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Y'all Play Nice. SEC Bowl Prep
One for the thumb
One for the thumb
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 9, 2010


Every Thursday, CFN's Brian Harbach and Russ Mitchell break down the SEC games you need to watch, the SEC questions you want answered, and of course, the SEC Power Rankings. All things SEC from two different SEC writers, with two different SEC points of view. One of 'em always right. Now y'all play nice.


Follow Russ on Twitter @russmitchellsec or email at russmitchellsec@gmail.com
Follow Brian on Twitter @harbabd or email at harbachcfn@gmail.com


3 SEC QUESTIONS THAT NAG MORE THAN YOUR EX

(i) Who had the best SEC performance this past weekend (Team or Player)?

Russ Mitchell:

At first blush the answer is easy - has to be Cameron Newton, with his total 400 yards and six – count ‘em six – touchdowns. But he wouldn’t have done that without an Offensive Line that literally dominated last Saturday. South Carolina entered the game with the SEC’s #1 rated run defense. Sure, some of that was skewed given that teams prefer to pass on the Gamecocks. The path of least resistance, etc. Still, sitting first in the conference and fifth in the nation, it seemed an area of strength for Carolina. Yet Newton, Michael Dyer and Mario Fannin each averaged five yards per carry, while Barrett Trotter and Onterio McCalebb averaged double digits per carry. And on a hefty 42 carries. All five are good runners to be sure, but that, ladies and gentlemen, was the result of fantastic play by Auburn’s big and uglies. (No sacks either. Hello Oregon.)

Brian Harbach:

Like Russ, the immediate response is Cameron Newton with his six total touchdowns and 400 total yards of offense. But while impressive, it’s something to which we've become accustomed. However, the Auburn defense holding a previously dominant South Carolina team to 17 points is much more impressive. The Carolina offense came into the SECCG averaging nearly 45 points and 392 yards in its last three games, yet managed only 17 points on 349 yards against the Tiger defense. Even more shocking was how Auburn was able to take Alshon Jeffrey virtually out of the game, with just four catches for 36 yards and score. Jeffrey was the best receiver in the country this season, and earlier in the year he torched the Auburn secondary for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The Auburn defense had been successful in the second half of most games, but this was the first four quarter effort by the unit since perhaps its first conference game – MSU way back in September. Auburn's blowout win over SC had as as much to do with great defensive play and anything the offense did, and that's not something Auburn fans have been able to say for much of the season.

(ii) What’s your favorite SEC bowl match-up outside of Auburn/Oregon, and why?

Mitchell:

Now that’s tough. Almost all of them have a good angle, and there are five in particular that I know I'll watch more than twice. Picking just one of those is difficult. LSU v. A&M should be exciting given the two teams have a long (cantankerous) history, and it might be the last time we see Jordan Jefferson starting for Les Miles & Co. (given the Tigers’ recent signing of Zach Mettenberger, late of Athens, GA). Then there are enough facets around the Bama/MSU game to make the Hope Diamond jealous. DO NOT LET US DOWN, SABAN – get your team ready to play. Mississippi State/Michigan should be an easy match up for the Bulldogs’ running game, and I really want to see how Carolina bounces back from the humiliating loss to Auburn.

But our conference has shamed Ohio State now for decades, and I for one want to see that humiliation continue. The Buckeyes are considered by many to be the class of the Big 10 right now – certainly for the last decade. Yet THE Ohio State University has suffered some rather blistering losses of late at the hands of SEC teams. The consecutive national championship defeats to Florida and LSU came on our game’s biggest stage, and both were blowouts. Before that, it was two consecutive losses to Lou Holtz’s Carolina Gamecocks kicking off this last decade. 0-9 is the Buckeye’s bowl record against the SEC. A tale of futility. And something that puts a smile on the face of every SEC fan dealing with the East coast love fest for the overrated Big 10. Forget that OSU v. Arkansas shapes up to be a great game – for that 0-9 record alone, it’s must watch TV. A quick personal note to Mr. Bobby Petrino… Bobby, we’re only just now getting used to having the Hogs in the conference. Don’t be the first to lose a bowl game to the Buckeyes.

Harbach:

There is obviously no love lost between the Big Ten and the SEC, so there is always a little more excitement around big games between the two conferences. Because of bowl tie-ins, there always seems to be at least three bowls every year between the two, but when they meet up on the biggest stages, the stakes are always a little bit higher. The Sugar Bowl between Arkansas and Ohio State has classic written all over it, as the Big Ten and SEC match up once again in New Orleans. While a repeat of the 2007 National Championship game might have been more compelling, this game has quite a few interesting story lines that make it must see TV. First, Ohio State tries to get its first bowl win against an SEC opponent. Second, Ryan Mallett comes full circle with his college career, as he gets another shot at the Buckeyes after only throwing three passes in a loss to Michigan’s main rival as a true freshmen four years ago. Third, OSU certainly travels well, but as this is the first BCS game for Arkansas - and the SUGAR Bowl at that, we expect the Buckeyes to find themselves in unusual bowl game territory - with fewer fans in the stands.

The off the field drama is fun to discuss, but the on the field battles are even more exciting. Arkansas has the best passing game in the country, even with its best receiver (Greg Childs) out for the season. Ohio State has always been known for defense and physical play… it brings down to the bayou the nation’s fourth best pass defense to go up against Arkansas third ranked passing offense. In a dome setting there will be no external factors to slow down Mallett’s arm, and it will be a battle of strength vs. strength. Ohio State is looking to prove the Big Ten can win a BCS game against the SEC, while Arkansas is looking to take some momentum into a 2011 season which could be an even bigger year for Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks.

(iii) What every SEC fan should be talking about after the SECCG, but isn’t?

Mitchell:

It’s not that it’s gone unreported. In fact, Brian and I devoted nearly an entire column to it way back in August. But every SEC fan walking out of the SEC Championship Game should be talking about how absolutely putrid the Eastern division was this year in comparison to the West. Actually, forget that – in comparison to anyone.

From its champion Carolina losing blowouts to Arkansas and Auburn while losing focus to Kentucky and Auburn, to Urban Meyer refusing to adapt to his talent, to Mark Richt first overhyping his own team at media days to its ultimate – and readily predictable – sub-par play, to Kentucky once again failing in conference play, to Tennessee’s ridiculous two thirds, to Vandy losing its last seven straight…

To a 2011 campaign that at this point doesn't appear like it'll be that much brighter than 2010. Where, oh where, has our great Eastern conference gone?

Harbach:

There are many things special about the SEC. But one thing in particular that’s special about our fans, or at least most SEC fans. And that is the sense of unity the league feels when playing out of conference games during the season and/or the bowls. Who hasn’t been to a game where the chants of “SEC, SEC, SEC” are screamed at the opponents on the way to a win over one of the other BCS conferences. (RM note: And that the rest of the nation just doesn’t “get it” makes it all the more valuable.) That pride is because ours is the best conference in the country, and coaches, fans and players know that. Well, most of them know that. However, Urban Meyer seems to think that the league is only great when his team is ranked first or second, and while every other SEC coach voted Auburn #1 in the final Coaches Poll, Meyer voted Auburn #2. His excuse was beyond lame; that Auburn and Oregon were 1A and 1B, and as he had Oregon ranked ahead of Auburn for most of the year, he just decided to leave it that way.

No, we don’t buy the theory that Meyer was jealous of Cameron Newton’s success at Auburn, nor that this is revenge for some reported stories regarding his culpability in the outing of Newton’s play for pay scandal… It is much more simple than that. Urban Meyer is a self-centered egotist. Remember, Meyer earned a trip to the 2006 BCS National Championship game in part because SEC voters put him ahead of Michigan. While Auburn’s participation in the championship this year was never in doubt after beating SC last Saturday, to not return the favor to his SEC family is as low-rate as it gets. This has nothing to do with Auburn – Meyer would have done this to any of the other 10 teams. This has nothing to with Cam Newton… It is all about Meyer’s wounded ego. Among the other coaches that voted Auburn #1 were Auburn’s biggest rival (Alabama’s Nick Saban), the other half of the Newton scandal (MSU’s Dan Mullen), former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and even former “fired” Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville!

SEC coaches know firsthand how difficult it is to win an SEC Championship, let alone go undefeated in doing it. Meyer having won two of them knows that truth, but he chose to thumb his nose at Auburn and the SEC by voting the PAC 10 ahead of his conference. Florida fans probably don’t care, but they should. People have long memories down south. If Nick Saban and Alabama can vote Auburn #1, along with the rest of the nation mind you, then there’s no reason Urban Meyer can’t do it. No reason other than ego – particularly if the two teams in question are “1A and 1B”. In 2010, if an SEC coach doesn’t believe an unbeaten SEC team is the best in the country, he is lying.


IN FOCUS: Breaking down the SEC Bowl Games

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MUSIC CITY BOWL | North Carolina vs. Tennessee
12/30 | 6:40 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: Even in its watered-down state, this will be by far the best defense Tyler Bray has started against all season. We love the turnaround under Bray, and we're looking forward to the future. Unfortunately, that future’s starting on 12/31, not 12/30… Pick: North Carolina 24, Tennessee 21

Harbach: Tennessee spent a ton of money to buy out a series against their border state rivals, only to get stuck playing them in a bowl game. Vol fans have been buying up tickets to this one, but Nashville in December is freaking cold. Bring a blanket… Pick: North Carolina 20, Tennessee 17


AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL | Georgia vs. UCF
12/31 | 3:30 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: UGA has been average this season against good teams, and spectacular against sub-par ones. UCF is a good team. The maturation process of Aaron Murray continues... and we bid farewell to the great A.J. Green… Pick: Central Florida 28, Georgia 24

Harbach: George O’Leary only faced Mark Richt once while he was coaching at Georgia Tech, and he lost in Richt’s first season. He will be 0-2 against Richt to ring in the new year… Pick: Georgia 41, Central Florida 20


CHICK-FIL-A BOWL | South Carolina vs. Florida State
12/31 | 7:30 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: South Carolina has to be angry. We hope they’re angry. Plus we remember the entire spring listening to Spurrier and team complain about their bowl performance against Connecticut. That can’t be too far from the mind. Plus they must want to erase the aftertaste of Auburn’s 56. We suspect FSU (particularly its fans) will see Spurrier first and SC second, and the rivalry juices will be flowing. But the Seminole’s Rushing Defense is 25th in the nation, not Top Ten like Auburn. We expect that to be the difference. Run, Marcus, Run… Pick: South Carolina 33, Florida State 28

Harbach: Redemption in the Dome for South Carolina, Florida State has struggled against good offenses this year and Carolina does have a good offense. Jeffrey and Lattimore put on the show they had hoped to do earlier in the month against Auburn… Pick: South Carolina 31, Florida State 27


OUTBACK BOWL | Florida vs. Penn State
1/1 | 1:00 PM ET | ABC

Mitchell: Never underestimate the impact of emotion on a teenager. As tough a season as this has been for Florida football, particularly for the Gator’s offense, those players are not going to let Meyer ride out on a loss… Pick: Florida 21, Penn State 14

Harbach: First one to double digits might win; two offenses in the bottom half of the country meeting up in Tampa. At least it isn’t an 11 AM kickoff anymore… Pick: Penn State 14, Florida 10


CAPITAL ONE BOWL | Alabama vs. Michigan State
1/1 | 1:00 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: Saban doesn’t have the best track record of getting his team up for bowl games that fall short of preseason expectations. AND we think MSU might be the best team coming out of Big 10 – certainly the most resilient. But Bama has far more talent than the Spartans. Were this game in East Lansing, we might call it closer. But it’s not… Pick: Alabama 42, Michigan State 21

Harbach: Two teams that expected to be in bigger games, instead settling for the best Non-BCS bowl their league offers. Saban will have his team ready to play and send his seniors and draft-eligible juniors off on a high note… Pick: Alabama 35, Michigan State 17


GATOR BOWL | Mississippi State vs. Michigan
1/1 | 1:30 PM ET | ESPN2

Mitchell: Michigan’s not going to have the ball long enough to put up 45 points, and this MSU defense has been way too under-appreciated this season. Yes, even by you, Mr. Harbach. This could be the largest Time of Possession differential in the history of the Gator Bowl. Our only fear with this pick is the potential distraction that may arise from HC Dan Mullen accepting the Gator opening. But we have to pick in the now, so… Pick: MSU 45, Michigan 31

Harbach: Michigan is going to put up points against most teams, but MSU is the type of offense that the Wolverines will struggle with. The lack of a passing game will hurt the Bulldogs in the end, but it will be a fantastic game to watch… Pick: Michigan 45, MSU 42


ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL | Arkansas vs. Ohio State
1/4 | 8:30 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: Ohio State hasn’t played a team as good as Arkansas all season – no, not a believer in the Badgers. The Hogs have played five teams as good as the Buckeyes. That’ll be the difference in this one. 0-10… Pick: Arkansas 31, Ohio State 23

Harbach: It been assumed ever since Auburn became the popular pick for the BCS Championship game that some SEC team other than Cam U would end up in the Big Easy. But not until Mallett torched the LSU secondary did we think they could win it. The success of the Arkansas passing game and the dominance of its running game in the second half of the season makes us more than confident the Hogs can handle the Buckeyes, particularly OSU’s good secondary… Pick: Arkansas 35, Ohio State 28


AT&T COTTON BOWL | LSU vs. Texas A&M
1/7 | 8:00 PM ET | FOX

Mitchell: The SEC West was considerably better than the Big 12 South. The Aggies turned some heads in the final few weeks, but the Nebraska win was highly suspect, and Texas stank up Austin. Speaking of smelly, let’s look at the LSU passing game. Actually, let’s not, and rather unleash it’s frightening defense with six weeks to prepare on A&M’s inexperienced QB. How do y’all think that’s going to work out? A fond farewell to the Tigers’ Patrick Peterson… Pick: LSU 28, Texas A&M 14

Harbach: We brought this up the week of the Alabama/LSU game, but Les Miles has an incredible record when his time has time to prepare. Bowl games, Bye Weeks or Season Openers… Miles knows how to get his team ready to play. Pick: LSU 26, Texas A&M 20


BBVA COMPASS BOWL | Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky
1/8 | 12:00 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell:

Stop us if you’ve seen this movie before… Kentucky starts off the season 4-0 against mostly weak out of conference competition, then goes 2-6 in conference, barely crosses the finish line for a bowl, then surprises everyone outside the south with a decent performance to close out the year. Don’t say we didn’t tell you. A fond farewell to the Wildcats’ Randall Cobb… Pick: Kentucky 30, Pitt 24

Harbach: The biggest question becomes how motivated Pitt will be to play in this bowl after such a disappointing season, followed by getting its coach fired. With a win, Kentucky will have its fifth straight winning season. There's more at stake for the Wildcats… Pick: Kentucky 24, Pitt 17


NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP | Auburn vs. Oregon
1/10 | 8:30 PM ET | ESPN

Mitchell: Oregon uses the run to set up the pass, and they’re not running on this Auburn defense. Go watch Cal’s performance against Oregon… Expect to see a whole lot of that on January 10th, only better. For Chip Kelly’s sake, we hope he’s watching that game too. As for the Duck’s defense, which put up pedestrian numbers against some woefully unexplosive offenses, we offer these kind words of wisdom: No one has stopped Cam Newton. As we wrote last week, stop Cam’s ground game and he beats you with the pass, as he did against Clemson, Alabama, ole miss and SC (game 2). Take away the pass (or try to) and he beats you with his legs, as he did against LSU, Arkansas and SC (game 1). Try to do both, and he’ll beat you in both, as he did against UGA and Kentucky. As for fortitude, we offer two points… First, Auburn has fought back from behind several times this year, while Oregon hasn’t had nearly as much experience rallying from behind. We question Oregon’s resolve if it falls far behind the Tigers early; we don’t have similar concerns for Auburn. Second, and perhaps most importantly, Oregon has only beaten four bowl teams: Tennessee (6-6), Washington (6-6), Arizona (7-5), and a Stanford team whose biggest win was staying close for three quarters in a loss to Oregon. Auburn has beaten nine bowl eligible teams, including five ranked in the season-ending BCS Top 21 (Carolina twice)! Champions are forged under fire – not by running over weaklings… Pick: Auburn 45, Oregon 24 (Which makes five straight for the conference, thank you kindly.)

Harbach:

Russ and I argued over the Oregon v. Tennessee game earlier this year (RM Note: We didn't argue. You picked UT to win, and I said, “Not even close.” ;) ). Oregon was electric in the second half, but from what I saw in Knoxville that September day, a physical team can cause Oregon problems. And not much has changed in the last three months. Auburn isn’t a great SEC defense, but it is nevertheless an SEC defense, and while Tennessee couldn’t put points on the board when needed, guess who can… Pick: Auburn 42, Oregon 34


SEC POWER RANKINGS

Mitchell

1 Auburn – Impressive is an understatement
2 Arkansas – Pigs lookin' pretty
3 LSU – Biggest win of 2010: Zach Mettenberger
4 Alabama – Snap out of it
5 South Carolina – Wow. Speachless
6 Mississippi State – Don’t let go! Lock him in his office!
7 Florida – Well that was embarrassing, and now an icon is leaving
8 Georgia – Mark, keep your mouth closed next July
9 Tennessee – Can someone please find T. Bray a steak
10 Kentucky – 5th straight winning year on the line
11 ole miss – Are we still talking about ole miss?
12 Vanderbilt – AF's Troy Calhoun the best man for Vandy

Harbach

1 Auburn – So that’s what a four quarter Auburn performance looks like
2 Arkansas – News Flash: Petrino turned out to be a pretty good hire
3 LSU – Battle between two coaches their fans seem to always want fired
4 Alabama – An inspired Bama team is much better than MSU… Will they be inspired?
5 South Carolina – 2nd biggest game of the year nationally, and 'Cocks lay an egg
6 Mississippi State – New Year’s bowl against UM; yeah, ‘twas a good year in Starkville
7 Florida – Curious what adjustments Meyer makes to the offense during bowl practice
8 Georgia – Changes in the strength program could be huge for the Bulldogs
9 Tennessee – “Didn’t we pay you North Carolina guys to go away?”
10 Kentucky – FIFTH straight bowl game, but this season was so close to being special
11 Vanderbilt – Anyone know what Vandy is doing with their coaching search?
12 Ole Miss – 2011 will be a very big year for Houston Nutt. Just ask Jimmy Sexton


Ranking the Bowl Games

Mitchell:

1) BCS Championship Game; Auburn vs. Oregon
2) Sugar Bowl; Arkansas vs. Ohio State
3) Cotton Bowl; LSU vs. Texas A&M
4) Capital One Bowl; Alabama vs. Michigan State
5) Chick-Fil-A Bowl; South Carolina vs. Florida State
6) Outback Bowl; Florida vs. Penn State
7) Gator Bowl; Mississippi State vs. Michigan
8) Music City Bowl; Tennessee vs. North Carolina
9) Liberty Bowl; Georgia vs. Central Florida
10) BBVA Compass Bowl; Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh

Harbach:

1) BCS Championship Game; Auburn vs. Oregon
2) Sugar Bowl; Arkansas vs. Ohio State
3) Cotton Bowl; LSU vs. Texas A&M
4) Chick-Fil-A Bowl; South Carolina vs. Florida State
5) Gator Bowl; Mississippi State vs. Michigan
6) Music City Bowl; Tennessee vs. North Carolina
7) Capital One Bowl; Alabama vs. Michigan State
8) Outback Bowl; Florida vs. Penn State
9) BBVA Compass Bowl; Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh
10) Liberty Bowl; Georgia vs. Central Florida


Don't forget to read CFN's Barrett Sallee Three & Out: SEC Preview every Wednesday.

Follow Russ on Twitter @russmitchellsec or email at russmitchellsec@gmail.com
Follow Brian on Twitter @harbabd or email at harbachcfn@gmail.com



Y'all Play Nice. SEC Championship Game, December 2, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Thirteen, November 25, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Twelve, November 18, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Eleven, November 11, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Ten, November 4, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Nine, October 28, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Eight, October 21, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Seven, October 14, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Six, October 7, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Five, September 30, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Four, September 23, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Three, September 16, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Two, September 9, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week One, September 2, 2010



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