Harbach's SEC Bowl Breakdown

Heisman Winner Mark Ingram Leads Alabama

10 SEC teams will be playing bowl games this winer, two BCS games, seven games on or after January 1st and we are going to take a look at each one of them.

By Brian Harbach

A couple weeks ago I wrote an SEC Bowl Preview that was meant to just cover the bare bones of the SEC Bowl Season. It went over the games I liked, the ones I didn't and some other interesting story lines that stood out immediately. Of course there is never room to get every team involved and my inbox is letting me know that some were bothered by that. So, in order to make sure no one is left out it is time to actually breakdown each game and discuss the entire SEC Bowl Slate. Home teams will be listed second and as usual, I expect some feedback from SEC and Non-SEC fans.

Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs. Clemson
December 27, 2009
Why Kentucky Might Win
Kentucky is physical and physical teams have given Clemson problems all year long. With defensive playmakers like Micah Johnson, Sam Maxwell and Corey Peters dominating offensive lines, the Wildcats should get pressure on Clemson QB Kyle Parker and force him to make mistakes.
Why Kentucky Might Lose
No one has been able to contain CJ Spiller this season and in his last game as a Clemson Tiger expect Dabo Swinney to use him all over the field. Spiller has scored a touchdown in every Clemson game this year and with a month off to heal his toe injury it is impossible for Spiller not to be a factor in this game.
Prediction
Spiller is going to make plays in this game, but Kentucky will limit them just as South Carolina did against Clemson. Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke should have room to run and Kentucky will win its fourth straight bowl game beating Clemson for the second time in 4 years.
Score
Kentucky 28 Clemson 21

Independence Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
December 28, 2009
Why Georgia Might Win
A J Greene had an All SEC season and that was with him sitting out for roughly one third of the year. He is Georgia's best player and there is not a player in the country that can defend him. If he goes off and has a big day expect the Bulldogs to win.
Why Georgia Might Lose
The Georgia Defense has been awful all season long even when they weren't down three defensive coaches. Texas A&M has a mobile and accurate quarterback and some very talented young running backs. They will put pressure on the Bulldogs and they will put up some points.
Prediction
Obviously by the score below I expect Greene to have a big game; UGA should win this game even with a not so typical UGA team and down three defensive coaches. This game reminds me a lot of the games Georgia played against South Carolina and Arkansas. It should be high scoring and not much defense will be on the field.
Score
Georgia 38 Texas A&M 35

Peach Bowl (Eat Mor Chikin)
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
December 31, 2009
Why Tennessee Might Win
This game is not the mismatch that some might think and Tennessee can win this game with Defense. The toughest game Virginia Tech had this year was against Alabama and that Tide defense dominated Va Tech all game to the tune of 155 total yards. The Vols have the second best defense the Hokies have played and they can take over this game.
Why Tennessee Might Lose
Virginia Tech's defense is always aggressive with forcing Turnovers and the Vols had the fourth most turnovers in the SEC. UT finished the year with a plus four in overall turnover margin but if they lose the turnover battle in the Georgia Dome they will lose the game.
Prediction
The Dome has been a house of horrors for Tennessee recently as the Vols have lost 5 straight games in the Georgia Dome. Three SEC Championship games and two Peach bowls. Virginia Tech is the better team here and they will put enough pressure on the Tennessee offense to come out in the end.
Score
Virginia Tech 21 Tennessee 17

Outback Bowl
Northwestern vs. Auburn
January 1, 2010
Why Auburn Might Win
The biggest difference in this game is Gus Malzahn. The Auburn Offensive Coordinator has turned a previously anemic Tiger offense into one that is capable of putting up points quickly and efficiently. With a month to prepare, Malzahn should have the formations, plays and tricks to control the Wildcat defense.
Why Auburn Might Lose
The Auburn defense has stopped no one this season and in the month of November the fewest points they gave up was 26. Injuries and depth were part of the problem but it is hard to see Auburn stopping the Wildcat offense.
Prediction
Since Auburn won't stop Northwestern from scoring they will have to outscore them. Auburn's offense is different from any team the Wildcats have played this year and the SEC speed will be too much for them.
Score
Auburn 41 Northwestern 31

Citrus Bowl (Capital One)
Penn State vs. LSU
January 1, 2010
Why LSU Might Win
Speed kills and LSU has it at nearly every position, this is a classic cliché with the Big Ten and SEC where we have the speedy Tigers vs. the physical Nittany Lions. The LSU receivers should be able to make some plays down field and the defensive ends should get around the Penn State tackles to put pressure on Daryll Clarke.
Why LSU Might Lose
While fast, the LSU defensive line has not been physical enough this year and teams have been able to run straight up the middle all year. Penn State can run the ball very well and their O-line can be dominant.
Prediction
The Penn State running game will be the difference in this game and Evan Royster should be on the radar of the NFL scouts when it is over. If LSU can stop the Nittany Lion rushing attack they will win, but right now it is hard to see that happening.
Score
Penn State 20 LSU 16

Sugar Bowl
Florida vs. Cincinnati
January 1, 2010
Why team Might Win
The Gators will win if they show up focused on the game and not what could have been. The Gators are more talented at every position on the field and every coach on the sidelines. They have the best college quarterback in the country and one of the best defenses. If they show up, they win. But they have to show up.
Why Florida Might Lose
The only way Florida loses this game is if they come into New Orleans like Alabama did last year. They would have to have no interest in the opponent (possible) and have no interest in playing in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama was knocked out by Utah because they didn't respect their opponent and were so close from playing for the National Championship. If Florida shows up with the same attitude, they will lose.
Prediction
The two reasons Florida doesn't show up disinterested in this game are Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. These two did not return for their senior seasons to have it end with a loss to a Big East team, they will not allow this team to lose. If Kelly was still the coach this one would have been close, but without him Florida takes a huge bite out of the Bearcats.
Score
Florida 42 Cincinnati 17

Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
January 2, 2010
Why Ole Miss Might Win
Dexter McCluster…really that is the only reason they will win this game because without him they don't. McCluster averaged 162 yards per game against SEC competition and should be a menace on the fast track in the House the Jerry built.
Why Ole Miss Might Lose
Turnovers have plagued Ole Miss all season long and the main source of those turnovers was Jevan Snead. Snead has to play mistake free football to win against OSU but he has averaged almost a 1.5 picks a game this season.
Prediction
I expect both the good and the bad for the Rebels, Dexter McCluster is going to go off for nearly 200 all purpose yards and Jevan Snead will throw a couple picks. The Ole Miss defense which has been underrated all year will be what stops the turnovers from costing the Rebels the game.
Score
Ole Miss 27 Oklahoma State 17

Papa Johns Bowl
South Carolina vs. Connecticut
January 2, 2010
Why South Carolina Might Win
South Carolina is the better team and they should win this game, South Carolina may have found something with their running game and with Stephon Gilmore in the Wild-Cock offense. Expect more creativity from Spurrier on offense because another postseason disaster could undo all the positives from the Clemson win.
Why South Carolina Might Lose
Connecticut is motivated to play in this game and finished the season the complete opposite of South Carolina. Even with Carolina's win over Clemson they ended the year 1- 3 but Connecticut is coming in very hot winning 3 straight including a win at Notre Dame. Is South Carolina excited to be playing in the "worst" SEC bowl against a team they would maybe schedule for an early season OOC game?
Prediction
This is a big game for South Carolina because there is a huge difference between ending a season with a victory of your rival and a bowl win and finishing the year 1-4. Expect South Carolina to come out with a chip on their shoulder and great leadership from their senior defensive players. This is the last go round for Eric Norwood and he wants to finish with a victory.
Score
South Carolina 28 UCONN 10

Liberty Bowl
Arkansas vs. East Carolina
January 2, 2010
Why Arkansas Might Win
The Arkansas offense has the fire power to dominate this game and push around the Conference USA champion. Ryan Mallet was arguably the best offensive player in the SEC this year and he has an underrated receiving group with Joe Adams, Greg Childs, London Crawford and DJ Williams. This offense is as deep and diverse as any in the SEC and they should be able to score at will.
Why Arkansas Might Lose
This looks to be the biggest mismatch of the SEC bowl games and if Arkansas rolls into Memphis overconfident they very well could get bounced by a well coached ECU team. The Pirates have held their own against good offenses this season beating Houston, Virginia Tech, Tulsa and West Virginia. Another inspired effort on defense could help the Pirates pull off another upset over a heavily favored BCS opponent.
Prediction
Even with a month to prepare the Pirates will be serious underdogs against Arkansas and the Razorbacks should have no problem moving the ball and handling the ECU Pirates. This could be a showcase game for Ryan Mallett as he decides whether or not to leave school early for the NFL.
Score
Arkansas 42 East Carolina 17

BCS Championship Game
Texas vs. Alabama
January 7, 2010
Why Alabama Might Win
Defense…Alabama can win this game with their defense. We all saw what Nebraska did to Texas with zero offense, now wait and see what a defense that is every bit Nebraska's equal, if not better, can do with a good offense behind it. Julio Jones gets a month off to rest any nagging injuries (none of which were visible the last month) and the physical running game with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson should help Alabama control the time of possession all game.
Why Alabama Might Lose
Texas has just as much talent as Alabama and they have a month to prepare for everything that Nick Saban's defense is going to throw at them. Colt McCoy is a senior quarterback with four years of starting experience and Mack Brown is one of the best coaches in the business. The Longhorn defense can hold up the Alabama offense and limit Mark Ingram. Add in the fact that Heisman trophy winners have historically struggled in championship games and we may have an upset on our hands.
Prediction
In order for Alabama to lose this game it will have to be a mirror image of the Miami/Ohio State Fiesta bowl from 2003. Texas will have to play a perfect game and Alabama will have to play poorly or have a call go against them late in the game. Texas is an underdog for a reason, they have not played great this year and their conference is seriously down. Alabama has better wins than Texas, has played competition than Texas and is just flat out better than Texas. Sure the team that hears for a month how badly they are going to get beaten in this game wins, but none of those teams were coached by Nick Saban and Saban knows how prepare a team when he has time to do so.
Score
Alabama 31 Texas 21

Ranking the Bowls 1-10

This might be fun for a little more discussion so here are my rankings of the most exciting SEC Bowl games this year (1 being most exciting and 10 being least exciting).

1 BCS Championship Game
2 Citrus (Capital One) Bowl
3 Cotton Bowl
4 Peach (Eat Mor Chikin) Bowl
5 Outback Bowl
6 Sugar Bowl
7 Independence Bowl
8 Liberty Bowl
9 Papa Johns Bowl
10 Music City Bowl

Just a reminder, I want your emails. Tell me where I'm wrong, where I'm right and where you think I am full of it. Your emails can shape what I should be writing about and if you don't tell me, I won't change. E-mail me Brian Harbach

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