SEC Bowl Roundup.
Jadeveon Clowney de-cleats Vincent Smith!
War Eagle, everybody! It’s a new year, and a new outlook for the Auburn Tigers, for 2013! This week, the Auburn Tigers hit the weight room, and try to regain the strength necessary to climb to the top of the college football pile. It’s been tough to watch the bowl games the past two weeks, but I finally did settle in on New Year’s monsoon afternoon with a warm mug of coffee, and enjoyed ten hours of football, even if Auburn wasn’t playing.
Vanderbilt kicked off the SEC’s bowl appearances, in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve afternoon. The Commodores only picked up 225 offensive yards on the day, and allowed a kick return for a score. However, the Commodore defense forced 5 turnovers, and that was enough to allow Vanderbilt to down North Carolina State, 38-24. Vanderbilt finishes the season at 9-4. It’s the first time Vanderbilt has won 9 games in a season since 1915.
LSU did not hold up its end of the bargain in the New Year’s Eve nightcap. Running a version of Gus Malzhan’s hurry-up spread, the Clemson Tigers dominated time of possession in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, running 100 offensive plays to LSU’s 48. Clemson put a lot of guys in the box, and the LSU Tigers tried to take advantage in the passing game. Under pressure, Zack Mettenberger was not able to take advantage, and finished the night having been sacked six times.
Still, LSU had the lead late, and had a 2nd and 2 at midfield. At the very least, LSU could have run the ball twice, and forced Clemson to use all of its timeouts. Two incomplete passes later, LSU was punting it away. Clemson still had its timeouts, and 1:39 left in the game. LSU forced 4th and 16, but then played prevent defense and gave up a 26 yard completion. After a 10 play drive, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro hit the game winning field goal, and Clemson beat LSU 25-24. It’s the second bowl in a row for Les Miles questionable strategy issues.
Mississippi State opened up the New Year’s Day bowls in the Gator Bowl against Northwestern. Much like Auburn did in 2009, MSU encountered a feisty, physical Wildcat team. Similarly to 2009, Northwestern was generous with the turnovers, committing 3. However, Tyler Russell regressed badly, throwing pass after pass up for grabs against excellent Wildcat coverage. Russell finished with just 106 passing yards, and four interceptions. Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20. MSU started the season 7-0, and slid to an 8-5 finish.
For the past half decade we’ve heard talk of SEC supremacy, particularly the SEC West. Prior to this week, SEC West teams had gone 26-10 in bowl games from 2003 onward. This year’s edition of the SEC West is now 0-2 in the bowls, with losses to Northwestern and Clemson. Three more games await. Can the SEC West finish with a winning record this year? Texas A&M has a Friday night date in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma, Ole Miss plays in Birmingham Saturday afternoon in the BBVA Compass Bank Bowl against Pitt, and Alabama has Notre Dame for all the marbles on Monday night in Miami.
The second of the New Year’s SEC triumvirate to finish on New Year’s Day was the South Carolina Gamecocks, who needed a Hail Mary TD pass with 11 seconds left to down Michigan, 33-28 in the Outback Bowl. The game featured the biggest hit of the bowl season, when South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney clobbered Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and gave the ball back to the Gamecocks. Some folks question the South Carolina performance, only beating a mediocre 8-5 Michigan team in the waning seconds. Those who’ve watched USC this season know that this is how they won at least half their games. It doesn’t ever look pretty, but Steve Spurrier’s team has gone home victorious 11 times each in the past two years.
Georgia and South Carolina traded bowl destinations this year, and Georgia landed in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. Georgia’s defense looked decidedly porous without the services of academically ineligible nose tackle John Jenkins, as Nebraska battering ram Rex Burkhead gashed ‘em for 140 on the ground. The Huskers failed to put much pressure on Georgia’s Aaron Murray as the game wore on, and as SEC foes know, that’s a bad deal when Georgia’s receivers are catching the ball. Every time I flipped back to that game in the second half, it seemed like another Georgia reserve receiver was running past helpless Nebraska defenders. Murray’s pyrotechnics helped Georgia turn a tight game at the half into a comfortable 45-31 win, and sent the B1G to 2-5 on the bowl season.
Just last night, an 11-1 Florida team represented the SEC in the BCS Sugar Bowl, against Big East Champ Louisville. The Big East has been a joke in BCS games lately, so the Gators didn’t seem terribly focused, and who could blame them? In fact, Florida’s been pretty unfocused the last half of the year, and this pretty much represents playing to form, unfortunately. Give Louisville credit for playing well and taking advantage of opportunities. They had the game plan to rattle the young Gator quarterbacks, and executed it well. The start of the second half was typical of Florida’s self-destructive ways.
Trailing 24-10, the Gators opted to go with the onside kick. That’s a questionable decision to begin with, as new rules make it even tougher to execute, then Louisville recovered the ball. Florida could not let the bad play be, and continued shoving and throwing punches after the whistle. Two personal fouls and an ejection followed, setting Louisville up at the Gator 19 yard line. The Cardinals went immediately to the end zone on a nice throw, and were up 30-10. The game was essentially over at that point. Florida scored twice late, to make it a more respectable 33-23 loss, but this one was ugly for the SEC.
The SEC now stands at 3-3 in the bowls, with 3 games left to play. None of the remaining games is any sort of lock, and the SEC stands a real chance of finishing with a losing bowl record for the first time since the 2002 season. The SEC East is finished, with a 3-1 record. The SEC West is currently 0-2, with Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Alabama left to play.
And now, for some non-football musings. I’m certainly not the obsessive Auburn fan in basketball, that I am in football. I usually don’t mention the roundball team much, because I see little point in bemoaning the Tigers finishing December once again with a losing record, with a tough SEC slate ahead.
Last night, the Auburn Tigers knocked off defending ACC Champ Florida State, in Auburn Arena, 78-72. And they did it with scorers Chris Denson and freshman rifleman Jordan Dennis out with injuries. This was the defending ACC Champion, not some mid-major power! This opponent won the ACC against the likes of Duke and North Carolina. This is easily the most impressive win of the Tony Barbee era, bar none!
This team is a mix of a few veterans like Frankie Sullivan, Allen Payne and Rob Chubb, and a host of talented newcomers. If they can keep playing like they have the past couple of games, they’ll make some noise in the SEC this year. War Eagle, and hats off to the Tiger Basketball team!