The 2023 college football regular season has ended, as the historic Army vs. Navy matchup will conclude the final season ahead of the many changes to come in 2024, including the first year of the 12-team playoff structure.
Focusing on the SEC, I guess you can say it’s been a down year for the conference. Alabama is the only representative in the College Football Playoffs set to face Michigan in the Rose Bowl Semifinal on New Year’s Day. At the same time, Georgia, who finished the regular season with an undefeated record, fell to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship to miss out on the playoffs for the first in two seasons after winning consecutive National Titles.
For Texas A&M, new football head coach Mike Elko brings a new vision to Aggie Football after six years of Jimbo Fisher at the helm. While the transfer portal has taken its toll on the roster, the future is still bright, but questions regarding who will play in the TexAct Texas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State.
However, LSU star quarterback Jayden Daniels is poised to win the Heisman Trophy after accounting for 4,946 yards and 50 touchdowns on the year. If it weren’t for the anemic Tigers’ defense, we’d probably be talking about an LSU team competing for a championship at year’s end.
9 out of 14 SEC teams will play in a bowl game this year, and yes, that’s an impressive feat in one of the most competitive conferences around. Here is a list of the most and least watchable SEC bowl games ahead of the always-entertaining yearly festivities.
Auburn (6-6) vs. Maryland (7-5) in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 30 (ABC/ESPN+)
Auburn’s last two weeks of the season were an absolute nightmare, first losing a buy game at home in blowout fashion to New Mexico State, then, well, as you’ll all be reminded by the picture above, falling in the final seconds to Alabama in the Iron Bowl on a miraculous 4th-down heave from Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe in a shocking finish.
Facing a Maryland team that can score on nearly every possession, this could be an ugly defensive slugfest, giving the edge. Surprisingly, I’ll give the edge to the Tigers, who are desperate to end the season on the right foot.
Line: Auburn, -2.5
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Iowa is one of the best defensive teams in the country and quite possibly the worst offense we’ve seen in years. For Tennessee, ending the season at 8-4 isn’t ideal, but things could be worse, and the future under head coach Josh Heupel is still bright despite a drop-off from what they achieved in 2022.
However, just like Auburn, Vols QB Joe Milton may have a big arm, but the run game will keep the Stout Hawkeye’s defense at bay. Iowa can’t score, so advantage Tennessee.
Line: Tennessee, -8.5
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Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State in the TexAct Texas Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 27 (ESPN/ESPN+)
While most Aggie fans are focused on the 2024 season under new head coach Mike Elko, there’s still a bowl game to be played, but after multiple starters entered the transfer portal, this could end up being a match-up of backups.
Heck, even Oklahoma State star running back Ollie Gordon II, who just received the Doak Walker Award on Friday, entered his name into the portal on Saturday morning. After defeating the Cowboys in the 2019 Texas Bowl, this game could have a similar outcome with Gordon’s departure.
Line: Texas A&M, -3.5
No. 22 Clemson vs. Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (ESPN/ESPN+)
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was THAT CLOSE to becoming Texas A&M’s next head football coach before a firestorm of criticism from the Aggie fan base via social media and the TexAgs message boards had a massive impact on the eventual decision to move on from Stoops and hire Mike Elko.
For Stoops, who will likely stay at Kentucky for the long haul, the Wildcats will now take on a talented but consistently underwhelming Clemson team that ended the season on a high note with multiple ranked victories. On paper, this could be entertaining if both offenses find a rhythm.
Line: Clemson, -7.0
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No. 13 LSU vs. Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1 (ESPN2)
Whenever you read this, LSU senior quarterback Jayden Daniels has likely won the Heisman Trophy, the Tiger’s second in four seasons since QB Joe Burrow in 2019.
No matter who’s coaching Wisconsin, this team is looking to establish the run, and against LSU’s terrible defense, expect running back Braelon Allen, who led the Badgers with 984 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, will likely gash the Tigers for a couple of long runs.
However, Daniels (who could opt out of the bowl game) is too much to contain through the air and on the ground, and if he indeed plays, expect at least a 30-plus point outing from the Tigers.
Line: LSU, -10.5
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No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 Penn State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 30 (ESPN/ESPN+)
Coming off their Egg Bowl victory, the Rebels, led by head coach Lane Kiffin, ended the regular season at 10-2, and honestly, Kiffin’s run at Ole Miss has been nothing short of impressive.
Facing an equally talented Penn State team that, despite struggling on offense, rode their defense to an equal 10-2 finish, this could end up being one of the more entertaining matchups within the entire bowl schedule.
Get more Penn State news, analysis, and opinions on NittanyLionsWire.
No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Missouri in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (ESPN/ESPN+)
If you’re not a fan of what the Missouri Tigers accomplished this season, college football may not be for you. Finishing 10-2 with their only losses coming at the hands of LSU and Georgia, this team can play with anyone in the country.
On the other side, Ohio State may have finished 11-1, but losing to Michigan in “The Game” to end their chances at reaching the CFB Playoffs for the second consecutive season basically made this season a failure. While Buckeyes starting quarterback Kyle McCord has entered the transfer portal, Missouri should be at full strength roster-wise. This should be a fun one.
Line: Missouri, -2.5
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No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 6 Georgia in the Capitol One Orange Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 30 (ESPN/ESPN+)
Alabama in, Georgia out. Losing in the SEC Championship game was all the Bulldogs needed to convince the selection committee that they weren’t good enough…
On the other side, Florida State was completely robbed of a Top 4 selection after going 12-0 with an ACC Championship to boot, and no matter how you spin it, the expansion to a 12-team playoff starting in 2024 will be long overdue.
Two teams looking to take out some frustrations in the Orange Bowl? Sign me up!
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No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama in the CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game on Monday, Jan. 1 (ESPN)
You can’t keep Alabama and head coach Nick Saban out of the College Football Playoffs, and even though some believe they didn’t deserve the final spot, a loss to the No. 3 Texas Longhorns remains their only blemish on the year.
For Michigan, a third consecutive trip to the playoffs has been built on elite defense and a consistent ground game, led by star running back Blake Corum, who’s scored a whopping 24 touchdowns this season. While the ridiculously entertaining off-the-field news has surrounded the program, head coach Jim Harbaugh is all business ahead of taking on the Tide.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (2,718 passing yards, 468 rushing yards, 35 total touchdowns) will likely use his legs extensively throughout the Tide’s playoff run, especially against the Wolverines, who project to neutralize Alabama’s passing game early.
In my humble opinion, this one’s a coin flip.
Line: Michigan, -1.5
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