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SEC Preview: Bowl Season, Part 1

Here it is December 29 and the SEC has not played a bowl game yet.  Because the BCS took two SEC teams year, and because the SEC had so many OOC losses (more on that another day), the SEC was not able to fill its bowl slots this year.  As a result, the SEC does not play until 2:30 in the afternoon on December 31.  

Today, we preview the bowls on or before New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 2:30pm Central, Boston College vs. Vanderbilt, Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tennessee

How must it feel to be a Vandy fan/player?  It's your first bowl game in 26 years, and not only do you NOT get to travel anywhere, but you draw a 9-win team that does well in bowl games.  Seriously, they'll all probably walk to the stadium from their dorms the morning of the game.  The Boston College Screaming Eagles have the nation's longest bowl winning streak, having won their last 8 bowl games.  They're the anti-Notre Dame.

I guess Vandy hopes to make their anti-Notre Dame history continue, as Notre Dame won their bowl game this year, ending their long bowl losing streak.  Vandy hopes to end Boston College's long winning streak.  

To do so, Vandy will have to find offense.  Offense has been a big struggle for Vandy this year.  When Chris Nickson has been good, he's been very good.  When Nickson has been bad, he has been VERY bad.  It does not portend well that Boston College has a very good pass defense, leading the nation in interceptions.  The good news for Vandy is that they rarely pass.  The bad news is that when they pass, they do so poorly.

But, Vandy also has some players in the secondary, and Boston College also passes poorly.  Their starting QB has more interceptions than touchdown passes, and they don't put a ton of yards up.

This one could be interesting, but I don't really think Vandy can win this one unless BC lays an egg.

Wednesday December 31, 6:30pm Central, LSU vs. Georgia Tech, Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Georgia

In another ACC vs. SEC matchup featuring a team that can practically see the stadium from campus, our beloved Tigers get to try to stop a triple option offense against the Atlanta-based Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  Once upon a time, I almost went to Georgia Tech for graduate school.  That didn't happen, so I get to hate them without reservation if I so choose.

We've talked about this game before, so there's really nothing new under the sun out there.  Teams have had trouble stopping the triple option offense, and LSU has had trouble maintaining defensive discipline.  On the other hand, no team has been able to spend weeks preparing for the triple option, and few teams are (or should be, I guess) more motivated to redeem themselves than LSU.

Yes, Georgia Tech is ranked and is a 9-win team, coming off a big win against Georgia and playing at home, but I actually like the matchup here.  If Jordan Jefferson's game has developed a little bit more during bowl preparation, I think we can exploit Georgia Tech's weakness in the secondary while neutralizing their strength along the defensive line.  If we can get our defense to play strict assignment-based football (which I think is probably a little easier during the bowl layoff than it is during the heat of the season), I think we'll be in good shape.

Time will tell.

Thursday January 1, 10:00am Central, Iowa vs. South Carolina, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Florida

A matchup of two very imperfect teams at a very imperfect time of day for football.  Honestly, I don't even know how Iowa made it this far.  I don't think they were a very good team, but they pulled a late-season upset over Penn State and then blew out Minnesota, so I guess they are heading into bowl season strong.  

Running back Shonn Green is probably the most productive runner in the country that you have not heard of.  He had over 1700 yards rushing.  1700!  He ran for 17 touchdowns.  As a team, the Hawkeyes ran for more yards than they passed for.  That's pretty unusual in modern football.  

South Carolina brings their suspect offense and their stifling defense into this game which, now that I look at it, could be a pretty exciting matchup.

Thursday January 1, 12:00pm Central, Michigan State vs. Georgia, Capital One Bowl, Orlando, Florida

This is high flying for Michigan State, but a big fat consolation prize for a Georgia team that really wanted to be playing for a national championship this year.  Michigan State is all about running back Javon Ringer.  You'll be hard-pressed to find a running back in the country who touched the ball more times than he did.  He had a whopping 370 rushing attempts, and 25 pass receptions.  Still, he did not put up the yardage that Shonn Green put up, and his average per carry was not all that impressive.

One wonders if Ringer got the ball too much?  Maybe the problem is that MIchigan State had an overall completion percentage of 53% and an overall QB rating of 119 (this isn't the NFL, so that number is BAD).

This is probably a farewell game for a number of very good Georgia Bulldog players.  Veteran receiver Muhammed Massaquoi is finishing his eligibility.  Star QB Matt Stafford and star RB Knowshon Moreno are each finishing their third years in the program and so are eligible to turn pro if they wish.  Stafford for one projects as a high first round pick, probably the first QB taken if he wants to come out.  That means he'll probably be picked in the top 5, and almost certainly the top 10.  It would be hard to pass up that kind of money.  It's a little harder to tell where Moreno stands, but I doubt he'd have to wait long to hear his name called.

That's it for Part 1.  We'll have Part 2 later this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.  Please look forward to me attempting the answer the question, "Why in the hell is the Cotton Bowl being played on January 2nd?"