The weather has turned in this part of the country to jacket weather, and in reply I got out my heavier jacket a few weeks ago to discover on a scrap piece of paper within my inside pocket my predictions for last year's SEC related bowl games. Hmm, you might decide to not pay any attention to what I am about to write down below, haha. That's a nice way of putting it that I missed the mark quiet a few times. But my gut says that St. Peter doesn't have your bowl predictions in front of him at the Pearly Gates and isn't going to determine your entry based on them, so for the fun of it, here I go again at trying to determine which SEC teams are going to get bowl victories this year. I'll leave the thousand other bowl games to others, for those would be even more of wild guesses than what I am about to write. In honor of Bowl Season starting this weekend, here are my picks for the SEC.
MUSIC CITY BOWL (ESPN December 30th - 6:40 Eastern) Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Miss. State (6-6) - In some alternative universe Jim Grobe is coaching the Hogs in the Music City Bowl this year. Thank Gawd I don't live in it! haha. I much prefer this Petrino universe that I live in. After thrashing Michigan in the Gator Bowl last year, this has to be something of a let down for MSU fans. Wake Forest? But they are going to be even more disappointed when their Bulldogs still manage not much of anything on offense and lose the Music City Bowl, a bowl that the SEC does not traditionally win. I am going, unfortunately, with tradition and an ACC victory here. Wake Forest might be located in the east, but it is not an SEC East team, Dan Mullen's specialty. Grobe's few hours as an SEC West coach before he changed his mind is enough to beat Mullen, who has only beaten one SEC West team, Ole Miss. (Hey, I didn't say these were scientific predictions! As if they there could be such a thing with bowl games.)
LIBERTY BOWL (ABC December 31st - 3:30 Eastern) Cincy (9-3) vs. Vandy (6-6) - Don't be fooled by Cincy's better record. They are still from the Big East, and I think that is reason enough to pick the team with the worse record from the SEC to win. Yeah, I am going with Franklin and his Dores in this one. Motivation plays such a large part in these games, and I see the Vanderbilt players being really jacked up about being in a bowl game period. They'll come out in Memphis with more fire. And they'll need it if it is as cold as it was when the Hogs last played in the Liberty Bowl. If there is any reason to pick the Bearcats, I think it would be the fact that this is Franklin's first bowl game as a head coach. Still, Vandy gets bowl win number two in recent years.
FAST FOOD CHICKEN BOWL (ESPN December 31st 7:30 Eastern) Virgina (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5) - Auburn has been going through coaching changes in the off season as well as a Michael Dyer suspension. Combine that with an 8-4 Virginia team out for a rare nine win season, and I think you have Chizik looking more and more like the coach who was 5-15 (I think) at Iowa State. Sorry Tigers, I see Virginia winning this one. That is unless you can secretly dress out Cam Newton for the game.
AUSTRALIAN HIGH CHOLESTEROL BOWL (ABC January 2nd 1 PM Eastern) Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3) - Both teams also have 7-1 conference records. Expect to see a much better effort from Georgia in this bowl game than what we saw of them last year in a terrible Liberty Bowl performance. The Georgia defense of the first half of the SEC Championship game was no fluke. I expect it to be the dominant factor in this game along with the fact that MSU thinks it should be in the Rose Bowl. And they likely would have been if they had not bumped a Wisconsin punter. But watchout, Georgia, if this is close in the 4th quarter. MSU knows how to pull off the miracle at the end as well as lay a heart stomped on egg of a finish. They've done both this season.
THE WHAT'S IN YOUR WALLET BOWL (ESPN January 2nd 1 PM Eastern) Nebraska 9-3 vs. South Carolina 10-2 - I would love to see the SEC get a victory here over the newest Big Ten team, but it is hard to have a lot of faith in South Carolina under Spurrier when it comes to bowl games. It has been dud after dud for the Gamecocks and bowl games as of late. In a low scoring game, I think South Carolina is able to stop Martinez just enough to get a victory by, say, a field goal. Besides, Connor Shaw might actually be in his hotel room by curfew the night before the game. Nebraska can't count on any Stephen Garcia late night partying. So, yeah, South Carolina is the winner in a close one.
THE THIS REMINDS ME OF A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BOWL (ESPN 2 January 2nd 1 PM Eastern) Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6). Some are calling this the Urban Bowl. Though it might look like a former title game, you just have to look at the records to see that it isn't one. I haven't seen much of Ohio State this year, but I've seen enough of Florida not to have a lot of confidence in them. I just don't think they can score any points! So I am going with Urban Meyer's new team to beat his old team. Yeah, the Big Ten gets an SEC scalp here. Don't despair, Florida. Chances are OSU will still have to vacate their victory for some reason or another that will come out after the game.
THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME THAT LOOKS A LOT LIKE A REGULAR SEASON GAME (ESPN January 9th 8:30 Eastern) - LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1). The national championship game comes around only once a year (unlike games between LSU and Alabama apparently), so I am pulling for this to be a really good contest. Taking a good deal of grief about the rematch, the conference needs it to be a good game with some actual touchdowns and possibly a fourth quarter, make it or break it, drive being involved in closing out the game. Alabama couldn't win at home earlier in the season, so I have to go with LSU in Baton Rouge South, which will be rocking with LSU fans. Sorry, Bama, but this just happens to be LSU's year, which seems to be on a cycle of every four years. I know, I hate them too. The SEC will win its sixth national title in a row and will lose its first all in one night in New Orleans. Deciding factor? LSU's defense and special teams will make plays that will make it easier on LSU's offense than what Alabama's special teams and defense will be able to do for its offense.
PICKING COTTON UNDER A DOME (FOX January 6th 7 PM Central ) - Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2) - This is hard. If I didn't know the numbers 12-23-4 (Arkansas' bowl record) or 3-7-1 (Arkansas' Cotton Bowl record) it would make it much easier to pick the Hogs to beat Kansas State in what many are saying is a BCS caliber game. Motivation? I think Arkansas could have a slight edge because they were not the shunned team. But then again, that could give K-State some extra motivation to show the Sugar Bowl what they missed by, laughing, taking V-Tech. Offense? Two different styles. The Hogs pass it around. The Wildcats can methodically move down the field with running the ball. Does the bomber beat the tank? Coaches? Snyder has the years of experience and no shakeups on his staff. Arkansas has changed out all three coordinators for this game. How much of a difference will that make? Weather? not a factor. Location? The Hogs haven't lost inside Jerry World in three attempts. Might K-State be starry eyed at their surroundings? Colors? The Hogs beat the team in purple the last time they won a bowl game. . . . Okay, so tell us who is going to win! Enough already! The Hogs. And here's why. We won't see the drops from our receivers, not again. Paul Petrino is no rookie coach when it comes to the Hogs. Special teams with all-American Joe Adams will give us good field position, if not a score. Broderick Green, yeah, Broderick, runs for some big plays on the field that he captured glory on back earlier in the season. The defense bends again, but doesn't break enough for Kansas State on third down, and the Hogs (a second half team all year) start to really bust things open in the third quarter and cause K-State to abandon their plan of running the ball. Tramain Thomas and Bennett both get a pick when K-State attempts to pass back at us. The red and white on the field will start to resemble the crimson and cream of OU in the eyes of K-State fans at some point in the second half. The number 38 appeared a lot throughout the season, so I am going to go Hogs 38 / Kansas State 24. Jarius Wright will be your Cotton Bowl MVP. And the Hogs leave Arlington with the first eleven win season since 1977.
The SEC goes 4-3 outside of the contest in New Orleans. Now I will tuck another scrap piece of paper my inside jacket pocket and hope that I can respect it, haha, when I find it again as the weather turns cold in 2012. But if I am wrong about all of them, but right about the Cotton Bowl, then I will count myself still very pleased at my bowl picking ability.