In & around the SEC Bowl Preview Edition

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

 Championship recap

Alabama defeated Georgia, 32-28, in thrilling fashion last Saturday (Dec.1) to capture the 2012 Southeastern Conference championship. In one of the most exciting games of the season, the Crimson Tide (12-1, 8-1) stopped Georgia on the 5-yard line as time expired. Alabama fell behind 21-10 in the third quarter after the Bulldogs (11-2, 7-2) returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, but the Crimson Tide’s running game was dominant to finish the game. Both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon topped 100 yards on the ground, and Lacy was named MVP of the game after finishing with 181 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Alabama rushed for 350 yards for the game, and its offensive line dominated in the second half. With the victory, Alabama faces Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 in Miami.

Auburn hires Malzahn

Nine days after firing Gene Chizik, Auburn hired former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as head coach. Malzahn was introduced as Auburn’s 26th head football coach on Tuesday (Nov. 4), leaving Arkansas State after just one season. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-2011, helping lead the Tigers to a national championship in 2010. After coaching high school football for 15 years, Malzahn made stops at Arkansas, Tulsa, Auburn and Arkansas State before landing his first collegiate head-coaching job back in Auburn.

Known for his prolific spread offenses, Malzahn mentioned in his introductory press conference that the Tigers would “attack” on both sides of the ball. Malzahn’s hiring benefits most players on the current roster, as they were recruited to run his offense. Malzahn recruited most of the players on the team, and he’s familiar with the majority of the players.

The task ahead for Malzahn certainly won’t be easy. The SEC West is the toughest division in college football, and after a 3-9 season, Auburn must rebound quickly. Auburn is talented but undisciplined. If Malzahn is going to turn Auburn back into a contender, he’ll first have to control the locker room.

Malzahn informed the rest of Gene Chizik’s staff that he would be letting them go, although they will be able to interview to be rehired. Auburn already has hired Ellis Johnson as its defensive coordinator. While at South Carolina, Johnson had three top 15 defenses in his four seasons. Johnson also made stops at Alabama, Clemson, and Appalachian State.

2012 Heisman Trophy

The three finalists for the Heisman trophy are Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Kansas State’s Collin Klein. While each player is deserving of the prestigious award, this season’s trophy belongs to Johnny Football. Manziel has been the most outstanding player in the country this season, and he should become the first freshman to ever win the award.
Heisman vote:
    1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
    2. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
    3. Collin Klein, Kansas State
    4. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
    5. Marqise Lee, USC

SEC Bowl Games predictions (Week 14: 1-0, season: 95-16)

Monday, Dec. 31

Music City Bowl: N.C. State vs. Vanderbilt (-5)    The Commodores have reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. With a win over the Wolfpack, Vandy would tie the school record for wins in a season with nine. N.C. State had a year full of ups and downs, including an upset win over ACC champion Florida State, as well as two blowout losses to Tennessee and Virginia. The Wolfpack fired coach Tom O’Brien after six seasons, while the Commodores just gave James Franklin a contract extension and a facilities upgrade.VANDERBILT 30, N.C. State 24

Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson (+3) – Both teams enter this matchup 10-2 on the season, and this game appears to be one of the better bowl games on this lackluster bowl schedule. Clemson is coming off of a home loss to rival South Carolina, while LSU has won two close games in a row over rivals Ole Miss and Arkansas. LSU looked unprepared in the 2011 national championship game, and Clemson was embarrassed by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Both coaches have something to prove this bowl season. LSU 27, Clemson 23

Tuesday, Jan. 1

Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Northwestern (+2) – After starting out 7-0, the Bulldogs limped to a 8-4 record, including a 41-24 loss to archrival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Northwestern is 9-3 on the season, but the Wildcats held a fourth quarter lead in each of its three losses. The SEC is the better conference, but the Wildcats finished stronger. NORTHWESTERN 31, Mississippi State 27

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan (+4.5) – Despite injuries to key players such as Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks finished 10-2. After a blowout loss to Alabama to open the season, the Wolverines finished 8-4, including losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Gamecocks are searching for their first back-to-back 11 win seasons in school history. SOUTH CAROLINA 34, Michigan 23

Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska (+8.5) - While both teams lost in their conference championship games, they came up short in different styles. Georgia lost a 32-28 heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC championship, while Nebraska was beaten soundly, 70-31, by Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Aaron Murray is 0-2 in bowl games as Georgia’s starter, but this is his best Bulldog team. GEORGIA 31, Nebraska 24

Wednesday, Jan. 2

Sugar Bowl: Louisville vs. Florida (-14.5) – The Gators finished 11-1 in Will Muschamp’s second season in Gainesville, and Florida once again looks poised to be a national title contender in the upcoming seasons. Former Gator defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has Louisville back in a BCS bowl. This will be the Cardinals’ last football game as a Big East member. FLORIDA 23, Louisville 13

Friday, Jan. 4

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (+3) - The Aggies and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel took the SEC by storm in their first season in finishing at 10-2. Oklahoma won 10 games yet again under Bob Stoops, and the Sooners won a share of another Big 12 title. These former Big 12 South rivals both have superb offenses, and the Cotton Bowl most likely will be a shootout. TEXAS A&M 45, Oklahoma 43

Saturday, Jan. 5

BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss (-1.5) - The Rebels are making their first bowl appearance since 2009, while the Panthers are making the trip to Birmingham for the third consecutive year. Hugh Freeze has the Rebel fan base optimistic looking toward the future, and the Rebels should almost have a home field advantage at Legion Field. OLE MISS 38, Pittsburgh 24

Monday, Jan. 7

BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Notre Dame (+9) – Nick Saban and Alabama are making their third trip in four seasons to the BCS national title game. The Crimson Tide defeated Texas and LSU for the 2009 and 2011 national titles, respectively. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has returned the Fighting Irish to national prominence in his third season. Notre Dame is 12-0 on the year, but if the Irish are going to defeat fellow heavyweight Alabama in Miami, freshman quarterback Everett Golson must produce a stellar performance. Both defenses are among the best in the nation, so expect a defensive struggle ALABAMA 24, Notre Dame 13

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