In & around SEC football


Bowl Previews and Predictions 

Friday, Jan. 1

Outback Bowl

Northwestern vs. Tennessee (-9.5). The Volunteers had a season full of missed opportunities. Te-nnessee lost four games this year, and all four were by seven points or less. In fact, two of the Vols’ losses came to two of the playoff teams, Alabama and Oklahoma. Tennessee probably should’ve won the East Di-vision this year and will be the favorites to do so next season, especially if the Vols beat Northwestern the same way they beat Iowa a season ago. Prediction: Tennessee 34, Northwestern 20. 

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Michigan vs. Florida (+4.5). The Gators won the SEC East despite having one of the worst offenses in the conference, which is both impressive and a telling sign about the depth of the East Division this season. Since Will Grier’s midseason suspension, Florida has been practically inept on offense. The defense, on the other hand, has been phenomenal, and it propelled this Florida team to 10 wins. Michigan had a great year in Jim Harbaugh’s first season as head coach, and a bowl win over an SEC team would be a great way to end the season. Prediction: Michigan 16, Florida 13.  

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (-6.5). Ohio State is probably the most talented team in college football. That’s why the Buckeyes were the preseason favorites to repeat as champions, and that’s why they coasted to 11 wins. The problem with the Buckeyes this year was that they cruised throughout the whole season, and it finally caught up with them against Michigan State. Notre Dame battled through injuries at numerous positions to go 10-2, and this might have been Brian Kelly’s best coaching job in South Bend. Prediction: Notre Dame 32, Ohio State 27. 

Rose Bowl 

Stanford vs. Iowa (+6.5). Iowa was one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, and the Hawkeyes were merely seconds away from advancing to the playoffs. Iowa’s 12 wins are the most in school history, and the Hawkeyes have a chance to add to that total with a win over the Pac-12 champions. Stanford might be one of the four best teams in the country, but a loss to Northwestern opening weekend kept the Cardinals from making the playoffs. Running back Christian McCaffrey finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, and he can make plays from nearly every skill position on the field. Prediction: Stanford 24, Iowa 20. 

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State (+7). Had Arkansas not converted a 4th-and-25 in overtime to beat Ole Miss in early November, the Rebels might’ve won an SEC title. The Sugar Bowl is a nice consolation prize, but it’s hard not to look back and ask “what if” about Ole Miss this season. The Cowboys had another 10-win season under Mike Gundy, though OSU did lose two of its last three games. Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Oklahoma State 30. 

Saturday, Jan. 2

TaxSlayer Bowl

Penn State vs. Georgia (-6.5). Despite a 9-3 season, Georgia opted to fire coach Mark Richt after the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Tech. Kirby Smart is taking over for Richt, and while Smart won’t coach the bowl game, it will be interesting to see how his team responds moving forward. Prediction: Penn State 17, Georgia 13. 

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Kansas State vs. Arkansas (-12.5). The Razorbacks had a slow start to the season but played great football down the stretch. Wins over LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Auburn were all impressive. Although Arkansas should’ve probably had a better record, it was a step in the right direction for the program. Prediction: Arkansas 31, Kansas State 17.

Valero Alamo Bowl

TCU vs. Oregon (Pick). This is probably the most intriguing of the non-premiere bowl games simply because of the offensive firepower that will be on display. Led by Vernon Adams, Oregon, finally started to look like an explosive offense toward the end of the season. TCU, led by Trevone Boykin, had one of the best offenses in college football until his injury late in the year. This game should be a shootout and will be one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season. Prediction: TCU 48, Oregon 45. 

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl

West Virginia vs. Arizona State (Pick). Both teams, especially Arizona State, had disappointing seasons, but each has a chance for redemption in the Cactus Bowl. This should be another offensive showdown, and the winner can make up for a lackluster season. Prediction: Arizona State 37, West Virginia 35.

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