After a wild and unpredictable 2013 college football season, it’s time for the mighty SEC to flex its muscles in the bowl season.
This year, 10 SEC squads are set to represent the conference in bowl games. The SEC is widely recognized as college football’s premier league, and the post-season provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce this notion.
The fun starts on Dec. 30 with the Music City Bowl, and continues on through the last ever BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6. In between, there will be no shortage of intriguing matchups.
Following is a quick rundown of this year’s SEC bowl lineup.
Music City Bowl
Dec. 30; Nashville, TN
Ole Miss (7-5) vs Ga Tech (7-5)
The Ole Miss Rebels are a program on the upswing, as coach Hugh Freeze has established a solid presence on the recruiting trail. An eighth win would cap off a respectable 2013 season. The Rebels will turn to quarterback Bo Wallace in this matchup against Georgia Tech. The shaky Ole Miss defense must also slow down Tech’s triple option offense.
Dec. 31; Memphis, TN
Mississippi State (6-6) vs Rice (10-3)
This contest marks Mississippi State’s fourth straight bowl appearance. After a sluggish start to the season, Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs finished strong with a big win over rival Ole Miss. The Rice offense will present unique challenges for State’s suspect defense, while versatile quarterback Dak Prescott should have a big day for the Bulldogs.
Dec. 31; Atlanta, GA
No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4) vs No. 24 Duke (10-3)
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t bring home a second straight Heisman Trophy, but he did enjoy a fantastic season. Wide receiver Mike Evans also had a prolific year in coach Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense. While Duke made tremendous strides this season, coach David Cutcliffe’s squad could find slowing down Manziel, Evans and the rest of the Aggies difficult.
Jan. 1; Jacksonville, FL
No. 22 Georgia (8-4) vs Nebraska (8-4)
Offensive injuries and an unreliable defense kept Georgia from returning to the SEC Championship Game, in what ultimately became a disappointing 8-4 season. Hutson Mason will start in place of the injured Aaron Murray in the Bulldogs’ second straight bowl game against Nebraska.The Dawgs defeated Bo Pellini’s Cornhuskers in last year’s Capital One Bowl.
Capital One Bowl
Jan. 1; Orlando, FL
No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3)
The Connor Shaw-led Gamecocks had another successful season in 2013, despite not making the SEC Championship Game. Steve Spurrier’s squad soundly defeated a quality Clemson club, and handed SEC East champion Missouri its lone regular season loss. They’ll face a potent downhill rushing attack from Wisconsin, as running back Melvin Gordon averages a whopping eight yards per carry. The Gamecocks will counter with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who will likely be playing in his final collegiate game.
Jan. 1; Tampa, FL
No. 16 LSU (9-3) vs Iowa (8-4)
The Iowa Hawkeyes will bring one of the nation’s stingiest defenses to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, where they’ll take on a talented LSU squad. With quarterback Zach Mettenberger out with an ACL injury, the Tigers will attempt to pound the Iowa defense with tailback Jeremy Hill. Mettenberger’s replacement, true freshman Anthony Jennings, led LSU to a thrilling come-from-behind win over Arkansas, and will be making his first career start.
Jan. 1; New Orleans, LA
No. 3 Alabama (11-1) vs No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2)
Alabama’s stunning last-second loss to Auburn still stings, and the Crimson Tide will be looking to take out their frustrations on the Oklahoma Sooners. National championship winning quarterback AJ McCarron will don the Alabama uniform for the last time, and he’ll be facing a vulnerable Oklahoma defense. The Sooners were blown out by Baylor and Texas, and they haven’t faced an opponent nearly as talented as Nick Saban’s Tide.
Jan 3; Arlington, TX
No. 8 Missouri (11-2) vs No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
The Tigers and Cowboys, although they play in different conferences now, are certainly no strangers. The two were conference foes during Missouri’s Big 12 days, with Oklahoma State taking the last matchup, 45-24, in 2011. Mike Gundy will have his squad fully prepared to face the SEC East champs, who were overwhelmed by Auburn in the SEC title game. Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf can hurt defenses with both his arm and his legs, and athletic Missouri defensive ends Michael Sam and Kona Ealy will undoubtedly be gunning for him. This one could easily turn into a shootout, and should be fun to watch.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Jan. 4; Birmingham, AL
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs Houston (8-4)
The Commodores will make their third straight bowl appearance, and will be attempting to notch their ninth win for the second consecutive season. Standing in their way are the Houston Cougars, who had an up-and-down season in the AAC. Vanderbilt will turn to record-breaking receiver Jordan Matthews to make plays, but the Commodores will be without the services of injured quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.
BCS National Championship Game
Jan. 6; Pasadena, CA
No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs No. 2 Auburn (12-1)
The SEC has won seven straight national titles, and Auburn will attempt to carry the streak into the playoff era with a win over Florida State. The Seminoles were perfect in 2013, as they breezed through their schedule with an average margin of victory of over 40 points per game. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston can make all the throws, and should be able to put up points against the Auburn defense. Slowing down the Tigers’ spread option juggernaut, however, is another matter entirely for the Seminoles. This one will likely come down to the final minutes.