Welcome to the Bowl Edition of SEC Football Predictions. These predictions will be for SEC games taking place December 27-30 on the college football bowl schedule.
When determining which team has an advantage in a bowl game, the variables are much different than when previewing a regular-season game. Stats and tendencies are useful for regular-season games, but rendered pretty much useless for bowl games. Questions like, “Which team has something to prove?” or “Who has more players looking ahead to the NFL Draft?” are as effective as any stat or regular-season precedent.
All Times Eastern | Utilizing College Football Playoff Selection Committee Rankings.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl
Texas (6-6) vs Missouri (7-5)
9:00 PM ET | ESPN | Houston, TX
- No spectrum exists that is wide enough to space these two teams apart. Texas averages 29 points per game while Missouri is ten points better at 39 PPG. The Longhorns defense makes up the difference, allowing only 21 PPG. Coincidentally, the Tigers defense allows 10 more points per game than Texas.
- Missouri began the season 1-5 with its only win coming in the opener against the FCS Missouri State Bears. Since the Tigers 53-28 loss at eventual SEC Champion Georgia on October 14, Missouri has won six straight. The wins have come against lower-level teams and traditionally good teams that were way down in 2017 (Florida and Tennessee). Regardless of strength of schedule, the wins were vital if not impressive. Head coach Barry Odom showed frustration during the five-game losing streak, throwing a verbal assault on the negative vibe around the program and received flak from the media for it. The team improved throughout the season and seemed to take on the coach’s pride MIZZOU.
- Even in the Tigers’ loss to Georgia (their last), Missouri was successful on offense for nearly two quarters against a Bulldogs defense that had been an immovable object to that point of the season. Junior quarterback Drew Locke hit junior wide receiver Emanuel Hall for two 63-yard touchdown strikes about 4:00 apart midway through the first half, proving the offense was as legit as any in the nation. Unfortunately, the Tigers were outscored, 29-7, following the second of those two touchdowns.
- Texas has suspended three players for the game. While the suspensions hurt the offense, it’s injury that is taking its toll on the Longhorns. Junior defensive tackle Chris Nelson will miss the game after suffering an elbow injury during the team’s preparation for the bowl game. Then there’s offensive tackle Connor Williams, safety DeShon Elliot, and cornerback Holton Hill who have decided not to play in the bowl after declaring to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
- Texas ranks 31st nationally in scoring defense, allowing 21.7 points per game while Missouri allows 39, ranking 94th. The Longhorns rank seventh in the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 105.67 yards a game. The passing defense allows 257.9 yards per game, which ranks all the way down at 108th. One philosophy is that Texas plays in the Big 12, a conference of prolific passing offenses, so it’s no surprise the passing defense is rated so low. Another philosophy says that the only reason the rushing offense is ranked so highly is the fact that every Big 12 team Texas faces is much better at passing than they are running the ball. Which leads to our next point…
- Missouri still resembles the offense of its days in the Big 12 than it does a physical SEC team. The Longhorns and Tigers are familiar foes, so expect these two teams to play with a purpose. The biggest difference from previous matchups will be the Longhorns considerable drop-off on the offensive side of the ball.
PREDICTION: Missouri 38, Texas 28
Friday, December 29, 2017
Wake Forest (7-5) vs Texas A&M (7-5)
1:00 PM ET | ESPN | Charlotte, NC
- The quarterback advantage tends to lean toward Wake Forest. Demon Deacons senior quarterback John Wolford has thrown 25 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 10 touchdowns on 615 yards rushing. Those stats stand up to any quarterback in the ACC, including Kelly Bryant at No. 1 Clemson.
- Injuries will not be an issue for Wake (as of Tuesday, December 26) when they take the field against the Aggies on Friday in Charlotte. A grand total of three players are on the injury list, with running back Cade Carney listed as the most recent potential casualty. He is questionable for Friday’s Belk Bowl, but only has 56 carries on the season. Everyone else that was healthy on November 1 will be available Friday.
- Texas A&M is celebrating the acquisition of new head coach Jimbo Fisher. His arrival will more than likely have little effect on the outcome of Friday’s Belk Bowl.
- Freshmen quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel have combined for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions through the air since Jake Hubenak was lost very early in the season.
- As mentioned in the open, the factors determining which team will win a bowl game are distinctly different for the regular season. This game is no different, but we can utilize something a little more tangible for Friday’s Belk Bowl. Quarterback play will be the difference in this one and Wake Forest has a decided advantage in that category.
PREDICTION: Wake Forest 44, Texas A&M 28
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Kentucky (7-5) vs Northwestern (9-3)
4:30 PM ET | ESPN | Nashville, TN
- This year’s Music City Bowl will not only be the battle of the Wildcats, it will also be the battle of the running backs. Northwestern senior running back Justin Jackson has rushed for over 1,000 in all four years as a ball carrier in Chicago. He’s the first player to accomplish this feat in the Big Ten since Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne back in the mid-to-late 90’s. Kentucky sophomore running back Benny Snell, Jr. had 1,091 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns in his second season in Lexington.
- Similar to the Wake-A&M game earlier in the day, this game may be decided by quarterback play. If this is true, then we may have a very tight Music City Bowl in Nashville on Friday afternoon. Kentucky’s senior quarterback, Stephen Johnson has thrown for 800 less yards than Northwestern junior Clayton Thorson, but he has completed the same percentage of passes while throwing eight less interceptions.
- Which litter of Wildcats can come through when a team needs a stop on defense at a crucial point of the game? Kentucky’s defense ranks considerably lower than Northwestern’s, with the Lexington Wildcats ranking 90th in the nation and the Chicago Wildcats 37th. Not to pile on Kentucky, but if we look at just the month of November for a current trend, the news is bad for those in Lexington. Northwestern ranks seventh nationally for the month of November while Kentucky is all the way down at 113.
- Speaking of trends, Northwestern has won seven straight while Kentucky is in the middle of a two-game losing streak. Kentucky did not look very impressive in losses at No. 3 Georgia (42-13) and Louisville (44-17) to end the season. This downward trend will probably continue in Nashville for Kentucky.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 41, Kentucky 21
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Louisville (8-4) vs #23 Mississippi State (8-4)
Noon PM ET | ESPN | Jacksonville, FL
- Although Mississippi State is ranked No. 23 for this matchup against unranked Louisville, the Bulldogs are 6.5-point underdogs… and that is probably being kind. December has not been kind to MSU with Dan Mullen leaving for Gainesville and Nick Fitzgerald suffering an ugly injury in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving. Those two events alone could be the difference in this game.
- Junior quarterback Lamar Jackson could be playing his final game for Louisville, but unlike other juniors declaring early for the NFL Draft, Jackson has more to gain than lose with a great performance in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon. A good showing might not improve his draft stock, but could very well solidify his standing with an NFL team that is on the fence about drafting him.
- Mississippi State’s best chance at victory is keeping the Louisville starting quarterback off the field. In order to stay on the field and chew up as much clock as possible, the Bulldogs will need to run the ball as well as they did against Alabama. Much of that success was due to having the threat of Nick Fitzgerald running at quarterback. Still, 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams could handle 30-35 carries in hopes of turning the game into a snooze fest.
PREDICTION: Louisville 24, Mississippi State 14
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at EricFromSpringfield–at– gmail–dot– com. Eric sprinkles his talents across the property & casualty insurance sector and the comedy writing world. Luckily, he makes his living doing insurance, but be sure to Like the Facebook page Facebook.com/EricTaylorWritesStuff for updates on other stuff Eric may be writing or doing.