SEC leads all conferences with a 7-2 bowl record. And it's not over.
I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t read too much—good or bad-- into a conference’s performance in bowl games. How teams play in bowls is usually a function of who wants to be there as opposed to overall conference strength.
Today, however, I’m going to break my own rule.
All of the bowl/playoff games involving Power Five teams have been played except for next Monday’s CFP championship between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson. Here are the conference bowl records to date. Make of them what you will:
SEC record vs. conferences
Big 12 (3-0): beat Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor
ACC (2-1): beat Virginia, Virginia Tech, lost to Louisville
Big Ten (2-1): beat Michigan, Indiana, lost to Minnesota.
Here’s is breakdown of those nine SEC bowl teams and the story line to watch as they head into the off-season:
Alabama (11-2) Beat Michigan 35-16 in the Citrus Bowl: It’s all about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and whether or not he will return for his senior season. We are supposed to get Tua’s decision on Monday. By the way: Alabama’s “disappointing” 11-2 record marked the ninth straight season the Crimson Tide has won 11 or more games. Alabama was 124-14 in this recently-completed decade.
Auburn (9-4) Lost to Minnesota 31-24 in Outback Bowl: It was a really disappointing and surprising loss because the Tigers had a chance to win 10 games for the 15th time in school history and were coming off a big win over Alabama. Auburn’s other three losses were to No. 1 LSU (on the road), No. 5 Georgia, and No. 9 Florida (on the road). Chad Morris is coming on board to work with the offense and rising sophomore QB Bo Nix.
Florida (11-2) Beat Virginia 36-28 in the Orange Bowl: The Gators are feeling pretty good about life right now with their second straight double-digit win season under Dan Mullen. Quarterback Kyle Trask (2,941 yards passing, 22 TD) returns. Is somebody going to make a run at DC Todd Grantham? Are the Gators closing the gap on Georgia? Florida’s losses this season were to No. 1 LSU (on the road) and No. 5 Georgia (in Jacksonville).
Georgia (12-2) Beat No. 7 Baylor 26-14 in the Sugar Bowl: The aforementioned Bulldogs were downright giddy after beating the Bears in New Orleans because 1) Quarterback Jake Fromm played well (20 of 30, 250 yards, 2 TD) and 2) receiver George Pickens (12 catches, 175 yards) and some other freshmen gave the world a glance at what they can be. But will Fromm return for his senior season? If he does the Bulldogs will be favored to win their fourth straight SEC East title. If he doesn’t the door cracks a little bit for Florida. The deadline for Fromm to declare is Jan. 20.
Kentucky (8-5) Beat Virginia Tech 37-30 in the Belk Bowl: A masterful coaching job to win eight games after losing its top two quarterbacks to injury. The performance of Lynn Bowden after being moved from receiver to quarterback will be a Kentucky legend. After four straight bowl games Mark Stoops has this program on solid footing.
LSU (14-0) Beat Oklahoma 63-28 in the CFP semifinals at the Peach Bowl. “Beat” is not an adequate word to describe what the Tigers did to the Sooners in Atlanta. Now LSU has a chance to go down as one of the greatest teams in history if it can take care of No. 3 Clemson next Monday in New Orleans for the national championship.
Mississippi State (6-7) Lost to Louisville 38-28 in the Music City Bowl. In its football history Mississippi State had never fired a coach after winning the Egg Bowl and then going to a bowl game.
Until last Friday.
Joe Moorhead was dismissed after only two seasons and AD John Cohen is looking for a new coach. The next coach will inherit some skill, like quarterback Garrett Schrader. But will he keep defensive coordinator Bob Shoop?
Tennessee (8-5) Beat Indiana 23-22 in the Gator Bowl. Here is another group of fans who can’t wait for next season to get here. The Volunteers started 1-4 and then finished 7-1 with the only loss being to Alabama. They rallied from 22-9 down in the final five minutes to beat Indiana. Yet again quarterback Jarrett Guarantano got benched and then came back to lead the Vols to victory. Tennessee is not quite ready to challenge Georgia and Florida in the SEC East but the Vols are moving in the right direction.
Texas A&M (8-5) Beat No. 25 Oklahoma State 24-21 in the Texas Bowl: The good news is that quarterback Kellen Mond, who had a career-high 117 yards rushing (which included a 67-yard touchdown run) in the Texas Bowl, will be back. The better news is that the schedule becomes more manageable in 2020. The Aggies’ five losses this season were to No. 1 LSU (on the road), No. 3 Clemson (on the road), No. 5 Georgia (on the road) No. 12 Auburn, and No. 13 Alabama. Clemson and Georgia rotate off the schedule.