Mitchell: SEC Postseason Review/Look Ahead
Josh Robinson
Josh Robinson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 11, 2013


A look back at the SEC Bowl season so that we can look forward to 2013


By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Things began slowly as the conference stumbled out of the gate to a 3-3 record, with a particularly embarrassing face plant by Florida. But with a strong finish, the conference ended with a respectable mark of 6-3...especially given it took home a seventh straight crystal ball.

So grab your gumbo and let’s geaux geaux geaux; especially if you’re an LSU redshirt JR. Too soon?

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Vanderbilt 38, North Carolina State 24) - Vandy forced five turnovers while running NCSU around LP Field like it was Daytona. The Dores anchored down and held the Wolf Pack to just 41 yards on 25 carries (1.8 yards per), capitalized on nearly every NC State mistake, and looked in control throughout the game. That’s worth repeating - Vandy looked in control throughout it’s bowl game win.

As if that weren't already enough, James Franklin and Vandy have a top 15 recruiting class to bolt onto their first double digit bowl win since the Eisenhower administration. That and their first nine win season since Woodrow Wilson was in office. Google it.

(The great Dan McGugin was the coach back then - you should Google him too. Fred Russell, the award-winning sportswriter, wrote of McGugin, “More than any one man, he was responsible for the progress of southern football...”. Know your SEC football history.)

Franklin will have to replace several important seniors, including his backfield of quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy. But the cupboards are hardly bare in Nashville, and they’re about to get stocked even better. Stand by...this could get really interesting.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Clemson 25, LSU 24) - Tiger on Tiger violence. With five NFL-grade running backs standing idle on the Georgia Dome sideline, LSU passed and passed some more. After factoring for sacks, LSU had 29 passing attempts to only 19 running plays. Don’t get lost in the Bayou Bengals last two plays, incomplete passes on 2nd & 2 and 3rd & 2 inside the game’s final two minutes, nor their one yard of total offense in the fourth quarter. Focus, rather, on the questionable decision to throw three times for every two runs throughout the game.

LSU passed more times than it ran, in a game it was leading from the beginning no less, and lost to an inferior but consistent Clemson team. A team LSU knew would run a hi-tempo offense, and thus the Bayou Bengals would need to slow down. And still they passes. Clemson ended up with 100 plays - 50 passing and 50 rushing.

Other games this year in which LSU passed more than it ran: a poor showing vs. Towson, a loss to Florida, and a nail biting win over Ole Miss. (It was also tight in the 12-10 Auburn game, which was the closest Gene Chizik got to an SEC win all season.) Anyone noticing a pattern?

NFL EARLY ENTRANTS


Check out the full list of early entrants for the NFL Draft, with analysis of their decisions.

Now, with the train having backed up to Red Stick and 10 redshirt juniors departing early for the NFL (11 if you consider Tyrann Mathieu), LSU can look forward next year to stopping Alabama, TAMU and Florida - ALL of whom have their starting quarterback and dynamic offenses returning.

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (Northwestern 34, Mississipi State 20) - Ever the gracious host, State welcomed Northwestern to the South with four turnovers, and the Wildcats left for home with their first postseason win since the 1949 Rose Bowl. To suggest State quarterback Tyler Russell had a rough afternoon is to say Lindsey Lohan needs a life coach.

State rushed for nearly six yards per carry on 33 carries, but it didn’t matter with Russell throwing four interceptions.

We say goodbye to Thorpe award winner Johnthan Banks, but in perhaps not the wisest career move, it appears bruising tailback Ladarius Perkins will return for his senior year. Perkins finished the year with 1024 yards and was the sixth most prolific rusher in the conference (after factoring for QB Johnny Manzeil).

However, he may have to fight for playing time with the emergence of the next great State tailback: freshman Josh Robinson. Robinson played in every game this year but the Egg Bowl, and averaged 6.1 ypc on 55 carries. Several reports had Robinson with the better practice leading into the Gator Bowl, and the 5-9, 215 pounder outran Perkins in total yards and ypc versus Northwestern. Worth remembering the name: Josh Robinson.

Outback Bowl (South Carolina 33, Michigan 28) - In facing a Michigan run defense that struggled to stop anyone with a heartbeat this year, and ranked 60th in the nation, the Gamecocks would run only 14 times after factoring for sacks: seven times in each half. This despite quarterback Connor Shaw averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and Carolina leading for much of the game.

But what stands out from this bowl victory is not the baffling offensive game plan, nor the Gamecocks second 11 win season and top ten finish. Rather, it’s the clutch performance by Carolina’s offense on the game winning drive.
Connor Shaw's start to 2013 was a tough one. His 10 ypc average was impressive, but he paid for it.

The gutsy effort by the diminutive receiver/returner Ace Sanders, the fortitude and accuracy of injured quarterback Connor Shaw, the confidence of the coaching staff to call for the deep post route when already in field goal range, and the courage of back up quarterback Dylan Thompson, not merely for finding wideout Bruce Ellington in triple coverage, but for standing in the pocket with the weight of an unblocked defensive end bearing down on him.

This is the kind of clutch performance that helps build an identity - that can be leveraged through the thankless days of spring practice, and carried right up to the opening kickoff of 2013.


PART II COMING MONDAY

Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC Columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb



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