New Year’s is almost upon us, and for all practical purposes, that means the real SEC bowl season begins. The playoffs have screwed this all up, of course — a Cotton Bowl on the 27th and an Orange Bowl on the 30th being egregious recent offenders. Nevertheless, we soldier on bravely to today’s five games of various quality. But, hey, at least we get to watch the PAC 12 embarrass themselves?
All times are in God’s Right and Proper Central Standard time.
Virginia Tech -2.5 vs. Kentucky
It took the Wildcats a while to figure out their identity this season, but once they did, it was very much a reprise of last year’s group: Stout on defense and run the ball. In fact, UK runs the ball for nearly 300 yards a game...to match a gross 116 yards passing. VT doesn’t do anything particularly well on offense, unless you count turnovers. And buddy, do they turn it over in spades. On defense, they have been fairly strong against the run, but in their four losses they’ve been outgained on the ground every time, forcing the Hokies to be one dimensional and turn to the pass. This one seems to be a really low-scoring, ye olde timey affair, even if we arrive there by very different means. But both teams come in playing well down the stretch. So, let’s throw a dart at the random score wheel and guess that a superior UK front four, VT’s promiscuous turnovers, and Stoops’ stubbornness to #RTDB pays off in the end. Not the finale that Bud Foster deserves, but a good showing by his unit undone at the end of the day by Fuente’s gross offense. UK 24 VT 23
Florida State +4 vs. Arizona State
Speaking of ex-Memphis coaches, ever wanted to see what Mike Norvell can do with P5 talent? Consider this a preview. FSU’s offense hasn’t really been its problem this year — the defense very much has been. For ASU, the offense has been its problem — posting the 113th “best” rushing offense, just under 380 YPG, and just about 25 PPG. Yuck. There’s also the matter that while its scoring defense has been respectable, and the secondary has been up and down, the run defense is really where to attack this team. I suspect that the wrong team is favored here. Cam Akers should go nuts, the passing game should be more aggressive, and the beginnings of a more attacking defensive scheme pay off for the ‘Noles. Norvell victimizes the school that gave his his first big break — FSU 31 ASU 27
Kansas State +3 vs. Navy
Want to know why the Middies are favored? Perhaps because KSU gives up almost 5 yards a carry on the ground and has allowed 18 rushing scores. Klieman has done an outstanding job with the Wildcats this year, and I suspect that he will make K State a player after a full recruiting cycle and scouring the JuCo ranks. But, right now, the Wildcats don’t have the horses up front on defense. It’s a thin, out of shape unit that doesn’t play particularly well against teams that pound the rock. Navy meanwhile has been very good against the run this year. And that sets up to test KSU’s identity, a team that runs the ball over 40 times a game. So, if K State is going to make some hay and win this game, they’ll have to do so using superior athletes on the offensive line, pop a few gainers over the top, and hope they get a few stops on defense. I just don’t know that they can do enough of either of these to win, despite being the more talented group. Sometimes matchups matter, and this seems to be one of those days. Navy 38 K State 35
Wyoming -7 vs. Georgia State
Georgia State is by far the better of the directional Georgias. Even when they lose, they put up points. The problem for the 4th place Sun Belt squad is that their opponent finished 4th in a far more difficult conference. The Cowboys are also one of the best defenses that the Panthers will see all year. The real question arises on the other side of the ball — can GSU get enough stops against an anemic Wyoming offense to hang on to the win? No one quite trusts Bohl’s rebuilding offense, do they? It is a testament to that defense that they won seven games despite the fact the team scored fewer than 24 points in eight contests. But, it’s effective: Wyoming routed Missouri at home — so this team can play ball. Likewise, GSU’s bend-don’t-break defense paired with its balanced offense has also paid defense. The Panthers whipped Tennessee’s butts on the road — so this team can also play ball. But, perhaps the defense bent a little too much at the end of the day? Logic says that with so much being equal, you should go with the better coaching staff, better defense, shorter road trip, and more consistent tests in conference play. This one is probably going to be a snuff film of 38 yard punts. Either way, the winner is named the honorary SEC East runner-up: Wyoming 20 GSU 16
Texas -7 vs. Utah
Welcome to the 2019 Fraud Bowl featuring wannabes from America’s two biggest fraud conferences. This was a year where Texas declared itself back...again...and that was proven to be a premature misrepresentation...again. This is a school that proudly posted its C average GPA on Twitter...and bragged about it. Then, two weeks later, made shirts proclaiming itself to be “DBU”...and got shelled by LSU. Of course, there were the usual Tom Herman faceplants and losses to teams with far less talent (the Meltdown thanks you, BTW). And, all of this came en route to a T-3rd place finish in a down B12, that saw Baylor pass the ‘Horns. That’s worth $7 million, right? Their opponent is perhaps the other biggest fraud in the country. The Utah Utes skated by a godawful conference by playing defense, running the ball, and then watching the West Coast Sisters of Charity implode around them. When faced with two athletic teams — USC and Oregon — they proceeded to lose both, and weren’t even particularly competitive. That vaunted defense? Shellacked. That stout running game? Deader than a possum in an Arkansas smokehouse. Today should be much of the same. The Longhorns have far too much speed, talent, and a de facto home game going for them. If Herman loses this one, make him walk back from the Alamo. He won’t. Texas romps. Texas 38 Utah 20