When my school let out for Christmas break (total of 10 days) I rested a couple of days then set out on an excursion to see my daughter in Hattiesburg, MS. We have spent all of her 32 Christmas Eves together and I’m not planning on changing that. I have family scattered through seven states and wish I could visit all of them during the holidays but that much driving (I am NOT flying) is a little too much. Family is dear to me and IF I can’t visit with them then I do make it a point to dial their digits and talk for a while. One day, we’ll all be together like we were growing up.
I have two families, my personal relatives and my DAWG brethren. I love both of them very much. My free time is about to get extremely limited until June so I wanted to honor a commitment I made back in November and do some prognosticating one more time this year. I do hope to repeat the series next year. I really enjoy doing it.
I could write for days about how I see our team for 2018 and beyond evolving but I will try to stop back by and do that for New Year’s Day. For now, I had wanted to do a prediction story on all bowl games involving SEC teams so here we go.
Texas @ Missouri – The Longhorns (6-6, 5-4) limp into this matchup with former Big 12 foe Missouri missing several important players. Several have declared for the NFL draft while other starters have been injured during bowl practices and will not play. The Longhorn’s two QBs (Buechele and Ehlinger) have not impressed at all this season although freshman Ehlinger might be slightly better statistically. The quarterbacks have been sacked 32 times this year and the promise of better protection is worsened as their best tackle is out for the game as are all but one TE, half of the RB’s are out for various reasons as well. Coach Odom’s Tigers should own the trenches on both sides of the ball meaning Tom Herman’s best defense (ball possession) will not happen.
Missouri (7-5, 4-4) are on a six game winning streak with both sides of the ball showing dramatic improvement. The Tigers offense is performing as well as any offense in college football while the Longhorns are 97th (with all hands on deck). This game has the makings of a real blow-out and you can bet Coach Odom will not take his foot off the gas as he seeks to attract more impact players in February.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Missouri 52 – 13
Wake Forest @ Texas A&M – The Demon Deacons (7-5, 4-4) take a short drive down to Charlotte to meet the Aggies (7-5, 4-4) who are without a on the field “true” head coach after Kevin Sumlin’s departure. Make no mistake about it these kids play with a lot of pride as we can remember when we met them in Nashville for the 2011 Music City Bowl which we won 23 – 17. The Demon Deacons have a senior quarterback (John Wolford) who has slung passes in every direction except backwards as he has thrown for 2,800 yards this season. Aggie DB Armani Watts has his work cutout for him in what will probably be his last collegiate game.
The Aggies will be chunking a few passes themselves with freshman QBs Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel both taking a turn in charge of getting the ball to Christian Kirk and company. Many of the Aggies know they are on trial as Jimbo takes notes and records names of who stays and who will have to hit the road. A&M does have a factor that will come into play for them when their offense doesn’t click. Punter Shane Tripuka (46 yards/ punt) will keep the Deacons backed up and cussing mad. Expect this to be a close one all the way though because the devil seems to always be right behind you when you expect it the least. The 12th Man from Aggie Land will have his hands full fending off the Devil’s advocates.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Texas A&M 35 – 30
Music City Bowl
Kentucky @ Northwestern – The Kentucky Wildcats (7-5, 4-4) arrive in Nashville having lost their last three bowl games (16 total) and being blown out in their last two games this year by Georgia and Louisville. They meet another set of Wildcats (Northwestern 9-3, 7-2) dressed in purple who have a seven game winning streak going as they cruised through the Big Ten schedule (which has 14 teams?) (Can you explain that discordance?) losing to Wisconsin and Penn. St. as well as an early non-conference loss to Duke. These Wildcats will punch, kick, slap and scratch in a true “Cat-fight”. Stoops boys are 90th in the NCAA in total defense while the Purple People Eaters are 37th in “D”. Meanwhile the Nerds from the Windy City are 10th in rushing while the “Blue-grass Boys” are 103rd in “O”. Look for the Nerds to figure out a way to play “keep-away” with the ball and extend the “MildCats” bowl losing streak to four.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Northwestern 28 – 20
Louisville @ Miss. State – The Louisville Cardinals (8-4, 4-4) migrate down to Jacksonville to see how much resistance Miss. State (8-4, 4-4) can offer after having their coaching staff severely depleted by their former coach, “HE”. The Cardinals won 4 of their last 5 but the competition wasn’t exactly stellar. Lamar Jackson did have a lot of “air time” throwing for 3,500 yards this season and ran for 1,400. Expect the DAWGS to play lose and gamble with blitzes while seeking to contain Jackson in what should be his last collegiate game. State will have almost everyone on defense except Jamal Peters (DB) who has had a death in the immediate family. The defensive line will have to play their best game of the year while alternating play sets to stay fresh. Keytaon Thompson (true Freshman) has had a month to work with his mentor, Nick Fitzgerald, to study and prepare. Look for him to play extremely well against the Cardinal defense which will be missing 3 of their mainstays who have opted for the NFL draft preparation. New “Big Dawg” Coach JoMo will be watching and encouraging his new team but not having hands-on.
Often injured Dezmond Harris will return and play his last game in a 6 year career. This kid has SO MUCH heart and truly bleeds Maroon. Look for statement games from Errol Thompson, Braxton Hoyett and All-World Jeffrey Simmons. There is no doubt the DAWGS are not expected to win but the DAWG Nation knows better. These kids believe and will keep plucking red feathers until the Cardinals get sunburned in Jacksonville in December.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Miss. State 35 – 30
Michigan @ South Carolina – Jim Harbaugh brings his Wolverines (8-4, 5-4) to Tampa having lost their last two regular season games. The Gamecocks (8-4, 5-3) grew by leaps and bounds in the SEC East but showed how badly they still need to sharpen their spurs in a season ending loss to Clemson. O’Korn (Michigan QB) was very average throwing for under 1000 yards this season as his offense averaged under 200 passing and 200 on the ground for the year. Harbaugh picked up TSUN transfer Shea Patterson but he can’ play yet.
Jake Bentley can and will play using his arm, legs and brain to bewilder the maize and blue. With a full month to preen their feathers and sharpen their spurs the Wolverines may not be able to run quick enough or far enough to reach safety when they get caught sucking eggs!
T-DAWG’s Winner: South Carolina 26 – 20
UCF @ Auburn – The Golden Knights (12-0, 8-0) gallop into “Hot-Lanta” as the only remaining unbeaten team in college football. Scott Frost has taken a new gig in Nebraska but is completing his duties with the Knights first. Auburn (10-3, 7-1) returns for another round in the big barn at Atlanta. They just finished a humbling experience in the SEC Championship game in this same building and now meet these dudes in full body armor with long gig poles riding horses and juiced with 5-hour Energy shots.
Auburn will pretty much have all hands on deck as they seek to end the year on a positive note. UCF hasn’t played a defense like they are about to face or an offense either. Expect Malzahn and Kevin Steele to turn the road machine lose on the Tin Cans and contribute heavily to the recycle effort as the Tigers flatten the Golden Knights.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Auburn 38 – 17
Notre Dame @ LSU – The Golden Domers (9-3, Independent) take a winter vacation trip to Orlando so they can escape the harsh cold blizzards of the Midwest. Unfortunately not all the Irish have the mindset of what the image and history of Notre Dame requires thus some will miss the game because of unlawful acts and others for not making grades. The image and pride of Notre Dame is not what it once was.
Coach Orgeron loves them rides at Disney World and he hopes to have his Bayou Bengals (9-3, 6-2) drown the Irish at Splash Mountain so he can make the “Move It! Shake IT! Dance and Play IT! Street Party and ride with his hero Goofy. Brian Kelly’s leprechauns will try their best to click their heels and make Irish magic happen but Coach O has too much voodoo in his bag.
T-DAWG’s Winner: LSU 28 – 24
Georgia @ Oklahoma – Lincoln Riley’s Boomer Sooners (12-1, 8-1) are winners of the Big 12 (but there are only 10 teams???) for whatever that is worth. Baker Mayfield won every conceivable award because he was able to throw for well over 4,000 yards in a season. Normally this would seem like an unbelievable statistic but not when defense doesn’t exist in the Big 12 - 2 = 10 Conference. There is talk that the Big 12 – 2 = 10 may start playing 7 on 7 or even Flag Football.
Kirby Smart’s Dogs (12-1, 7-1) love hiking up a leg and squirting the wheels and the Sooner wagons make easy targets for them to soak. Baker won’t have time to look for open receivers when the Dog’s defense gets a whiff of fear they seek to bring.
Seventy-five years ago Charley Trippi and “Flatfoot” Frankie Sinkwich led Georgia into the Rose Bowl after losing a regular season game to Auburn. Georgia beat UCLA that day 9-0 and were then declared National Champions. The massive Pit-Bulls on the OL will open lanes for Michel and Chubb who are likely in their last rodeos with Georgia and some broken down prairie wagons aren’t about to stop their appointed destiny.
T-DAWG’s Winner: Georgia 35 – 30
Alabama @ Clemson – The Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1) made another date with Clemson (12-1, 7-1) but in New Orleans this time. Coach Saban has a way of getting his team to the brink of a championship if not winning it. He also has now populated the head coaching profession with his disciples (10 college, 5 NFL). That speaks volumes for his ability to lead. Most of the Crimson Tide is healthy except for two starting LBs and one DB who will miss any remaining games but the rest of the defense is back and hungry to shed some Tiger blood.
Dabo has pushed his Tigers back to the top again after winning it all last year with a few seconds to spare. Clemson QB Kelly Bryant is good but he is NOT Deshaun Watson. If Jalen Hurts and Tagovailoa can keep the offense in a time consumption game and make red zone excursions end in points the Pachyderms should win an epic battle.
This could very well be like Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier in the “Thriller in Manila” as two heavy weights stand up and slug it out!
T-DAWG’s Winner: Alabama 24 – 20
Well that’s my thoughts and prognostications for this SEC bowl season. I do have the SEC showing its strength winning 8 and a lone loss to Northwestern by Kentucky. Of course nothing is for sure and winning is often a matter of attitude, being prepared and taking advantage of opportunities. Feel free to share your thoughts and predictions.
From the plains of Alabama, Happy New Year and GO DAWGS!!!!