How appealing is every SEC bowl game? They vary ... wildly
Spoiler alert: Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl is the most attractive bowl game involving an SEC team in 2018.
Come on. Is it really a spoiler if you knew the answer before you clicked on the link?
So many questions: Is Tua Tagovailoa healthy? Can the Sooners stop the Crimson Tide if Jalen Hurts starts instead? Can the Sooners stop anybody no matter who is at quarterback? Conversely, what will Bama dial up to slow Kyler Murray, the best quarterback Nick Saban’s bunch has seen all season? Are there any unsung stars waiting in the wings like SEC Championship Game MVP Josh Jacobs?
All that and the highest stakes, too, in a College Football Playoff semifinal. You can’t ask for more.
The SEC’s other 10 bowl games have varying levels of interest both to their own fan bases and on a national level.
So let’s check out our ranking of how appealing each SEC bowl game is:
11. Auburn vs. Purdue, Music City
Last year all we heard after UCF beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl was that Auburn was demotivated. In 2018 the Tigers had a much worse season, got nowhere near a major bowl, and half the state wants to run coach Gus Malzahn out of town. So tell me how motivated this Tigers team will be in Nashville? We know Jarrett Stidham will be, considering it’s his last chance to impress before the NFL Combine.
10. South Carolina vs. Virginia, Belk
There’s just not much terribly interesting about the Cavaliers. They faced the worst Virginia Tech team in a generation and still lost that game for the 15th year in a row. The Gamecocks talked a good game about contending in the SEC East but never delivered, and now receiver Deebo Samuel is sitting this one out as he gets ready to turn pro. At least Charlotte’s a short trip for both fan bases.
9. Baylor vs. Vanderbilt, Texas
Two 6-6 teams going at it here, which is not enticing on the surface. But both should be motivated after missing out on bowl season in 2017 and they get to play in an NFL stadium in Houston. I’m not saying it’s must-see TV but this one actually could be entertaining. It would have been better if former Vol Jalen Hurd were playing, but he’s out with an injury.
Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd will miss bowl game against Vanderbilt after undergoing procedure on knee Tuesday, per source.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 4, 2018
8. Mississippi State vs. Iowa, Outback
If you think the Hawkeyes hit Tampa every other year, you’re not far off. This is Iowa’s sixth Outback Bowl since 2004. The Bulldogs aren’t exactly strangers, either, having played in a Tampa Bay-area bowl in 2016. But the Bulldogs and their fans will love this trip (as a Tampa Bay resident I freely admit bias), and 9 wins would be a great followup in Year 1 post-Dan Mullen.
7. Florida vs. Michigan, Peach
I said this Sunday, but I repeat: This would have been so much more fun if ex-UF coach Jim McElwain hadn’t left Michigan’s staff to take the Central Michigan job. These teams meet for the third time in 36 months. UF will really want this one; we’ll see how much the Wolverines do after that flop at Ohio State.
6. Missouri vs. Oklahoma State, Liberty
Not the best teams out there, but it could be an exploding scoreboard game. Of course this is a last chance for Tigers fans to see Drew Lock before he goes to the NFL. He’s 5 TD passes behind Chase Daniel’s school record of 101. It’s not ridiculous to think he might get there against the inconsistent Cowboys, who are without leading rusher Justice Hill (rib injury).
5. LSU vs. Central Florida, Fiesta
This would have been a spot or two higher had McKenzie Milton (broken leg) been available for the Knights. UCF’s 25-game winning streak includes 3 victories over Power 5 teams, but the Knights have not seen a defense this good — even though LSU’s secondary will be without 2 key starters. Meanwhile, is LSU recovered from that epic 7-OT loss to Texas A&M?
4. Kentucky vs. Penn State, Citrus
The Wildcats get a chance to prove themselves against a name-brand program out of the conference. Penn State got out of a midseason dip to win 5 of their past 6 games and Nittany Lions senior Trace McSorley is one of the best quarterbacks the Wildcats will face this season.
3. Texas A&M vs. N.C. State, TaxSlayer Gator
These teams are on sneaky hot streaks. Both the Aggies and Wolfpack have won three in a row and both average about 35 points a game. Then add the Jimbo Fisher factor (with his return to Florida) and two teams likely to gobble up their ticket allotment in a hurry. The Aggies catch a break because N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon, who led the ACC with 1,186 receiving yards, is sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft.
2. Georgia vs. Texas, Sugar
History is littered with college football teams who complained mightily about getting left out of whatever (big-name bowl, BCS title game, CFP semifinals) then got pasted in their postseason games. The Dawgs have better talent than Texas; we’ll see if they bring a killer attitude against the Longhorns.
1. Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Orange
See the intro. Let’s not overthink this, shall we?