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College Bowl Recap

The Southeastern Conference had high expectations entering bowl season. The SEC has been regarded as the best conference in college football for the last several seasons and has enjoyed consistent success in the postseason. 

This year, the belief of many was that the SEC West Division was not only the best division in football but also better than the best seven teams from any other conference. Six teams from the West were ranked in the Top 10 at some point during the season, and all seven teams in the division made bowl games. 

However, the SEC – particularly the West – struggled in many of its bowl games. The league finished 7-5 overall, and all five losses came from teams in the West. Arkansas and Texas A&M were the division’s only winners. 

The Razorbacks continued their late-season surge by pummeling Texas, 31-7. The Hogs improved tremendously at the end of the season and took another step forward in the bowl game. Arkansas finished the year at 7-6. 

Texas A&M won a shootout over West Virginia, 45-37, in the Liberty Bowl. It was an up and down season for the Aggies but they finished the year at a respectable 8-5. Texas A&M had big wins over South Carolina and Auburn, but they also submitted embarrassing performances against Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. 

The SEC East was a punching bag for most of the year, but it was 5-0 in bowl games. South Carolina defeated Miami, 24-21, and the Gamecocks finished the season at 7-6. Tennessee dominated Iowa, 45-28, and also finished at 7-6. Florida escaped, 28-20, against North Carolina, and the Gators ended the year at 7-5. 

Georgia and Missouri were the best two teams in the East Division throughout the year, and both teams easily won their bowl games. Georgia defeated Louisville, 37-14, with running back Nick Chubb rushing for over 200 yards against the Cardinals. Despite missing star running back Todd Gurley for most of the year, the Bulldogs still went 10-3. Missouri, which won the East Division for the second year in a row, knocked off Minnesota, 33-17. The Tigers went 11-3 on the season. 

The rest of the SEC teams didn’t fare so well in the postseason. LSU lost a very winnable game to Notre Dame, 31-28, and the Tigers fell to 8-5 on the season. More importantly, LSU lost defensive coordinator John Chavis to Texas A&M. Mississippi State had no answer for Georgia Tech’s triple option attack, and the Yellow Jackets topped the Bulldogs, 49-34. However, it was still a very successful season for Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs finished the year at 10-3. 

Ole Miss picked the wrong time to play its worst game of the season. The Rebels were humiliated by TCU, 42-3, in the Peach Bowl, and it probably could have been much worse. The Horned Frogs dominated the game from the start and made their case about why they shouldn’t have been excluded from the College Football Playoffs. It was a disappointing end to a good season for Ole Miss. At 9-4, the Rebels improved their win total for the third consecutive season under Hugh Freeze. 

Auburn was ranked third in the first-ever College Football Playoff rankings at the end of October. Since then, the Tigers lost four of five games and finished the year at 8-5. Auburn lost to Wisconsin, 34-31, in overtime at the Outback Bowl, and the Tigers were haunted by the same defensive woes that plagued them all season. Luckily for Auburn, Will Muschamp is returning to The Plains to help fix the ailing defense.

After most of the conference struggled in bowl games, the SEC was depending on Alabama to carry the flag in the playoffs. The Crimson Tide had a favorable matchup against an Ohio State team that was starting a third stringer at quarterback. 

Unfortunately for Alabama, Cardale Jones didn’t play like a third string signal caller. The Crimson Tide couldn’t stop Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes moved the ball at will, and despite trailing 21-6 in the second quarter, they came back to win the game, 42-35. Alabama had its chances late in the game, but three Blake Sims interceptions and several missed conversions doomed the Crimson Tide. 

After finishing 12-2, it was still a great year for Alabama. The Tide won another SEC title and were the first SEC participant in the playoffs. 

Ohio State will meet Oregon in the national championship game this Monday (Jan. 12). The Ducks throttled Florida State, 59-20, and have been the best team in the country since their loss to Arizona in early October. 

National Championship Prediction: Oregon 41, Ohio State 31.

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