Sallee: Ranking The SEC Bowl Games
LSU safety Eric Reid makes the play of the year
LSU safety Eric Reid makes the play of the year
Posted Dec 10, 2011

CFN SEC Columnist Barrett Sallee ranks the bowl games involving SEC teams.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

Well, that was fast. It seems like just yesterday when we were mired in the doldrums of the offseason, discussing parties in South Beach and third-party recruiters in Texas. Nine SEC teams earned the right to play in bowl games, including the first ever BCS Championship Game featuring teams from the same conference. Which SEC bowls are worth tuning into and which aren't? Here's how I rank them:

8. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest
This season can only be viewed as a disappointment for Mississippi State. Coming into the season, the Bulldogs were the recipient of a copious amount of preseason hype, only to realize one thing - they're still Mississippi State. With a ton of supposed weapons returning on offense, Mississippi State finished the regular season ranked No. 87 in total offense and No. 45 in rushing offense. On the other side, Wake Forest finished in ranked in the 70's in both total defense and rushing defense. Something's gotta give, but do we really, REALLY want to find out what?

7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati
This is a monster step for James Franklin's Vanderbilt team. Franklin burst on to the scene this past offseason, notching a pretty good recruiting class by Vanderbilt standards, but we didn't know what kind of coach he was. As it turns out, he's pretty good at that too. The Commodores are making their second bowl appearance in four years, which is a major step for a program that has been widely regarded as a laughing stock. This time, the ‘Dores travel outside of their home city of Nashville for a bowl game, to the fertile recruiting ground of Memphis, Tenn. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers will make this a game that you should tune into, but the bowl experience and recruiting ramifications for the Commodores iare much more important than the game itself.

6. Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Auburn vs. Virginia
Auburn's defense took the brunt of the criticism in 2011, but the offense didn't exactly live up to expectations either. Gus Malzhan's play-calling was limited by erratic quarterback play that essentially eliminated any threat of the deep ball, which allowed defenses to stack up against the run. When Auburn tried to loosen things up and get Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb some room to run, it simply wasn't able to do it. Virginia brings the nation's No. 30 defense to the Georgia Dome, in what will essentially be a home game for Auburn. With Dyer suspended, that leaves McCalebb and freshman Tre Mason as the feature running backs. Good luck, Tigers. This game will be on in the background of a lot of New Year's Eve parties, but don't expect it to grab your attention unless Auburn finds a passing game - which isn't very likely.

5. Gator Bowl - Florida vs. Ohio State
So, have you heard about the Urban Meyer Bowl? Urban Meyer's old team, the Florida Gators, faces off against his new team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, in the Gators' backyard. The Meyer storyline is marginally intriguing (and a little played out, at this point), but this will be a revenge game of sorts. Florida's 2006 thrashing of Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game started the string of SEC national championships, and established the SEC as the nation's dominant conference - a designation it has yet to relinquish. On the field, this game will be sloppy. Florida's offense, now without former coordinator Charlie Weis, is an absolute mess; and Ohio State still can't hang with the speed of the SEC. It'll be intense, though.

4. Capital One Bowl - South Carolina vs. Nebraska
Did you miss Connor Shaw on Rivalry Saturday against Clemson? If so, you missed quite a show. The sophomore was spectacular, racking up 317 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in the Gamecocks' 34-13 dismantling of Clemson. Shaw has improved from week-to-week since taking over for former starter Stephen Garcia. Bowl practice will allow for plenty of time for more improvement, so expect Shaw to put on a show vs. a Nebraska defense that hardly has lived up to its "Black Shirt" legacy.

3. AT&T Cotton Bowl - Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Brace yourselves, this one is about to get explosive. Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas offensive show heads to Jerry World to take on a Kansas State team that thinks defense is optional. You're welcome, Jarious Wright. Big problem for the Hogs though - they've been torched in the only two big games they've played all season, and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has come up big in big games this year. This game has the feel of one that's somewhere in the 38-35 range. Get your popcorn ready.

2. Outback Bowl - Georgia vs. Michigan State
I know, I know...Georgia hasn't beaten anybody of significance. That's a lazy argument, because after the first two games, Georgia's defense has been outstanding no matter who the Bulldogs played. Even in the SEC Championship Game loss to LSU, Georgia's defense was a big story, holding the Tigers to zero first downs in the first half. Sure, the game got out of hand, but LSU's special teams and turnovers were a big reason for that. The Outback Bowl gets hooked up with a solid top 20 matchup of two teams that, like it or not, are going to be in their conference title and even the national title discussion when 2012 season kicks off.

1. Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU vs. Alabama
Game of the Century Part II, Field Goals With a Vengeance. The first matchup between these two teams, the 9-6 defensive slugfest in Tuscaloosa, was widely viewed as a let down on the national landscape. I'm not sure why. I loved it. These two teams are head and shoulders the top two teams in the country, and seeing them fight it out for the crystal football has all of the makings for another instant classic. Is it fair for LSU to have to beat Alabama twice for the title? No, but that argument has already come and gone. I'm more interested to find out what adjustments are made by each team after already playing four quarters and an overtime earlier in the season. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that Nick Saban leaves all gadget plays out of the game plan this go-around.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

2011 Regular Season Column Archive
Ranking The SEC Bowls - December 10, 2011
Mathieu For Heisman - December 5, 2011
SEC Championship Game Live Thoughts - December 3, 2011
South Carolina's Historic Season - November 28, 2011
Arkansas Needs Some Help - November 21, 2011
For Alabama, Style Matters - November 14, 2011
Missouri To The SEC Is A Good Thing - November 7, 2011
Justice For Auburn and Cam Newton - October 12, 2011
Time For The Frazier Era At Auburn - October 10, 2011
Welcome Back Georgia To The SEC Chase - October 3, 2011
Florida Is The Class Of The East - September 26, 2011
Houston Nutt's Big Problems - September 19, 2011
South Carolina Is Legit - September 12, 2011
It's Over For Mark Richt - September 5, 2011

Click here for the 2011 Three & Out Archive
Click Here for the 2011 offseason column archive

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