1 thing to know about every SEC team's bowl opponent
The SEC wound up sending 12 of its 14 teams to bowl games in 2020. Only LSU, which self-imposed a one-year bowl ban this season, and winless Vanderbilt were left out.
Some opponents will be very familiar to SEC fans, others will be a bit more obscure. In either case, we’re here to help.
Here is one thing about every SEC bowl opponent for fans to know.
Alabama (vs. Notre Dame, CFP semifinal, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 1)
The Fighting Irish took a pounding in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, losing to Clemson 34-10. But Bama fans should not overlook Notre Dame because this is a very strong team on the offensive and defensive lines. The O-line ranks in the nation’s top 20 in four categories, according to Football Outsiders, and the defensive line is No. 1 in three categories: Stuff Rate, Line Yards and Standard Downs Line Yards. One bonus stat: Alabama and Notre Dame have met in a Sugar Bowl, an Orange Bowl, a BCS Championship Game and now a CFP semifinal.
Texas A&M (vs. North Carolina, Orange Bowl, Miami, Jan. 2)
The Tar Heels caught the same break that Virginia caught last year: That the Orange Bowl is contracted to take an ACC team. But North Carolina has improved in leaps and bounds in the past couple of years under Mack Brown, especially on offense. The Aggies have faced 2 quarterbacks who rank in the nation’s top 10 in yards per attempt: No. 1 Mac Jones and No. 8 Kyle Trask. A&M allowed an average of 373.5 passing yards in those games. Guess who’s up next? Tar Heels QB Sam Howell, who is fourth in ypa at 10.6.
Florida (vs. Oklahoma, Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas, Dec. 30)
The Gators and Sooners are almost mirror images: Excellent offense, inconsistent on defense. The difference is in recent form: Florida has lost 2 consecutive games; Oklahoma has won 7 in a row. And this stat belies Oklahoma’s reputation on defense: The Sooners allowed fewer than 300 yards in 3 consecutive games going into Saturday’s B1g 12 Championship Game.
Georgia (vs. Cincinnati, Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Jan. 1)
One thing to know about Cincinnati is that the Bearcats come from the American Athletic Conference, and that’s not always good news for the SEC. Since the AAC’s inception in the 2013 season, that league’s teams are 2-4 against the SEC in bowl games. That includes the most recent time that representatives from the SEC and AAC met in the postseason: When UCF defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. This is the fourth consecutive season that the AAC champion has been the Group of 5 representative in the New Year’s Day 6 bowls.
South Carolina (vs. UAB, Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa, Dec. 26)
The Blazers won the Conference USA championship for the second time in 3 years on Saturday and UAB is headed to its 4th straight bowl, a remarkable achievement for a program that was shut down after the 2014 season and resumed play in the 2017 season.
Missouri (vs. Iowa, Music City Bowl, Nashville, Dec., 30)
The Hawkeyes have won 6 straight games after starting 0-2. But Iowa has scored 40 or more points just twice in its 8 games and never cracked 50. However, Iowa has held 3 opponents to exactly 7 points and ranked 2nd in the B1G in total defense, allowing 313.8 yards per game.
Mississippi State (vs. Tulsa, Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 31)
Tulsa came oh-so-close to winning the American Athletic Conference title game and shaking up the NYD6 (well, sending Coastal Carolina to the Peach Bowl instead of Cincinnati, anyway). The Golden Hurricane defeated 2 ranked teams in 2020 and lost to Cincinnati on a last-second field goal.
Tennessee (vs. West Virginia, Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Dec. 31)
The Mountaineers led the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 297.2 yards per game. West Virginia was the first Big 12 team since 2009 to allow less than 300 yards per game (Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma all did it that year). DL Darius Stills and LB Tony Fields were named first-team all-conference.
Arkansas (vs. TCU, Texas Bowl, Houston, Dec. 31)
This game resumes an old Southwest Conference rivalry that Razorbacks fans will probably relish for their first bowl since the 2016 Belk Bowl. Arkansas and TCU have met 68 times, according to Arkansas’ media guide, with the Hogs winning 44 and tying 2. The teams first met in 1920 and last met in 2017.
Auburn (vs. Northwestern, Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Jan. 1)
This one should be a defensive slugfest — which is funny because these two teams had a memorable shootout in the 2009 Outback Bowl. Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka set NCAA bowl records for completions (47) and pass attempts (78) for a single game. Auburn still won 38-35.
Kentucky (vs. N.C. State, Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Jan. 2)
The Wolfpack have run into SEC teams twice in the Gator Bowl, with no luck. Florida defeated North Carolina State 27-10 on New Year’s Eve in the 1992 season. A generation later Texas A&M pounded the Wolfpack 52-13, again on Dec. 31, in the 2018 season.
Mississippi (vs. Indiana, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Jan. 2)
The Hoosiers are either going to be angry or demotivated for this one. Indiana went 6-1, with its only loss by 7 points to CFP participant Ohio State. Yet the Hoosiers, No. 11 in the final CFP rankings, were aced out of the NYD6 and even landed behind Northwestern in the B1G pecking order.