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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Best and worst from the SEC bowl season

By Chris Low

Let’s review some of the highs and lows of the bowl season:

Brandon Boykin
Georgia's Brandon Boykin had a huge game against Michigan State, including this punt return for a TD.
Best performance: Even in a loss, there was no topping Georgia’s Brandon Boykin. The senior cornerback certainly did his part in the Bulldogs’ 33-30 triple-overtime setback to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. He scored three different ways, starting with a safety when he tackled Keshawn Martin in the end zone. He then returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Georgia a 27-20 lead with 6:44 remaining in regulation.

Best defensive performance: This one goes out to the entire Alabama defense, which saved its best for last. The Crimson Tide pitched the first shutout in BCS National Championship Game history and held LSU to 92 total yards. Let’s face it. They could have played 10 more quarters and LSU wouldn’t have scored a touchdown against Alabama on Monday night. It was like watching one giant crimson swarm all night.

Worst game: Unless you’re of the Alabama persuasion, the BCS National Championship Game was one of the worst in recent memory. That doesn’t diminish what the Crimson Tide accomplished, but it was a real stinker as a game. There was never any real drama. LSU was horrid on offense, and the game was decided once Alabama got more than a touchdown ahead.

Best off-the-bench performance: Auburn junior quarterback Barrett Trotter came off the bench after starter Clint Moseley went down with an injury and delivered one of his best passing performances of the season in the Tigers’ 43-24 victory against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Trotter finished 11-of-18 for 175 yards and a touchdown and didn’t throw any interceptions. Most importantly, he was ready when his team needed him.

Best offensive game plan: Alabama turned to sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron to open the game and let him get into a rhythm with a series of bootleg passes and short throws. LSU wasn’t able to get to him with its pass rush, and McCarron’s confidence grew as the game progressed. It also allowed the Crimson Tide to drive the ball out of bad field position a couple of different times in the first quarter.

Worst offensive game plan: Easy choice here. LSU looked like a grade-school offense in the BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers stubbornly kept trying to run the speed option outside and never made any adjustments when they were stopped in their tracks. They did try to go hurry-up at one point, but didn’t have any answers for an Alabama defense determined to make Jordan Jefferson a passer.

Best farewell: The entire Arkansas senior class went out in style, from Joe Adams, to Jarius Wright, to Jake Bequette. There were 20 of them in all, and it’s a class that took Arkansas to new heights with 21 wins over the past two years. They capped their careers with a 29-16 victory against Kansas State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, marking the first 11-win season for the Hogs since 1977.

Worst farewell: The unfortunate part for Jefferson is that he did some good things for LSU this season and made a big difference for the Tigers in that first game against Alabama. But fans are probably going to remember his arrest in the preseason and how poorly he played in the national championship game against Alabama more than any play he might have made to help the Tigers get there.

Best catch: South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery didn’t have the kind of season anyone was expecting, but his leaping grab of Connor Shaw’s Hail Mary and 51-yard touchdown as the first half ended completely changed the complexion of the Capital One Bowl and paved the way for the Gamecocks to go on and win 30-13 against Nebraska.

Worst luck: Marquis Maze got the ball rolling for Alabama with his 49-yard punt return in the first quarter, but he pulled his hamstring on the play and had to run out of bounds. He probably scores there if he doesn’t have the injury. He wasn’t able to return to the game, and seeing tears streaming down his face while watching his teammates from the sideline later on told you all you needed to know about what that game meant to Maze.

Best coaching move: Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, coaching in his last game before taking on the Colorado State head-coaching gig, had the Crimson Tide come out throwing, particularly on first down, and that opened up the entire offense and sort of put LSU’s defense on its heels early.

Worst coaching move: Georgia coach Mark Richt gets big props for guiding the Bulldogs to 10 straight wins after the two losses to open the season. But his decision to play for a field goal in the first overtime, especially when Blair Walsh had been so inconsistent all season, was hard to figure. A 42-yarder isn’t a chip shot for anybody, and Walsh missed it right. That was the opening Michigan State needed to win the game in three overtimes.