A.J. McCarron and Alabama are big favorites over Oklahoma. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
The Southeastern Conference has a reputation on the national stage of being the most dominant conference in America, and they have done virtually nothing to harm that reputation this bowl season. Sure, Texas A&M allowed approximately 206,919 yards (okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration) to Duke, but still managed a victory. The SEC is 5-1 already this postseason, and they have four more cracks at adding to an already gaudy win total.
This edition of Clear Your Schedule takes us to outposts in the southeastern United States, the Gulf coast and Lone Star State. Get your GPS ready for our Keyword Search feature, but put on your thinking caps first – it’s time for our penultimate trivia question of the 2013-14 season!
2013 SEC Bowls (Part 2) Trivia (answer at the end of the article): Oklahoma and Alabama last played in Tuscaloosa in 2003. Which future NFL receiver caught the touchdown pass to give Oklahoma the lead they would not relinquish?
Allstate Sugar Bowl
#3 Alabama (11-1) vs. #11 Oklahoma (10-2)
Thursday, Jan. 2, 8:30pm ET, ESPN
Taking down the Top 25: Alabama’s loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl was their first loss to a Top 25 team since Texas A&M defeated the Crimson Tide 29-24 in Tuscaloosa on November 10, 2012. Alabama has faced 34 Top 25 opponents over the last six season, recording 26 victories.
We know how to win: This game matches two of the absolute best BCS-level programs over the last six years. The two clubs have combined for 134 victories over those six seasons. Alabama has the most victories of any school over that period (72-8), while Oklahoma ranks third behind Oregon (62-17).
Dominant on D: Both the Crimson Tide and Sooners led their respective conferences in total defense. Alabama (274.7 yards per game) led the SEC by almost 40 yards over second-place Florida. Oklahoma (336.3 yards per game) bettered Baylor by just over seven yards. Both teams surrendered considerably larger amounts of yardage against ranked teams, however. Oklahoma faced three ranked teams and allowed 394.3 yards per game. Alabama also battled three ranked opponents, surrendering 435 yards per game.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
#8 Missouri (11-2) vs. #13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
Friday, Jan. 3, 8pm ET, FOX
Familiar foes: This is the first meeting for the former Big 12 foes since Missouri left to join the SEC. The Cowboys have won nine of their last ten against SEC schools. Oklahoma State has won the last three games between the two, with Missouri’s most recent victory coming in 2005. Missouri holds the lead in the series, winning 28 of the 51 games the schools have played.
Can’t conquer the Cotton Bowl: OSU and Missouri have combined for just a 2-3 all-time record in the Cotton Bowl. Both schools had a six-decade wait between appearances in the Cotton Bowl, only to return again relatively quickly. OSU beat TCU 34-0 in the 1945 Cotton Bowl, then did not make their next trip to Dallas until losing 31-28 in the 2004 game. The Rebels again defeated Oklahoma State 21-7 in 2010. Mizzou lost to Texas 40-27 in the 1946 Cotton Bowl, then beat Arkansas 38-7 in the 2008 game.
A dubious distinction: Oklahoma State holds the interesting “honor” (as such) of being 14th in the FBS in scoring offense (39.8 points per game) and scoring defense (20.0 points per game). Missouri is 15th in scoring offense (39.0 points per game), but slipped to 29th in scoring defense (22.5 points per game) after allowing 59 points to Auburn in the SEC Championship. OSU scored 36.5 points in their two outings against ranked teams, while allowing 25. Mizzou scored 33.8 points per game in four games against ranked teams, but gave up 33.3.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. Houston (8-4)
Saturday, Jan. 4, 1pm ET, ESPN
Three times a bowl participant: Vanderbilt will make their third consecutive appearance in a bowl game in 2013. The Commodores had not even made consecutive bowl appearances in school history before last season. Vanderbilt lost the 2011 Liberty Bowl 31-24 to Cincinnati, then defeated NC State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville last season.
Three times more bowl games: While this is Vandy’s seventh bowl appearance in school history, Houston will be making their 22nd bowl trip. The Cougars have won two of their last three bowl games, snapping a skid of eight consecutive bowl losses between 1981 and 2007. Both schools have a bowl tie in their history, and those ties both happened in 1974. Vanderbilt played to a 6-6 tie with Texas Tech in the 1974 Peach Bowl, while Houston and NC State tied 31-31 in the 1974 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Thirty three point nine: Houston’s offense ranks 35th in the FBS, tallying the aforementioned 33.9 points per game. Vanderbilt ranks 65th, scoring just 29.2 points per game. The Commodores will rely on freshman quarterback Patton Robinette (40-for-69, 488 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) under center, as senior Austyn Carta-Samuels will miss the game due to injury. Robinette added six rushing touchdowns in spot duty this season, good for second on the team (running back Jerron Seymour scored 13). The Cougars allow 20.2 points per game, good for 16th in the FBS. Vanderbilt’s 24.7 per game ranks 45th. In total defense, however, Vanderbilt ranks 25th (352.3 yards per game), while Houston ranks 85th (420 yards per game).
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Oklahoma and Alabama last played in Tuscaloosa in 2003. Which future NFL receiver caught the touchdown pass to give Oklahoma the lead they would not relinquish?
Brandon Jones caught a 47-yard pass from Jason White to give the Sooners a 20-10 lead over Alabama with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter. Jones caught seven passes for 86 yards in the game. Jones played for parts of six seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.