Clowney and South Carolina take on Wisconsin. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
(Author’s note: This article covers the SEC bowl games being played on December 30th, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, except for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. This game will be covered in part two of the ACC version of this article. Remaining games will be covered in future articles.)
Many people proclaim the SEC the greatest conference in college football. The conference’s teams did little to change that notion this year, as the league finds itself with yet another chance to play for a national title. The only thing that — to some, anyway — didn’t go according to script was the conference’s representative in the final BCS National Championship game. We’ll get back to that later, though.
Six games fill the conference bowl slate — five of which we’ll discuss here — before and on New Year’s Day, and many of the conference’s hottest markets are hosting games. Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa will welcome SEC schools to their stadiums, and though the largest prize of all awaits, there will be plenty at stake as 2013 comes to a close and 2014 directly follows. We’ll travel the roads of the southeast via our Keyword Search function, but before we do, our trivia question will mark our first milepost!
2013 SEC Bowls (Part 1) Trivia (answer at the end of the article): What was the original name of the Capital One Bowl, and which two schools played in its first-ever game?
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3 SEC)
Monday, Dec. 30, 3:15pm ET, ESPN
An imperfect ten: Georgia Tech is just 3-7 over their last ten bowl games. The Ramblin’ Wreck beat USC 21-7 in last year’s Sun Bowl, breaking a seven-game postseason losing streak that went all the way back to the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl. The Yellow Jackets defeated Syracuse 51-14 in that contest. Ole Miss is 9-1 over their last ten bowl appearances, though that streak extends back to 1992. The Rebels’ only bowl loss over that time was a 49-38 loss to West Virginia in the 2000 Music City Bowl.
Born to run: It is a horribly-kept secret that Georgia Tech’s offense is built around the running game. Paul Johnson’s option-based attack ranks fourth in the nation in rushing yards, toting the ball for an average of 311.67 yards per game. Ole Miss has faced two top-20 rushing offenses this season. Top-ranked Auburn carried 48 times for 282 yards and three scores in a 30-22 victory in October, while Missouri ran 51 times for 260 yards and three scores on November 23rd.
Up and down: Ole Miss went on a bit of a scoring tear after being shut out 25-0 by Alabama on September 28th. The Rebels went 4-2 over their next six games, averaging 38.5 points per game during that stretch. Hugh Freeze’s team managed just ten points in each of their final two games. Ole Miss lost these two games to Missouri and Mississippi State.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. Rice (10-3, 7-1 CUSA)
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 4pm ET, ESPN
No strangers to the SEC: This is Rice’s fourth bowl game against a current member of the Southeastern Conference. The Owls have previously faced off against Tennessee (1947 Orange Bowl), Alabama (1954 Cotton Bowl) and Ole Miss (1961 Sugar Bowl). Rice is 2-1 in these contests, and 6-4 in their ten-game bowl history.
Your performance is offensive: Mississippi State averages 426.2 yards of offense per game in 2013. This is over four yards greater than the single-season record for offense in Starkville. That record, 422 yards per game, was set 31 years ago. Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott is fifth in the SEC in total offense, averaging 240.8 yards per game.
Lack of airspace: Both teams are adept at slowing down the opposing passing game. Rice allows just 195.7 yards per game (13th in FBS), while Mississippi State only permits passers to throw for 215.3 yards per game (35th in FBS). Neither team offers a dominant passing offense. Mississippi State is 57th in the nation in passing offense at 240.3 yards per game. The Owls, conversely, rank 101st at 185.5 yards per game. Rice threw for fewer than 200 yards in eight games this season, with a season-low of 69 in an 18-14 victory over Florida Atlantic on September 28th.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Wednesday, Jan. 1, noon ET, ESPN2
#22 Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC) vs. Nebraska (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten)
Top twenty tussle: One of the more interesting storylines to watch in this game will be Georgia’s top-twenty passing offense (16th, 313.8 yards per game) against Nebraska’s almost top-twenty pass defense (21st, 205.8 yards per game). Georgia will be without senior leader Aaron Murray in this game, as he recovers from a knee injury. Junior passer Hutson Mason will be under center for the Bulldogs in Murray’s stead, and he brings with him a 2-0 record as a starter. Mason completed 35-of-55 passes for 488 yards and three scores in victories over Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
Familiar territory: Alabama and Texas are the clear all-time leaders in bowl appearances, with 60 and 51, respectively. The Cornhuskers share the next-highest total with Southern Cal and Tennessee. All three of those schools have made 49 bowl trips. Georgia barely trails that group. The Bulldogs have made 48 bowl visits. Nebraska is attempting to reach .500 (24-25), while Georgia is nine games over .500 (27-18-3). Neither team has ever lost in a Gator Bowl. Georgia is 2-0-1, while Nebraska beat Clemson in their only Gator Bowl appearance.
We’ve got to stop meeting each other like this: Nebraska and Georgia will play for the third time, with all three meetings coming in bowl games. Nebraska beat Georgia 45-7 in the Sun Bowl in 1969, with the Bulldogs returning the favor 45-31 in last season’s Capital One Bowl. Murray completed 18-of-33 passes in the contest, throwing for 427 yards and five scores. Then-Husker Rex Burkhead bested current Bulldog Todd Gurley in the game, carrying 24 times for 140 yards and a TD.
Capital One Bowl
#9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. #19 Wisconsin (9-3)
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1pm ET, ABC
The streak continues: South Carolina continues a string of success of which we have made mention in a previous edition of Clear Your Schedule. The Gamecocks have notched victories over 14 consecutive non-SEC teams. Florida State was the last team to defeat South Carolina in a non-conference matchup, beating the Gamecocks 26-17 in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Irresistible forces vs. immovable objects: The Badger defense is a top-six unit in three of the four major defensive categories. Wisconsin ranks 12th (192.7 yards per game) in passing defense. South Carolina ranks 31st in scoring offense (34.1 points per game), 29th in rushing offense (205.25 yards per game), 47th in passing offense (248.3 yards per game) and 33rd in total offense (453.5 yards per game). Wisconsin only allowed greater than 400 yards of offense twice this season (468 to Arizona State and 465 to Penn State), and lost both of those contests.
Unfamiliar foes: Wisconsin and South Carolina have never played each other. Steve Spurrier has never seen the Badgers as an opposing coach, as Duke played Wisconsin in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl after Spurrier had left to go to Florida years prior. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has also never faced South Carolina as a head coach.
#16 LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC) vs. Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten)
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1pm ET, ESPN
Just once: Much like many games involving Big Ten and SEC opponents, these two teams have only seen each other on the sidelines one time in their history. The Tigers fell 30-25 to Iowa in the Capital One Bowl in 2005. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate threw a 56-yard buzzer beating pass to give the Hawkeyes the victory.
Lookin’ for a hit: Iowa boasts a .500 winning percentage (11-11-0) in games against the SEC. LSU has enjoyed considerably less success against the Big Ten, however. The Tigers are just 7-10-2 against teams currently in the Big Ten, though not all of those games took place when those teams were Big Ten members.
Opposites attract: Iowa has clearly established themselves as a defensive club. The Hawkeyes rank 11th in scoring defense (18.8 points per game), 17th in rushing defense (120.75 yards per game), 11th in passing defense (182.4 yards per game) and seventh in total defense (303.2 yards per game). LSU, meanwhile, ranks 21st in scoring offense (37 points per game), 32nd in rushing offense (200.83 yards per game), 34th in passing offense (265.1 yards per game) and 27th in total offense (465.9 yards per game). LSU freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings will take the reins for the Tigers, as Zach Mettenberger will miss the game with a knee injury. Jennings has completed 6-of-10 passes for 99 yards and a score in limited duty.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: What was the original name of the Capital One Bowl, and which two schools played in its first-ever game?
The Capital One Bowl was originally called the Tangerine Bowl, and was first played on January 1, 1947. Catawba College (currently in NCAA Division II) defeated Maryville College (currently in NCAA Division III) 31-0.