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SEC 2011-2012 Bowl Games Preview

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The principle of Occum’s Razor is best summarized as: simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones.

That’s the rationale I’m using in the bowl predictions for games involving SEC teams this year.

Check ESPN for times and networks.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Dec. 30
Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
No team failed to live up to preseason hype more than Mississippi State. Wake Forest was in control of their own destiny in the ACC until they weren’t and that’s no real surprise. Wake Forest gives up a lot of yards on the ground and that plays to Mississippi State’s strengths with RB Vic Ballard and QB Chris Relf. Wake has something to prove after being shellacked by the SEC’s Vanderbilt but they don’t have the horses to go toe to toe for four quarters with a bigger, faster team like State.
Mississippi State 24, Wake Forest 20

AutoZone Liberty Bowl – Dec. 31
Vanderbilt (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)
Vanderbilt worked extremely hard to make this bowl game and it is well-deserved. Take nothing away from the Bearcats of southern Ohio though; they are a fairly solid team with an explosive offense. Vanderbilt will make this a game for four quarters and Cincinnati can’t give up yards in bunches if they hope to win it. But common sense can’t allow me to pick a .500 team over one with a much better record.
Cincinnati 33, Vanderbilt 24

Chick-Fil-A Bowl – Dec. 31
Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4)
Auburn’s offense went backwards all season while the defense barely stood in opponents way (particularly on third down). Virginia’s resurgence is powered by a strong defense and that spells bad news for Auburn. Virginia moves the ball at a good clip and if Auburn continues to struggle to get a team off the field on third down, that’s another bad sign for the Tigers. the loss of AU RB Michael Dyer for suspension is the final nail in the coffin. If Auburn loses close it would be the first time this season.
Virginia 31, Auburn 17

Outback Bowl – Jan. 2
Georgia (10-3) vs. Michigan State (10-3)
Michigan State got absolutely punked by an SEC team (Alabama) last year and they are licking their chops for some payback. Too bad for them they have to play Georgia who is not only loaded on offense, but vastly improved and more intense on defense. Michigan State doesn’t have the speed to hang with the Bulldogs plain and simple.
Georgia 27, Michigan State 16

Capital One Bowl – Jan. 2
South Carolina (10-2) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
South Carolina quietly had an outstanding year in spite of making a change at quarterback and sustaining injuries in key positions. The Gamecocks found ways to win games. Nebraska found and lost their footing throughout the season as an inconsistent offense cost them opportunities. South Carolina’s defensive front pressure on every team they played this year and that is a distinct advantage for the Gamecocks in this matchup. It should be close, like most of their games have been, but I expect South Carolina to be victorious.
South Carolina 21, Nebraska 16

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl – Jan. 2
Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio State (6-6)
The Urban Meyer Bowl will be an interesting contrast. Florida is a mess and has been since coming unraveled early in the season. Ohio State bumped and stumbled its way to bowl eligibility notching a couple of upsets along the way. The fact is Ohio State is a better team than Florida right now and they have players with more experience. That’s going to be more than enough to negate whatever speed advantage Florida may hold.
Ohio State 24, Florida 13

AT&T Cotton Bowl – Jan. 6
Arkansas (10-2) vs. Kansas State (10-2)
If you love offense, this is your bowl game. What Bill Snyder did with K-State is remarkable and notable. The Wildcats have a great offense and can really move the ball on the ground. Arkansas’s defense while improved still isn’t that special. However, Kansas State need not try to match Arkansas score-for-score because the Razorbacks can put points up in bunches. If the Wildcats hope to win, they need to try and eat up the clock and control the tempo of the game. Arkansas has way too much talent at WR to be kept at bay for four quarters. Kansas State should hang in there for a while but Arkansas’s talent on offense should propel them to the win.
Arkansas 35, Kansas State 31

Allstate BCS Championship Game – Jan. 9
LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1)
The rematch of the biggest college football game of the year provides the same storyline as the regular season game. You know these teams. They both run the ball well, they don’t turn it over, and the defenses batter and hammer the opposition into submission. The one distinct advantage on the field is LSU’s special teams. Whether it is a clutch kick, a punt that pins an opponent deep, or a dynamic return, this is where the Tigers get their spark in big games.

Alabama’s offense can make some big plays and they will no doubt pull out all the stops in this one. Alabama’s defense will dial up pressure to try and force turnovers or three and outs which is what they need. LSU takes their time to get the offense cranking and given time — just like Novocain — the Tigers ground attack piles up yards particularly late in the game.

I expect Alabama to cash in on scoring opportunities early and maybe even take a lead into the locker room at the half. LSU gets better as the game wears on though and being able to flip the field through special teams will give the Tigers just enough of an opening for them to do what they’ve done several times this year — surge in the second half for the win.
LSU 17, Alabama 14

Barring some called upon game with the Green Bay Packers, I predict LSU will win the BCS National Championship and will go down as one of the most deserving champions of the era based on the gauntlet it has run to get there.

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