Photo courtesy of Alabama athletics
No conference had more bowl-eligible teams than the SEC.
13 of the league’s 14 teams are headed to bowl games. Vanderbilt was the only team who did not qualify for a bowl.
All seven SEC West teams made a bowl game. Here’s a brief overview and prediction for each:
Goodyear Cotton Bowl | Alabama vs. Cincinnati | Dec. 31 – 3:30 p.m. ET | ESPN
After shocking Georgia in the SEC Championship, the Crimson Tide regained the top spot in the College Football Playoff poll and solidified a spot in the playoff.
This year’s Cinderella, Cincinnati. The Bearcats are the first Group of 5 team to make the playoff and they will have to take on Nick Saban and the reigning national champion Crimson Tide.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young might have locked up the Heisman Trophy after breaking the SEC Championship record for passing yards. Alabama still has an influx of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Cincinnati cornerbacks Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Coby Bryant are two of the best in the nation, and will match up well against an Alabama team that will lose John Metchie for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
The backfield duo of quarterback Desmond Ridder and former Alabama running back Jerome Ford is also good enough to give the Tide issues.
The question is, can the Bearcats keep up for four quarters against the Tide? It seems unlikely.
Alabama finds a groove in the second half and wins a hard-fought game.
Prediction: Alabama 28, Cincinnati 20
Allstate Sugar Bowl | Ole Miss vs. Baylor | Jan. 1 – 8:45 p.m. ET | ESPN
After finishing 10-2, Ole Miss will draw a fellow top-10 team in Baylor, which just won the Big 12.
Ole Miss has been energized by quarterback Matt Corral. The sheer amount of playmakers on offense makes Ole Miss a dangerous threat every single play, especially through the air.
Under Dave Aranda, the Bears have blossomed into an elite team and put themselves in the playoff conversation. Freshman quarterback Blake Shapen has been serviceable and made some big plays in the absence of Gerry Bohannon.
With rumors of Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby leaving for Oklahoma, there could be distractions off the field for the Rebels here. On top of that, it is going to be hard to pick against a team that just won its conference.
Prediction: Baylor 34, Ole Miss 28
Liberty Bowl | Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech | Dec. 28 – 6:45 p.m. ET | ESPN
Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach will take on his old team in a game that should feature a lot of yards, especially through the air.
The Red Raiders have run the air raid offense ever since Leach introduced it there during the 2000s. Now, things come full circle as the Red Raiders will meet Leach again.
Mississippi State has had an up-and-down season, but the Bulldogs played well down the stretch. Quarterback Will Rogers has had a historic season in Starkville, and is putting himself in position to be a future NFL Draft pick.
The Bulldogs have a lot of firepower and will be playing a coach-less team.
Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Texas Tech 20
Gator Bowl | Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest | Dec. 31 – 11 a.m. ET | ESPN
The highlight of Texas A&M’s season was an upset of Alabama, but it still took a step back and finished 8-4.
Fresh off a loss to LSU, the Aggies will meet with Wake Forest, which is in the midst of one of its most successful seasons ever. At 10-3, the Demon Deacons are coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship.
There is one thing that always comes up in these types of games — motivation. Will Texas A&M really motivated to play after being considered a playoff contender in the preseason?
The question is, will it impact the Deacons as well? After all, there is a chance for a letdown game after falling short in the ACC Championship.
This will be a close one, but the talent difference gets it done here for the Aggies.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Wake Forest 20
Outback Bowl | Arkansas vs. Penn State | Jan. 1 – Noon ET | ESPN2
Arkansas has been reenergized as a football program under Sam Pittman, and this year is a perfect example of such. The Razorbacks hit eight wins — their highest win total since 2015.
For Penn State, the Nittany Lions started off hot after a win against Auburn, but injuries and inconsistencies plagued them the rest of the way as they finished 7-5.
Here is a case of two different teams. One just exceeded every preseason expectation and has a chance to accomplish something it has not accomplished in a long time. The other? Well, it fell well short of expectations and exits the season disappointed.
Arkansas will be ready to play.
Prediction: Arkansas 31, Penn State 23
Texas Bowl | LSU vs. Kansas State | Jan. 4 – 9 p.m. ET | ESPN
LSU pulled off an upset of Texas A&M in Ed Orgeron’s final game to make a bowl game. 6-6 is very disappointing for the Tigers, but they ended the year on a high note.
At 7-5, Kansas State is coming off back-to-back losses to close the regular season. One of those came against Texas, which was 4-7 at the time.
It is hard to figure out who has the real advantage here. LSU is a more talented team, but that has not meant anything all year. On top of that, coming off an emotional high against Texas A&M is a recipe for a letdown game.
Prediction: Kansas State 28, LSU 21
Birmingham Bowl | Auburn vs. Houston | Dec. 28 – Noon ET | ESPN
Once 6-2, Auburn controlled its own destiny and put itself in a position to take the SEC West. How did it close the season? With four straight losses, and by letting leads slip away.
There is no debate that Auburn will desperately be trying to get back on track and avoid a losing season, but it will have to find a way to do it against a top-20 team that won 11 games during the regular season.
The good news for Auburn? It will essentially be a home game in Birmingham. Even then, it is hard to pick an Auburn team that could potentially be down to its third-string quarterback and will be missing numerous other key players.
Houston will see this as a big-time opportunity.
Prediction: Houston 27, Auburn 23