SEC studs and duds in the bowl games
The SEC went 8-2 in the bowl season and set a record for most wins in a bowl season by one conference. That being said, it was very difficult to cull a list of great performances down to just five studs.
It was tough even finding five players and units I didn’t like. But, on with the show:
BOWL GAME STUDS
Leonard Fournette, LSU: The Tigers’ 56-27 romp over Texas Tech was a statement game for Leonard Fournette and LSU. After a disappointing finish to the season, the Tigers wanted to get that bad taste out of their mouth and they did. Fournette had 212 yards on 29 carries, scoring four touchdowns on the ground. He also caught a screen pass for a 44-yard score. Seeing something besides power runs out of Fournette was satisfying.
Auburn’s defense: After a 6-6 season and the departure of their defensive coordinator, Muschamp, it would have been easy for the Tigers defense to roll over and head out to the offseason. But they rose to the occasion and shut down top NFL prospect Paxton Lynch in a convincing 31-10 win. Lynch, considered a top-5 pick, was just 16-for-37 for 108 yards passing, with a 14.9 QB rating. It was his worst performance of the year, by far. Nice job, Tigers.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott made sure that he made the most out of his last game with the Bulldogs. He threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns in a big win over N.C. State. No doubt he’s the greatest Bulldog ever, and that was quite a way to say goodbye.
Jake Coker, Alabama: Michigan State wasn’t going to let Derrick Henry beat them in the playoff semifinal Thursday night and it was up to Coker to make some throws for Alabama. He did just that, leading the Crimson Tide to a 38-0 win over the Spartans. He was nearly perfect, completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards.
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss: If Treadwell is indeed off to the NFL, he went out in style Friday night in the Rebels’ 48-20 romp over Oklahoma State. Treadwell had three touchdown receptions and also threw a pass that was good for 45 yards. After that horrific injury last season, it was great to see him come back and have a great junior season. He finished the year with 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.
BOWL GAME DUDS
Brandon Harris, LSU: Harris struggled with accuracy once again, often missing wide open receivers that could have led to big plays. His mechanics continue to be the problem. He throws off his back foot too much and never rotates his shoulders to the receiver when he rolls out. Harris has lots of work to do in the offseason.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: This is more of a “The Buck Stops Here” mention, because things are a mess right now in College Station and that falls on Sumlin. It’s one thing to lose two five-star quarterbacks (Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray) in the span of a week, but it’s another thing to struggle in a bowl game and take a rare SEC loss. The Aggies lost to Louisville 27-21, letting true freshman QB Lamar Jackson run for 226 yards and throw for another 227. When you have abandonment issues on offense, your defense needs to rise to occasion. They didn’t, and that’s a reflection on the coach for not having his team ready.
Florida defense: It’s too easy to keep ripping on Florida QB Treon Harris, because we’ve been doing it for about two months now as he’s struggled to lead the UF offense. No, this time we’ll call out the Gators defense for their dismal performance in a 41-7 rout by Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. This unit, which is loaded with future NFL draft picks, simply didn’t show up on Friday. There was poor tackling and lots of missed assignments, even by top draft-pick candidate Vernon Hargreaves III, who’s supposed to be the best cornerback in the country. There’s no excuse for a Michigan offense that’s struggled most of the year to gain 503 yards.
Sean White, Auburn QB: The thinking went that Sean White would have a big day for Auburn after having a month to get healthy. But the freshman struggled in the first half, throwing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. That opened the door for Jeremy Johnson to return to the field at QB, and he played well. The race for QB in 2016 is wide open.
SEC naysayers: We heard it way too much in the buildup to bowl season that this year the SEC was a one-team league. Everyone gave Alabama its proper due, but considered the rest of the league to have some warts. But the SEC has sparkled this year, going 8-2 and setting a record for most wins in a bowl season by a conference. In the SEC’s eight wins, they outscored their opponents 338-131, an average margin of victory by more than 26 points.