker is
We had Auburn over Purdue in our first round of predictions, but honestly, that had a lot to do with the possibility that Jeff Brohm would end up in Louisville. He didn’t, and Purdue will draw up enough plays to outgain that punchless Auburn offense that is officially losing its QB after the game. Rondale Moore has SEC speed. We’ll take Purdue by a touchdown.
On the other hand …
We also had Michigan over Florida. That Florida offense has some definite issues, and Michigan just looked like the better team, egg laid to OSU aside. And that Michigan players started bowing out for the bowl game. The team that wants to win the game more tends to win the game. And in this one, that’s Florida now. The Gators’ defense will force a crucial late turnovers and win this game in the fourth quarter.
No Deebo, no problem for Gamecocks
The loss of Deebo Samuel in the bowl game does seem likely to hurt Carolina’s offensive mojo. But let me introduce Bryan Edwards (to the masses, anyway; Gamecocks fans are well-versed already). Edwards actually is the Gamecocks’ best pass catcher, and if he’s not quite as electrifying as Deebo, he’s every bit as good. Edwards will have a big game (think 125 yards and a score) and Carolina takes control in the second half.
Alabama makes a statement
With Alabama, it’s not a question of victory. It’s a question of making a statement. The first thought was that Tua Tagovailoa would rush back for this game. On further review, what if Alabama uses this game to make two statements: One, Kyler Murray, we know a Heisman winner, and you’re not him. Two, not only can’t Oklahoma beat Alabama 2.0, it couldn’t beat Alabama 1.0. The Tide can play Jalen Hurts and win by three scores, and what a story it would be if they do just that.
Missou benefits from some in(active)justice
We had Missouri over Oklahoma State anyway … and Drew Lock is playing while OSU RB Justice Hill is not. We had the Tigers winning on a late drive, but now, we’ll just take them by 14 to 17 points, in a game that’s never really that close. For the second year in a row, Missouri finishes with a flourish.
A&M benefits as well
We had N.C. State beating A&M on the strength of its passing game, but that was before big-play receiver Kelvin Harmon took himself out of this game. Given that the Wolfpack also are down All-ACC tackling machine Germaine Pratt, we’ll take the Aggies. It might not take 7 overtimes, but it’ll go down to the wire, which A&M suddenly gained a lot of experience with a few weeks back.
Bluegrass thoroughbreds get Oats
Kentucky’s only big loss since initial picks is senior linebacker Jordan Jones, whose math skills apparently didn’t extend to staying eligible despite the Wildcats winning 9 games. The good news for Kentucky fans is that Jones’s backup, freshman Chris Oats, might be a better player now, particularly given the broken hand Jones was playing with. The national media are loving Trace McSorley, but if he wasn’t getting it done against the B1G, a Kentucky team that held Drew Lock without a first down for a half won’t be too impressed. ‘Cats by a field goal.
Sticking with State
One game we don’t see a bit differently from first picks is the Outback Bowl, where Mississippi State is ripe to thrash Iowa, particularly without Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant, who is sitting out. Iowa ended the season cold, and State ended the season clicking on all offensive cylinders. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which State doesn’t win by three touchdowns.
Oh, no, LSU
We thought LSU would pound UCF… and then Tigers started dropping from this game like flies (Greedy, Alexander, etc.). With four starters missing, the LSU defense isn’t what it was … and it’s worth noting that the last time we saw it, this group was hemorrhaging up points to Texas A&M in overtime. We still think LSU can score in this game … but at the end of the day, we’re flipping on this one. If LSU were at full strength, they’d handle this. They aren’t, and it will hurt late. It hurts to say it, it hurts to type it. But we got UCF, even with a backup QB.
UGA muddles through
The closer we get to this Sugar Bowl matchup, the more it feels like it’ll be a game like the first half of Georgia’s season. They’ll do enough to win, but not to look terribly impressive while doing it. They’re much better than Texas, but the Justin Fields drama and the inertia of falling into a semi-meaningless game will hurt UGA’s focus. They’ll trail at the half, and win by 10.