Power ranking SEC bowl games based on my excitement for them
Not all bowl games are created equal.
Some have career-defining implications while the result of others is probably less important than the swag bag.
For me, the game itself is the swag bag. Whatever entertainment it provides me is what I’ll take away. Spoiler alert: I like points and storylines. The when and where can impact a game’s entertainment value, too. Sorry, but a 1 p.m. game on a Thursday probably isn’t going to get me too fired up.
Remember all of those details as you tell me how wrong I am for these rankings of bowl games based on my own excitement for them:
11. Belk Bowl, South Carolina vs. Virginia
Yes, South Carolina’s offense is much more fun than it was last year. We saw that against Clemson. But nothing is really firing me up about this game. I thought maybe Deebo Samuel could copy what Christian Kirk did in this game last year. That is, do everything and make it a high-scoring shootout. But Samuel is skipping this one to get ready for the NFL Draft. Either way, a couple of 7-win teams with third-year coaches playing at noon doesn’t really have me running to the couch.
10. Texas Bowl, Vanderbilt vs. Baylor
If Derek Mason did something where he busted out the dance moves after every Vanderbilt touchdown, this has a top-4 spot on these rankings. But unfortunately, I sort of doubt that’ll happen. This game doesn’t even kick off until 9 p.m. ET on that Thursday night. It’s too bad that we won’t get to see Jalen Hurd play against an SEC team to close his career. The former Tennessee tailback and current Baylor receiver had knee surgery, which essentially squashed the juiciest storyline for this game.
9. Gator Bowl, Texas A&M vs. N.C. State
JIMBO FISHER AND HIS RETURN TO FACING ACC ATLANTIC OPPONENTS. Eh, not so much. Not to take anything away from what the Aggies did to shed their November struggles narrative from the Kevin Sumlin era, but a 7-overtime shootout is the only thing that’ll make the masses deviate from their New Year’s Eve festivities to watch this one. N.C. State’s top receiver, Kelvin Harmon, and first-team All-SEC linebacker Germaine Pratt are skipping this one. But hey, never say never.
8. Music City Bowl, Auburn vs. Purdue
I’ll be honest. If this was like, Auburn vs. Oklahoma State, this might be dead last. Watching the Auburn offense is painful. There are only so many swing passes someone can take. You know what isn’t painful? Watching Jeff Brohm cook up trick plays and throw the ball all over the place. There’s a reason that Brohm has been so highly coveted on the coaching market. Watching what his group does — especially Rondale Moore — against one of the better SEC defenses will be what moves the needle in this one.
7. Liberty Bowl, Mizzou vs. Oklahoma State
Uh, Drew Lock against a bad Big 12 defense? Yes, please. The Fighting Mike Gundys rank No. 97 in scoring defense and they’re even worse (107th) against the pass. In Lock’s last college game, I expect him to want to air it out all over the place. He hasn’t had many games this year with all of his weapons at full strength. Getting to see that will be all sorts of fun. Between Gundy’s mullet and flashback shots of Lock’s mocked backpack celebration, I’m here for all the late-afternoon New Year’s Eve fun.
I asked Drew Lock ( @DrewLock23 ) what he already knows about Liberty Bowl opponent Oklahoma State and he has a lot of respect for Cowboys HC Mike Gundy (especially his mullet). @KMOV @AZOLibertyBowl #LibertyBowl pic.twitter.com/RsRC7ThwkD
— Brooke Grimsley (@BrookeGrimsley) December 3, 2018
6. Sugar Bowl, Georgia vs. Texas
OK, so some of you might be wondering why this is only the middle of the pack. After all, it’s a New Year’s 6 Bowl and with two of the most high-profile programs in the country. The fans will travel for this one, too. Even better, we’ll probably end up getting Tom Herman making up an excuse in the postgame press conference for why his team lost. But I don’t know. Two teams that just lost conference championships makes it feel like neither team is really playing for something that important. Here’s hoping for the sake of my personal entertainment that we don’t have a bunch of early draft entries sitting out.
5. Outback Bowl, Iowa vs. Mississippi State
OK, so this is where the subjectivity comes in. The idea of Iowa playing yet in another Outback Bowl won’t excite anyone outside of the state. I get that. But part of this is me being a fan of Joe Moorhead’s offense and being curious to see what Nick Fitzgerald will do to close his career. The other part of it is seeing what Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons will do against that oversized Iowa offensive line. This will be a good, physical battle that has the makings of a down-to-the-wire game.
4. Chick fil-A Peach Bowl, Florida vs. Michigan
It’s true that we’ve seen this matchup 3 times in the past 4 years. The fact that these teams keep finding a way to face each other is baffling. But while it’s the same programs, it’s a new set of circumstances. Don Brown’s defense will actually get a fair fight from an offensive mind like Dan Mullen, no matter how many Michigan players sit out the bowl game. I think this game matters for a pair of programs who haven’t won a New Year’s 6 bowl in the Playoff era. You can do a whole lot worse than this for an afternoon kick on New Year’s Day.
3. Citrus Bowl, Kentucky vs. Penn State
Speaking of New Year’s Day games, I’m super intrigued by the matchup in Orlando. Besides this just being a major opportunity for both programs to get that coveted 10th win, it’s the Josh Allen vs. Trace McSorley matchup that has me intrigued. Allen is looking to put the exclamation point on his rising draft stock and McSorley is looking to put the exclamation point on his prolific college career. Plus, I’m assuming this is the last we’ll see of Benny Snell in a college uniform, and that’s worth savoring for as long as humanly possible.
2. Orange Bowl, Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Kyler Murray vs. Tua Tagovailoa? Yep. Please and thank you. It’s the dream quarterback matchup, no doubt. That is, as long as Tagovailoa is healthy. This matchup is going to fuel a lot of the SEC and Big 12 narratives. If Murray gets shut down, we’ll all talk about how he was loading up on Big 12 defenses to get his numbers, even though anyone who actually watches him realizes how incredible he is. So why isn’t this No. 1? Well, because I don’t think it’ll be that close. I think Alabama scores at will on the Oklahoma defense and it isn’t a down-to-the-wire game. Here’s hoping it can somehow top the thriller we got in the SEC Championship.
1. Fiesta Bowl, UCF vs. LSU
Yes, this game is No. 1 and here’s why. Despite the fact that the Knights won’t have McKenzie Milton, we’re going to settle the “does UCF have the athletes to stay on the field with a motivated SEC team” debate once and for all. Devin White is playing, as will the vast majority of the LSU defense. (Well, the Tigers will be without two starters in the secondary.) There’s also the 10th win angle, which would mean a lot for Ed Orgeron. More important for my entertainment purposes, social media during this game will be a treat. The entire SEC will be pulling for LSU while the Danny Kanells of the world will be on their troll game. They better wake up early on the West Coast for this one because it’s going to be as electric as any non-Playoff game.