12 for 12: Ranking the 2016 SEC Bowl Games; Part 1

12 for 12: Ranking the 2016 SEC Bowl Games

Ahh…bowl season. Conference championships have been decided, the College Football Playoff match-ups are set, and now 82 different teams get set to play another game. Twelve of those teams hail from the SEC. As we enter the most wonderful time of the year, we take a look at each one of these contests…including one that won’t even happen in Ranking the 2016 SEC Bowl Games; Part 2.

Let’s kick it off Part 1 with the one carrying the most weight.

(#1) The “Keep it 100” Bowl

Washington Huskies (12-1)
Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0)

Dec. 31, 3pm ET.

“We want Bama!” The signs have shown up in some form or fashion all over the country. Some in orange, some in green, some in black, and some in purple. Well, the purple signs take it. Washington gets Bama. Alabama has been unstoppable all year. They’re the only power five team with no losses and have been as dominant and foreboding as a three-ton, 6,000 lb. African elephant.

But now, the Washington Huskies carry the torch for the Pac-12, the west coast, and perhaps the rest of the country as they’re the ones who get to face the merciless giant. Washington is in the CFP for a reason though. The Huskies have been dashing through opponents not named USC this year, boasting 44.5 points per game. That number is good for fourth in the country, less than one point behind the nations’ leader, the Louisville Cardinals. Like a furry, bright-eyed, pointy-eared 60 lb. canine, the Huskies have mushed over their competition. A skilled sophomore quarterback in Jake Browning directs the caravan with the likes of John Ross and Dante Pettis leading the pack.

Should the lightfoot Huskies hope to get past the Tide, they’ll have to find a way to get past the daunting power of Jonathan Allen, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Reuben Foster. The Tide have lived in the number one ranking house all year. It’s the classic unstoppable force meets immovable object match-up. A 60 lb. Husky faces a 6,000 lb. elephant. Washington seemingly has no choice but to play 100 times better than the other Tide opponents. If they bring their A-game, they may have a chance. The Huskies have no room for error.

(#2) The “Oh No, Coach O” Bowl

Louisville Cardinals (9-3)
LSU Tigers (7-4)

Dec. 31, 11am ET.

It has been a wild season for LSU. They lost their head coach, they had a game canceled, they had a fiery interim take over. Ed Orgeron or “Coach O” was named LSU’s new head coach on Nov. 26th after going 5-2 as an interim and beating Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. His only losses came to undefeated Alabama and SEC East Champion Florida. His face serves as an icon for the LSU 2016 season. It’ll be remembered as an eventful season and one that will kick start Orgeron’s tenure at LSU.

Lamar Jackson is the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, and for good reason. Jackson accounted for 51 touchdowns this season. He threw for 30 TD’s and ran for 21. Defenses regularly had major issues even slowing him down. In five of Louisville’s twelve games, Jackson accounted for at least five TD’s. It had defenses, opposing fans, opposing coaches, and opposing Heisman finalists (probably) saying “Oh no” every time Lamar Jackson started doing Lamar Jackson things. Like in this run against Florida State:

Jackson may have a hard time against this LSU defense, but Coach O and the LSU defense will have a hard time in their own right trying to contain Jackson.

(#3) The “Please Pass the Gravy” Bowl

Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)
Auburn Tigers (8-4)

Jan. 2, 8:30pm ET.

Oklahoma has played very well all season. Their only losses came in the first weeks of the season with an opening loss to now 9-3 Houston and a home loss to CFP semi-finalist Ohio State. This is a team that very well could have played their way in to the CFP if their league had a championship game, but that’s a different article for a different writer. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver DeDe Westbrook made their way to New York as Heisman finalists. Their powerful offense ranks third in the country. They belong in the Sugar Bowl.

Auburn is 8-4. Eight wins is not considered a bad season, but the Sugar Bowl is not accustomed to seeing four-loss teams. Auburn is the first four-loss team since Florida St. entered the 2003 Sugar Bowl at 9-4. It’s the Thanksgiving dinner that you’re required to invite all the extended family to…even your weird uncle who says weird things and dresses funny but also sometimes comes through with a cool gift you didn’t expect. Auburn certainly looked like a legitimate Sugar Bowl contender when they were 7-2. The Tigers then sputtered through the homey Sugar Bowl back door after losing two of their final three games. So Auburn enters New Orleans as the underdog and will be asking Oklahoma, the well-to-do father of the family who owns the home, to pass the gravy at this family get-together they somehow found their way to.

(#4) The “Hello, My Name is…” Bowl

Virginia Tech Hokies (9-4)
Arkansas Razorbacks (7-5)

Dec. 29, 5:30pm ET.

Virginia Tech has been playing football since 1892. Arkansas has been playing football since 1894. The two teams have played a combined 2,469 games. Virginia Tech has played in 29 bowl games. Arkansas has played in 41 bowl games. Virginia Tech is in the ACC. Arkansas is in the SEC. These two conferences face each other in multiple games every year. These two teams have never played each other…until now. In what will be their 1,235th game, the Razorbacks will get the Hokies, who will be playing in…get this…their 1,236th game.

Introductions and handshakes before the game will turn in to hard tackles and jukes during it. Virginia Tech enters coming off of an ACC loss to CFP finalist Clemson. Arkansas has literally alternated with wins and losses every week since a September 24th loss to Texas A&M (except for their bye week on Oct. 29th). For their first match-up ever, Tech has a 66.4% chance of winning according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). Austin Allen and Rawleigh Williams III will have a say in that though. This should be a close match-up and will hopefully set the stage for strangers to become (at least) awkward acquaintances in the future.

(#5) The “Close but no Cigar” Bowl

Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)
Florida Gators (8-4)

Jan. 2, 1pm ET.

Iowa and Florida enter the Outback Bowl with identical 8-4 records. But both teams had a chance to do a bit more if the ball would’ve bounced a different way. Iowa started the year ranked at number 17 in the country. They started 2-0 before being upset at home by upstart North Dakota State, dropping them out of the AP rankings. The Hawkeyes would reappear on the national scene by upsetting the 2nd ranked Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 12th, a win that would begin a streak of three straight wins to end the season. Had Iowa not lost that 2-point game to North Dakota St. or by only a TD to Northwestern (two very winnable games) the season could’ve turned out much differently.

Florida began the season on the edge of the AP rankings at 25. The Gators would begin the season 3-0 before dropping their game against Tennessee, which ended their 11-game win streak against the Volunteers. The Gators would regain momentum though with three straight wins. Jim McElwain’s squad was flexing their muscles and swimming in the fast current towards Atlanta and the SEC Championship game. Enter Arkansas. The Gators went to Fayetteville and laid an egg, losing 31-10 and falling to 6-2 on the year. Florida would still make it to Atlanta (and lose by 38 to Alabama) but one has to wonder how their season would’ve been different had they A) made it 12 straight against Tennessee, B) actually played well against Arkansas, and C) gotten to play their Matthew washed-out game against inferior opponent Presbyterian College.

(#6) The “Please Wipe Your Boots” Bowl

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3)
Tennessee Volunteers (8-4)

Dec. 30, 3:30pm ET.

After week seven of this year, the AP had Tennessee ranked number nine in their top-25 rankings and Nebraska ranked number ten. The teams were a combined 10-1 and still had everything to play for. Things started changing after that though. Tennessee finished 3-3 in their last six, ending with an 8-4 record. It was considered a disappointing season for the Vols. who started the season ranked at number nine with SEC championship aspirations. As for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers went 4-3 after that week and had a nice season at 9-3. Nebraska’s prize? They get to go to Tennessee for their bowl game.

Now, it’s not to Neyland Stadium, but the Music City Bowl is in the Vols’ home state. Nissan Stadium in Nashville is sure to be filled with Tennessee orange. The Vols will only be traveling 179 miles and less than three hours for this game. The Cornhuskers will be traveling a whopping 754 miles, a drive that takes close to eleven and a half hours. As if the pressure wasn’t already enough on Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones after their disappointing season, they’ll now have to take down a visiting nine-win team in their own home.

 

Stay tuned for 12 for 12: Ranking the 2016 SEC Bowl Games; Part 2.

Main Photo

1 January 2016; Ole Miss Rebels v Oklahoma State Cowboys; Ole Miss Rebels celebrate as the trophies are awarded after the game in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

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