As a means of spicing up the game-within-a-game intrigue of watching 10 SEC bowls in a 92-hour span (Dec. 29 to Jan. 2) — food coma alert — SEC Country offers six bold predictions for the conference’s postseason slate.
And for those entering SEC-only bowl pools during the holiday season, there’s still time to peruse our reasonably successful listing of ‘Confidence Picks’ for all 40 bowls.
1. LSU tailback Leonard Fournette will rush for 190 yards in the Texas Bowl
(Cue deep sigh)
If only Fournette could have faced Texas Tech before the Heisman Trophy balloting … perhaps he would have stolen the ultimate spotlight from Alabama’s Derrick Henry.
Want a sure thing during the holidays? Bet the proverbial farm on Fournette (1,741 rushing yards, 18 TDs in just 11 games) coming up big against the smallish Red Raiders, who — prior to the bowls — ranked 127th nationally in total defense (540.2 yards per game), 126th in rushing defense (272 yards allowed) and 125th in scoring defense (42.6 points per outing).
For what it’s worth, Fournette has also cracked the 150-yard rushing mark eight times this season. Within that context, our prediction of ‘190’ resembles more of a two-point conversion than a Hail Mary proclamation.
2. Tennessee will hold Northwestern to 13 points or fewer in the Outback Bowl
Just a gut feeling here … and some quick math to reinforce this belief:
Of its four games against ranked teams this season (Stanford, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin), Northwestern scored a grand total of 39 points.
And of their final five games of the regular season — all victories — the Volunteers defense limited the opposition to per-outing averages of 14 points.
3. Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell will break his single-game record for receiving yards in the Sugar Bowl
On Oct. 17 against Memphis, Treadwell rolled for personal bests in catches (14) and receiving yards (144), as part of the Rebels’ futile attempt to rally against the Tigers.
That non-conference defeat might have devastated Ole Miss’ chances of reaching the College Football Playoff, but it further enhanced Treadwell’s stock as the premier receiving talent in the upcoming NFL draft.
(At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Treadwell has the requisite size, speed and athleticism of Bengals star A.J. Green.)
From Oct. 10 to Nov. 7, the Illinois native produced five straight outings of 100-plus receiving yards, with robust averages of nine catches, 126 yards and 1.2 touchdowns.
For good measure, Oklahoma State currently ranks 92nd nationally in passing yards allowed (244 per game), 85th in scoring defense (29 per outing) and 78th in red-zone defense. As such, Treadwell will undoubtedly end his college career on a high note.
4. Texas A&M — not Florida — will post the fewest bowl-game points, among SEC clubs
The Aggies are currently dealing with some turmoil at the quarterback slot — with Kyle Allen (2,210 yards passing, 19 total TDs in 2015) and freshman Kyler Murray (three TD passes against Western Carolina) already set to transfer.
That doesn’t bode well for an Aggies offense averaging only 17 points in its last six SEC outings.
What’s more, Louisville modestly boasts top-50 national rankings for scoring defense (45th), passing yards allowed (40th), sacks (21st) and team tackles for loss (14th).
Of course, our prediction of a low-scoring game for A&M-Louisville cuts both ways …
5. Myles Garrett will collect three sacks in the Music City Bowl
Stat of the Day: Louisville currently ranks 126th nationally in sacks allowed. For better context … in 2015, only Texas San-Antonio allowed more sacks than the Cardinals, who have yielded 3.58 sacks per game.
Most Ambitious Comparison Of The Day: Just a sophomore, Garrett has proffered a similarly favorable career arc to former South Carolina stud Jadeveon Clowney, in the realms of college production (SEC-high 12 sacks in 2015) and NFL upside (likely a top-5 pick in 2017).
But Clowney didn’t become a true overnight sensation until administering that YouTube-friendly, crunching hit/strip fumble in the 2012 Outback Bowl (against Michigan), the final act of his sterling sophomore year.
Fast forward to the present: It’s time for Garrett (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) to get the ball rolling on the dual campaigns for next year’s Heisman and/or Outland trophies. Over time, that hype would also feed into his sky-high prospects for the 2017 draft.
6. Put Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen down for 300 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Liberty Bowl
For odd-numbered games this season (first, third, fifth, etc.), the senior quarterback boasts stellar averages of 301 yards passing and four touchdowns.
For even-numbered outings (second, fourth, sixth, etc.), Allen holds less impressive averages of 220 yards passing and 1.1 touchdowns.
That’s a major drop-off for the same quarterback who owns the Arkansas records for single-game touchdown passes (seven) and career touchdown passes (63).
Lucky for us, though, the Arkansas-Kansas State clash represents Allen’s 13th game of the season (the odds have it!), meaning he’s free to show off an arm that might get more respect at the NFL level … than in college.
The only downside to this prediction? Arkansas also owns seasonal averages of 35.2 points and 193 rushing yards; and of its last eight games, Kansas State (six-game losing streak during Big 12 play) allowed an absurd average of 204 rushing yards to the opposition.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.