SEC Preps for Final Two Bowl Games
Last night, the Southeastern Conference got its’ collective head above water in the 2012-2013 bowl season and did so in a big fashion. Struggling at 3-3 so far, the SEC got a huge shot in the arm with Texas A&M’s huge Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma by the score of 41-13. If there was any Heisman Trophy hangover, it certainly wasn’t evident for Aggies’ QB Johnny Manziel who set a bowl record for rushing yards by a QB with 229 yards on 17 carries. For good measure, he also tossed in 287 yards passing and accounted for a total of four touchdowns.
Prior to the Cotton Bowl, the SEC which is clearly the top conference in college football, had been struggling. LSU, Mississippi State and of course Florida all suffered losses of different varieties. Vandy, South Carolina and Georgia held up their end of the SEC banner with wins prior to A&M’s win last night.
Obviously, the most shocking loss was Florida’s beatdown at the hands of Louisville. The 33-23 final score was not indicative of the dominant performance by Charlie Strong’s Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl. Louisville had at least two other opportunities in the red zone that were thwarted. One has to wonder about UF Head Coach Bill Muschamp as he has seen several of his top players already declare for the NFL Draft. Florida would have been a favorite in the SEC next year but early entries will hurt those chances.
Georgia stormed back in their Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska. QB Aaron Murray threw for over 400 yards on just 18 completions and he’ll now need to decide whether the NFL is calling or not. My guess is that Murray will stay because he is currently projected as a second or third round pick. That of course could change with good pre-draft workouts, but he seems like a guy who will be back.
The Final Two SEC Bowls
BBVA Compass Bowl – Pitt (+3.5) vs Ole Miss – Both teams finished the season at 6-6, but Pitt was a little hotter at the end of the season winning four of their last six while the Rebels lost three of their lost four. The Panthers have a veteran QB in Tino Sunseri who can be very erratic or very special at times. They will try to keep the pressure off of him with Ray Graham running the football.
The two squads both average around 30 points per game offensively, but Pitt gives up about nine points less than Ole Miss does (19.7 vs 28.5).
Ole Miss relies on the passing of Bo Wallace who had 19 TD tosses in 2012. Ten of those touchdown passes went to Donte MonCrief who finished with just under 1,000 yards receiving on the year. I like a really tight game here with Ole Miss’ tougher competition paying dividends in a tight ball game.
BCS Title Game – Alabama (-10) vs Notre Dame – If you want a statistic that is working against the Alabama Crimson Tide then there’s a pretty darn good one for ya right here. Any defending champion that has returned to the BCS Title game the following year has lost (Miami, Florida State, USC). Teams playing in their very first BCS Title game are 9-3 overall so any thought that experience plays a factor is blown out of the water a bit on those numbers.
I do think there is an advantage however in terms of experience and it comes at a couple of key positions for the Tide. They will have a major experience advantage at quarterback with A.J. McCarron over Everett Golson and on the offensive line where they start two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. Any which of course could be or already is an all-american. There other area where the Tide may have an edge is in the secondary where they have very good cover corners and experienced safeties.
The Irish didn’t get to 12-0 without experience and obviously have it on defense with Manti Te’o at linebacker and Tyler Eifert at tight end. Notre Dame’s offensive line also has some experience as well in center Mike Golic, Jr. The Irish will rely on being efficient and aggressive on both sides of the ball in order to counter the athleticism of the Crimson Tide. Brian Kelly and Nick Saban are both masters of preparation and both teams will be ready. I like Notre Dame to cover, but I like the Tide to win with a touchdown late.