Now that we know who's sitting out bowl games, here are the 3 SEC teams I have the least confidence in
Say what you want about players sitting out bowl games.
You like it, you don’t like it, you don’t care, you’re wondering how long this sentence will run, whatever. It’s happening, so regardless of how you feel about it, we’re going to have to adjust our expectations for some of these matchups.
While there could still be more players who announce they’re sitting, the list of skippers looks pretty close to final. That means we have an even better idea of what these matchups look like.
So with that in mind, I decided to look at which SEC teams I have the most and least confidence in (Tuesday was when I looked at the teams I had the most confidence in).
Here are the 3 that I rolled with:
1. Auburn vs. Purdue
This doesn’t really have anything to do with players sitting. This is just based around the belief that with a month to prepare, I like Jeff Brohm more than I like Gus Malzahn. Rather, I like Brohm’s ability to maximize his weapons more than I do Malzahn. And in case you haven’t seen, Purdue definitely has weapons.
Few weapons — if any — are more dangerous than Rondale Moore. The freshman earned All-America honors after setting the Big Ten ablaze all year. Brohm is going to have all sorts of ways cooked up to get him the ball in space. Getting Moore those looks is a 4-year starter in David Blough, who won’t be intimated by Auburn’s talented front seven.
Can the Tigers win a shootout? They really haven’t all year. Here’s a wild stat. Only 1 of Auburn’s 7 wins came in a game when it allowed more than 16 points. That’s because what usually happens is Jarrett Stidham and Auburn’s ineffective running game struggle to sustain drives and the defense gets worn down.
I actually think the Tigers put up some points against a Purdue defense that has been inconsistent. But in a shootout? Give me Brohm’s ability to draw up some late magic.
2. Vanderbilt vs. Baylor
In the “players sitting bowl games” department, it’s actually Vanderbilt who has the advantage. Not having former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd (albeit due to injury) isn’t ideal, nor is being without kicker Drew Galitz. Vanderbilt deserves to be favored in this one.
So why don’t I have a ton of confidence in Vanderbilt? Well, that’s simple. I actually predicted that the Commodores would win this (thanks to a missed extra point from Baylor).
But while I applaud Derek Mason’s squad for winning 3 of the final 4 games to clinch bowl eligibility, none of those wins — or any in 2018 — came against Power 5 bowl teams. That’s where all 6 of the Commodores’ losses came from. And in many of them, there was a theme. Closing out good teams (or even just decent ones) isn’t easy. Vandy reminded us of that.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn should have a big day, but in a game that could come down to the wire, rolling with the Commodores would make me nervous.
3. Kentucky vs. Penn State
The SEC bowl team I have the least amount of confidence in is Kentucky, and I promise it’s not because of some preseason confirmation bias. I’m not big on this matchup for the Cats. With all of Penn State’s studs delaying their NFL Draft decisions until after the bowl game, this is still a talented roster led by one of the nation’s most accomplished quarterbacks.
Trace McSorley against Josh Allen is on the short list for best individual matchups of the bowl season. I think both players will make their share of plays.
What I don’t think is that Kentucky will be able to contain all of Penn State’s weapons. This is still an offense with one of the nation’s better backs in Miles Sanders, and KJ Hamler flashed All-America potential as a freshman wideout.
If the Lions get out to an early lead, obviously we know Kentucky isn’t built like a team that’ll rally from down a couple scores. Mark Stoops doesn’t want to have to depend on Terry Wilson to fuel the Cats against a Penn State defense that allowed 7 points per game in its 3-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Kentucky’s historic year was all about proving doubters wrong at every turn. Looks like they’ve got at least one more doubter to sway in Orlando.