We would be more enthused about the predictions if Alabama was playing for the national championship, but when we look back in the future, 2013 will look like another good Crimson Tide football season. Win the Sugar Bowl, finish with a 12-1 record, finish second in the nation. Not bad. And, in time, the one loss will be forgotten. Like in a decade or three.
Ten Southeastern Conference teams have bowl games this year, and that’s without some of the regulars – Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Moreover, were it not for one bad injury, our Almost Perfect Picks would predict all 10 conference teams to come out of the bowl season with victories. Three league teams – Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Auburn -- have the good fortune to be playing teams from the ACC, which is usually a good way to pick up a win.
SEC teams begin bowl competition today. Here are the Almost Perfect Picks for bowl games featuring SEC teams:
Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5) – Music City Bowl, 2 p.m. CST today, ESPN – The Rebels are the first of the SEC teams to have the good fortune to play an ACC team. Georgia Tech has had teams that were tough to play, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. Ole Miss thinks of itself as a big time program. An 8-5 record looks bigger than 7-6. Mississippi 34, Georgia Tech 31.
Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Rice (9-3) – Liberty Bowl, 3 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN – It is very, very difficult to predict a victory for the Bulldogs, but State is even luckier than those SEC teams playing ACC teams. MSU is playing Rice. The Marching Owls Band will win the halftime, but not even Mississippi State is poor enough to lose to the Owls football team. MSU 21, Rice 10.
Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Duke (10-3) – Chick-fil-A Bowl, 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN – Texas A&M is paying Coach Kevin Sumlin millions because Sumlin inherited Johnny Football. David Cutcliffe did a good job at Ole Miss and is now doing a good job at Duke for millions less. Neither worries about defense. Even though the Aggies have been in the SEC for only a couple of years, that trumps Duke’s ACC status. Texas A&M 49, Duke 42.
Georgia (8-4) vs. Nebraska (8-4) – Gator Bowl, 11 a.m. Wednesday, ESPN2 – Here’s the game where one fan base loves its coach and one fan base hates its coach and neither fan base could justify its feelings. Georgia, which came within five yards of playing for the national championship last year in case you haven’t heard, has whined all year about its injury problems. And the Bulldogs did lose some players during the year, something that happens in football. Even without quarterback Aaron Murray, Georgia should be good enough to beat Nebraska. Pre-game video will show Nebraska winning with a miracle, Georgia losing on a miracle. It will be a miracle if many watch this game. Georgia 35, Nebraska 24.
South Carolina (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (9-3) – Capital One Bowl, Noon Wednesday, ABC – If the self-proclaimed Ball Coach wants to be sure of being on time for kickoff, he might want to catch a ride to the stadium with Jadeveon Clowney. Of course, it will be a pleasant surprise for the Gamecocks if Clowney, figuratively speaking, does show up for a change. It would be easy to pick South Carolina if gutsy quarterback Connor Shaw was available for the game, but he’s not. Wisconsin 31, South Carolina 28
LSU (9-3) vs. Iowa (8-4) – Outback Bowl, Noon Wednesday, ESPN – Iowa’s coach is named Kirk. LSU’s coach is named Les Miles. That alone should be enough to guide the prediction. Some would say that would be the case if Iowa’s coach was named Howdy Doody or Mickey Mouse. Quirky as Miles is, though, he has good football players and they generally play well. The Tigers have a disadvantage in having loss Zach Mettenburg, but a lot of advantages everywhere else. LSU 31, Iowa 21.
Alabama (11-1) vs. Oklahoma (10-2) – Sugar Bowl, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN – For some reason, many think Coach Nick Saban has gotten the old 2008 team back together to play in the Sugar Bowl. That is not the case. The Crimson Tide is national championship caliber, though not playing for a third consecutive national championship. Though no doubt disappointed, there seems no lack of motivation in the Bama camp for the Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma. That’s part of it. Oklahoma is, like Bama, one of the bluebloods of college football, not Utah. Time between final regular season games – disappointment for Alabama, ecstasy for Oklahoma – works in favor of the Crimson Tide. So does coaching and players. Alabama 35, Oklahoma 17.
Missouri (11-2) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2) – Cotton Bowl, 7 p.m. Friday, Fox – It took us a long time to become convinced that Missouri was actually a good team, and then in the SEC Championship Game the Tigers of Columbia gave up all their creds. By the same token, Oklahoma State looked like Mississippi State in its final game in losing to Oklahoma. The once-proud Cotton Bowl deserves better. Missouri 35, Oklahoma State 34.
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. Houston (8-4) – BBVA Compass Bowl, Noon Saturday, ESPN – Almost Perfect Picks has a longstanding formula when it comes to Alabama. We always think Bama is going to win, and we’re almost always right. On the other hand, when Vandy is playing, we always think the Commodores are going to lose. Or at least the way we figured it until James Franklin took over in Nashville. The Commodores deserved better than staying home in the Music City Bowl this year and got it in going to Birmingham. Vanderbilt 31, Houston 10.
Auburn (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0) – BCS National Championship, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, ESPN – Does anyone remember when Auburn bought out of a game against Florida State? An SEC team afraid to play an ACC team? It was the shame of the conference, but not the first time Auburn has brought shame to the SEC. Now the pressure is on the Tigers to not be the SEC team that loses in the BCS National Championship Game. If Auburn wins, it will be the third national championship for the Tigers, but the first in which Auburn was not known (1957) or universally suspected (2010) of winning with bought players. Auburn 42, Florida State 38.