SEC: 2008 blog bowl overview

Posted by's Chris Low

He last coached Florida back in 2001, but Steve Spurrier is still a hot item in the Sunshine State.

His draw was evidently enough to get South Carolina (7-5) to the Outback Bowl to face Iowa on Jan. 1 even though the Gamecocks played some of their worst football in the final few weeks of the regular season.

In their last two games, the Gamecocks were outscored 87-20 by Florida and Clemson and looked like a team that was going nowhere fast offensively. The root of the problem is that Spurrier isn't sold on any of the quarterbacks on campus.

He played musical quarterbacks with Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia most of the season, but Garcia will get first crack at Iowa in Tampa.

The Hawkeyes (8-4) came on to win five of their last six games to close the season. Their only loss in that stretch was a three-point decision to Illinois.

South Carolina's defense has been rock-solid most of the season under first-year coordinator Ellis Johnson, but will have its hands full with Iowa's Shonn Greene, who's rushed for 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Gamecocks are ranked 11th nationally in total defense.

Posted by's Chris Low

LSU was one of a handful of SEC teams that closed the regular season with a whimper. The defending national champion Tigers lost three of their last four games and gave up more than 30 points in each of their final three games.

It was a far cry from the defensive standard the 2007 national championship team set, and coach Les Miles is apparently going to shake up his staff a bit.

The Tigers (7-5) just never found any rhythm. They struggled at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee threw seven interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. They struggled to make any game-changing plays on defense. They were the first consensus national champion since Ohio State in 1943 to follow their national title with a losing conference record.

It's still a team that's capable and a team with several players on its roster that will go on to play in the NFL.

They will need to play that way in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup against a Georgia Tech team that's red-hot. The Yellow Jackets (9-3) run a version of the triple-option that gives defenses fits, especially when you're not used to seeing it. Running back Jonathan Dwyer is the main cog with 1,328 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Posted by's Chris Low

Ole Miss was the breakthrough team of the year in the SEC. The Rebels (8-4) won their last five games and did it in impressive fashion.

This is the same program that went winless in the SEC the previous year. But first-year coach Houston Nutt brought his "can do" attitude to Oxford, and the players responded. They were the only team to beat Florida and did it at the Swamp and routed LSU at Tiger Stadium.

It could have been even better had Ole Miss not fumbled away home games against Vanderbilt and South Carolina during the first half of the season.

The Rebels were more than happy to accept the AT&T Cotton Bowl bid, but they didn't get the easiest draw. Texas Tech (11-1) and its high-flying offense will be the opponent on Jan. 2 in Dallas. The Red Raiders' spread offense put up outrageous numbers with quarterback Graham Harrell throwing for 4,747 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Ole Miss has the defensive line to put pressure on Harrell, especially if Greg Hardy shows up to play. But the Rebels have been vulnerable at cornerback and don't have much depth there. This has a chance to be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season, the kind of game where the team that has the ball last wins.

Posted by's Chris Low

There was so much hype for Georgia in the preseason that it was going to be impossible to live up to all the gaudy expectations.

The Bulldogs went into the season ranked No. 1 in the polls, but even before they lost their first game, there was trouble. Starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant went down with a season-ending knee injury during a scrimmage.

It was the start of an injury plague that tormented the Bulldogs (9-3) all season long. They went from the national championship race and SEC championship race to the middle of the Eastern Division standings.

They head into their Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl matchup with Michigan State on the heels of their most disappointing game of the season. Georgia Tech rolled up 409 yards rushing with its option offense and beat Georgia 45-42 on Senior Day at Sanford Stadium. Think the Spartans might give it to Javon Ringer a few tiimes?

Poor tackling was the norm for the Bulldogs this season, and they ended the regular season by giving up 38 or more points in four of their last five games.

The problems on defense wasted one of the more complete efforts by a Georgia offense in a long time. Even coach Mark Richt admitted that threesomes like Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green don't come around every year.

Posted by's Chris Low

Vanderbilt took all the suspense out of everything back on Nov. 15 when the Commodores (6-6) won their sixth game to become bowl eligible.

With the SEC not being able to fill all of its bowl arrangements this season, Vanderbilt was a lock to make its first bowl trip in 26 years.

But here's the catch: The Commodores won't be making a trip. They will be staying in Nashville to play in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 against Boston College, which lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

Vanderbilt was not the same team down the stretch in losing six of its last seven games. This is a chance for Bobby Johnson's club to prove that the first month of the season wasn't a fluke when the Commodores started 5-0. Most of their problems have come on offense, where Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams split the quarterbacks duties the last few games.

Boston College (9-4) is also a defensive-oriented team. This has a chance to be a very low-scoring game.

Posted by's Chris Low

The Bear would be proud.

In fact, he was roaming the sideline in Lexington the last time Kentucky went to a bowl game for three consecutive years. Bryant took the Wildcats to the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl from 1949-51.

Nearly 60 years later, the Wildcats (6-6) will make it three in a row again when they face Conference USA champion East Carolina (9-4) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2.

Kentucky had gone to the Music City Bowl each of the past two years and preferred to go somewhere different this year. The Liberty Bowl, celebrating its 50th anniversary, jumped at the chance to get the Wildcats, who feature one of the most exciting freshman quarterbacks in the country in Randall Cobb.

Defense was Kentucky's strong suit to start the season, but injuries began to take their toll. Star defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will be back for this game. The Wildcats lost four of their last five games, and the only win during that stretch was a 14-13 escape against Mississippi State.

The Pirates opened the season with back-to-back wins over nationally ranked foes Virginia Tech and West Virginia. They hit the skids during the middle portion of the schedule, but won enough close games to get into the Conference USA Championship Game and then upset heavily favored Tulsa. One of the big storylines could be the future of East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, who's being wooed by Syracuse.

Posted by's Chris Low

It's hard to imagine two hotter offenses, and for that matter, two hotter teams.

Simply, it's the game everybody wanted to see. Well, everybody but Texas. Florida (12-1) and Oklahoma (12-1) meet on Jan. 8 in the kind of high-octane FedEx BCS National Championship Game that mesmerizes even the most casual college football fan.

The Gators have won nine straight games by an average margin of 36.4 points, and the folks in Gainesville believe Tim Tebow deserves his second straight Heisman Trophy with his 28 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing touchdowns.

The Sooners have won seven straight games, setting an NCAA record by scoring at least 60 points in their last five games. The folks in Norman believe Sam Bradford is the rightful winner of the Heisman Trophy with his 4,463 passing yards and 48 touchdowns.

Florida would appear to have the edge on defense, but Big 12 proponents would argue that the Gators have run up inflated numbers against a long list of SEC offenses that were horrible this season.

But, then, the next time anybody in the Big 12 plays any defense might be the first.

Let the debating, arguing and analyzing begin.

Jan. 8 in Miami can't get here soon enough.

Posted by's Chris Low

You don't spend more than 10 minutes around Nick Saban without hearing some reference to finishing -- finishing the drill, finishing the game, finishing what you started.

For this year's Alabama team, that would be finishing the season. Even with the Crimson Tide's bitter loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, they could still make this a season to remember by taking care of unbeaten Utah in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

A loss to the Utes would put a serious damper on the Tide's improbable climb to the top of the college football world. Come on, did anybody really expect Alabama to be in a BCS bowl this season?

Similar to Florida, Alabama faces a Utah club capable of scoring points in bunches. The Utes scored 30 or more points in nine of their 12 games. Something has to give, though, because the Tide have given up 30 or more points only twice all season and held opponents to 10 or fewer points seven times.

After losing to the Urban Meyer-coached Gators in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama now faces a Meyer disciple in Kyle Whittingham, who was promoted to head coach after Meyer left Utah for Florida following the 2004 season.