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

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

As we kicked off the most wonderful time of the year, bowl season, we ranked the SEC bowl games. The first half of the rankings can be found in Part 1. Here is the continued rankings for 12 for 12: Ranking the 2016 SEC Bowl Games; Part 2.

(#7) The “Prodigal” Bowl

Kansas St. Wildcats (8-4)
Texas A&M Aggies (8-4)

Dec. 28, 9pm ET.

Texas A&M was in the Big 12 from 1996 to 2011. Then, at the tender Big 12 age of 16 and with a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies set out on their own. The bright-eyed A&M program entered the SEC with a bang, going 11-2 in year one and defeating the mighty Alabama. Their star quarterback Johnny Manziel broke school records and won the Heisman. But then Johnny Football went to the Cleveland Browns (and thus is no longer in the NFL), and the program began to come back to earth. The Aggies haven’t won more than eight games since Manziel departed. The program that thrived in their new home upon arrival is now attempting to get to nine wins for the first time since 2013…and it will be against an old Big 12 roommate.

Kansas St. has had an impressive 8-4 year. But back in the spring and summer of 2012 they stood between some bears from Waco and some Sooners from Norman and watched the Aggies and Tigers prance off south and east. While Texas A&M was in the Big 12, they faced the Wildcats ten total times, winning exactly half of them. One of those match ups was in the 1998 Big 12 Championship game, a 36-33 Texas A&M win.

Now the Aggies will return home as a visitor, even if for a brief moment, on Dec. 28th. Both squads will be going for their ninth win. Don’t expect the Wildcats to welcome the Aggies back with open arms.

(#8) The “Wiley Old Vet” Bowl

TCU Horned Frogs (6-6)
Georgia Bulldogs (7-5)

Dec. 30, noon ET.

Kirby Smart made his way to Athens this year to take the reigns from exiting chief Bulldog Mark Richt. In his first year as top-dog, Smart led the Bulldogs and freshman QB Jacob Eason to a 7-5 season. They became bowl eligible on Nov. 12th with a big upset win over Auburn, but bowl eligibility is nothing new for the program.

Georgia ranks fifth in the nation in bowl appearances at 51. They also rank second in the SEC at bowl winning percentage at .598 (Auburn, .600) and second in the SEC with bowl wins at 29 (Alabama, 36). The most important stat though for Smart’s Dawgs is the number 20. That’s the number of consecutive bowl games Bulldog fans have been able to enjoy. That streak is currently tops in the SEC and third longest in the country. While Smart may still be getting accustomed to his team, the Dawgs are well acquainted with bowl season.

TCU began the season with high hopes. The Horned Frogs spent a total of three weeks in the AP top-25 but were in need of their own vet by season’s end. They became bowl-eligible though with a 31-9 win over Texas on Friday Nov. 25th. And just like Georgia…TCU is no stranger to this time of year. TCU has played in thirty bowl games, good for 29th in the nation. Their bowl record sits at .500, an even 15-15 with one tie.

Counting this year, the teams have played in a combined 82 bowl games. This Dec. 30th match-up with feature two teams looking to rebound from mediocre seasons and gain momentum heading into 2017.

(#9) The “More Time for Fireworks” Bowl

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4)
Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)

Dec. 31, 11am ET.

Georgia Tech finished 2015 with a 3-9 record. This season was much different. The Yellow Jackets went 8-4 this year and finished with three straight wins, including a stunning last-second win over their rival Georgia. The Yellow Jackets made most of their success with the running game, racking up over 3,000 rushing yards and averaging 254.1 rushing yards per game (good for 11th in the nation).

The Wildcats started the season poorly, losing their first two games and giving up at least 44 points in each. Calls for Mark Stoops’ job began ringing again. But the season turned around as Kentucky won five of their next six. The highlight of Kentucky’s season came in their final game when they pulled off a huge upset over Louisville and soon-to-be Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Kentucky can run the ball themselves. They average 244.1 yards, just one yard behind Georgia Tech and 15th in the nation.

Benny Snell Jr. and Stanley “Boom” Williams lead this UK rushing attack opposite dual-threat QB Justin Thomas and Marcus Marshall for Georgia Tech. This game begins four hours before the first CFP semi-final. If these two teams stick to what got them here in their successful running games, the game should be one of the quicker bowls. This means you should have plenty of time to run out and grab a few more fireworks before the CFP starts!

(#10) The “The South Will Rise Again” Bowl

South Florida Bulls (10-2)
South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6)

Dec. 29, 2pm ET.

Quinton Flowers is probably the best player you’ve never heard of. If South Carolina wants any chance at getting their fifth straight bowl win, they’ll have to find a way to contain him. Flowers accounted for 37 TD’s this season while leading the Bulls to a 10-2 record. But South Florida head coach Willie Taggart has gone to Eugene to lead the Ducks.

South Carolina wasn’t supposed to make a bowl game this year. Under first year head coach Will Muschamp, many experts predicted that South Carolina would win somewhere around three or four games. On Oct. 22nd, Muschamp made the controversial decision to pull the red-shirt off of freshman QB Jake Bentley. Bentley went 4-2 as the Gamecocks’ starter, including a big upset win over Tennessee. South Carolina had three straight 11-win seasons under previous head coach Steve Spurrier before tailing off. The Gamecocks went 7-6 in Spurrier’s final full year (2014) and 3-9 in 2015.

The Bulls will enter the 2017 season with new head coach Charlie Strong, hoping to raise the program to new heights. The Gamecocks look to continue to rise under Muschamp. Whichever “south” wins this game will carry huge momentum into the off-season.

(#11) The “White Elephant Gift Exchange” Bowl

NC State Wolfpack (6-6)
Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6)

Dec. 26, 5pm ET.

The day after Christmas will feature three bowl games, the last being this SEC-ACC match-up between Vanderbilt and NC State. These are two teams that won games they weren’t supposed to win and lost games they weren’t supposed to lose.

Let’s start with NC State. The Wolfpack started the season 4-1 before losing five straight. They shouldn’t have lost five straight though. The first of those five was a 24-17 OT loss to Clemson. The game was in OT because of a missed 33-yard field goal by State kicker Kyle Bambard. If State could’ve found a way to win that game, we’d be looking at a very different CFP final four. But State came away with some good wins as well. On October 8th, State had an impressive win over Notre Dame in the throes of a Hurricane Matthew downpour. The day after Thanksgiving saw the Wolfpack take down an 8-3 UNC team, one of their fiercest rivals.

Vanderbilt opened up the season with a disappointing home loss to South Carolina in their head coach’s first game. On Oct. 8th, they were 2-4 and needing a season turnaround to make it to bowl eligibility. That’s exactly what happened. The Commodores won four of six down the stretch, ending the season with back to back wins over Ole Miss and arch-rival Tennessee. And while they did play better during that stretch, they still lost their game to arguably the SEC’s worst team in Missouri.

In true office Christmas party nature, good luck guessing what’s behind the wrapping when these teams face off in Shreveport.

(#12) The “Reviva-bowl”

Miami (OH) (6-6)
Mississippi St. (5-7)

Dec. 26, 11am ET.

This is not exactly the most exciting bowl matchup. But that’s ok, only one bowl can make that claim. While it may not be the most sparkling game, it’s a tremendous opportunity for both of these teams. It’s an opportunity that at one point didn’t seem possible for either team.

Let’s start with Miami (OH). On Oct. 8th, the Redhawks lost to Akron 35-13 to fall to 0-6 on the season. What Miami (OH) did next was remarkable. The team that seemed hopeful to just win a game rattled off six straight, beating two other bowl teams in the process.

Miami (OH) gets a Bulldog team from the SEC that enters bowl season at 5-7. Mississippi State had an up and down year, losing their opener in shocking fashion to South Alabama yet beating their rival in Ole Miss to close out the campaign. Mississippi St. is one of two teams to enter their bowl with a 5-7 record, but should get to six wins if they play their best. With Nick Fitzgerald having a breakout year at QB for the Bulldogs, the Redhawks should have a very hard time stopping him and their SEC foe. And give this game some credit; while the teams didn’t have great years, this is the first game after Christmas. So wake up on Monday morning, Dec. 26th, head to the living room and search for the remote under mounds of wrapping paper and Christmas cards. Football’s on!

The “Ole Mizz-ery” Bowl

Ole Miss (5-7)
Missouri (4-8)

This is not an actual game. In fact, these two teams have only faced off three times in the past ten years. These are the only SEC teams left out of Bowl season 2016. In the preseason, everyone expected Ole Miss to make a bowl game. The Rebels began the season ranked number 13 in the country. Not much was expected from Missouri under first year head coach Barry Odom. The Tigers going 4-8 is actually a prediction many experts got right in the preseason. These teams will look forward to their 2017 campaigns kicking off. Ole Miss will open with South Alabama on Sep. 2nd (and hope their fate is different than their arch-rival’s in 2016). And Missouri will open at home against in-state foe Missouri State on the same day.

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)