Bowl season is bringing plenty of entertaining matchups for the SEC, but some numbers say the best one may not be the game people expect.
FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine used advanced statistics to rank every bowl game this season based on game quality, and Arkansas-Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl came in at No. 5. That was the highest grade for any SEC bowl game.
Paine evaluated each bowl using advanced numbers that measure three key factors: the quality of the teams involved, how close the matchup is and how much offense the game is likely to have. He then added those numbers to give each game a total rating.
While the Belk Bowl doesn’t have the same average quality of teams as some other matchups in the top 10, the closeness of the game was a 4.0 out of 5. The game’s offensive rating was also a pretty good 3.0 out of 5. So the Razorbacks and Hokies are projected to have a close matchup with enough points to make the game entertaining.
Four of the top 10 highest-graded bowls involve SEC teams. Auburn’s Sugar Bowl matchup with Oklahoma and Alabama’s Peach Bowl tilt with Washington are No. 6 and No. 7, respectively. Georgia-TCU in the Liberty Bowl came in at No. 9.
The worst game involving an SEC team is the St. Petersburg Bowl between Mississippi State and Miami (Ohio). While most bowl games scored around a 9.0 total score, that game had a 7.2 rating.
One should note, however, that the Pinstripe Bowl between Northwestern and Pitt had the second-highest grade of any bowl game this season. So these ratings probably aren’t foolproof.
Here’s the breakdown for every SEC bowl game:
|5||Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech||Belk||2.9||4.0||3.0||9.9|
|6||Auburn vs. Oklahoma||Sugar||4.0||2.7||3.0||9.7|
|7||Alabama vs. Washington||Peach||5.0||2.3||2.3||9.6|
|9||Georgia vs. TCU||Liberty||2.9||3.7||2.9||9.5|
|13||Texas A&M vs. Kansas State||Texas||3.1||3.5||2.8||9.4|
|16||Tennessee vs. Nebraska||Music City||2.9||3.3||3.1||9.3|
|17||LSU vs. Louisville||Citrus||3.5||2.7||2.9||9.1|
|18||Florida vs. Iowa||Outback||3.1||4.2||1.8||9.1|
|19||Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech||TaxSlayer||2.5||3.0||3.4||8.9|
|22||Vanderbilt vs. N.C. State||Independence||2.5||4.0||2.2||8.7|
|25||South Carolina vs. South Florida||Birmingham||2.5||2.4||3.3||8.2|
|36||Mississippi State vs Miami (OH)||St. Petersburg||2.2||1.7||3.3||7.2|