Nine SEC teams have earned their way into bowl games. That’s approximately 32 extra hours of SEC football over the next two weeks.
Some of you won’t miss a minute of it. You’ll have every word to the newest Thirty Seconds to Mars song memorized in a day. Others may have to pick and choose which games you watch. Significant others, kids, travel — all of that can interfere with your freedom to watch football.
So, how should you prioritize? I’m here to help with that.
9. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern | Friday, December 29 | 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Let’s call this the Wildcats Bowl. Mark Stoops led his team to a 7-5 record, while Pat Fitzgerald and company closed the regular season with a 9-3 record. Oh, and they’re ranked 21st in the country. I’m giving Northwestern the edge, and I don’t see this game being close. Unless you’re a fan of one of these two teams, use this time to run errands for that New Year’s Eve party you’re hosting.
8. Belk Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest | Friday, December 29 | 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both teams have a 7-5 regular season record. One probably overachieved, and the other probably underachieved. This game is important if you’re a fan of either team, or if you have really strong opinions on Danny Kanell and his ‘SEC is garbage’ schpill. To that point, despite the fact that Texas A&M fired a coach its players absolutely loved, I think they’re the superior team. By far. This is the kind of game to watch mixed in with a long winter’s nap.
7. TaxSlayer Bowl: No. 23 Mississippi State vs. Louisville | Saturday, December 30 | Noon ET on ESPN
This is a matchup between two 8-4 teams. It would have been a more interesting matchup had Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham (former Louisville defensive coordinator) both remained with the Bulldogs. It also would have been more interesting if Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had not suffered a gnarly ankle injury in the last game of the regular season. So it’s basically 40% less interesting than it could have been. Still, if you like watching guys like Lamar Jackson light it up, it’s a game that’s well worth your time.
6. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Missouri vs. Texas | Wednesday, December 27 | 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
Missouri finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, and they will be facing the Fighting Tom Hermans who had a regular season 6-6 record. This game is intriguing because each of these teams has looked really good and really bad at times. Missouri head coach Barry Odom managed to right the ship midseason to get his team bowl eligible. I imagine this game will be close early on, but I think Drew Lock and company have too much offensive firepower for Texas to shut down. It should be a good game, but you don’t have to be glued to your seat to watch it.
5. Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan | Monday, January 1 | Noon ET on ESPN2
Each team carries an 8-4 record coming into this game. For Michigan in year three under Jim Harbaugh, that’s underwhelming. For South Carolina in year two under Will Muschamp, that’s pretty darn good. The Gamecocks have one thing Michigan doesn’t have, and that’s a good quarterback. This is a fascinating matchup and I think the game will be decided in the fourth quarter. Watch as much of this one as you can.
4. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn | Monday, January 1 | 12:30 ET on ESPN
Auburn closed out the month of November by winning their way into the SEC Championship Game, where they came up short in round two versus UGA. It was a strange way to end an exciting month of football, giving them a record of 10-3. UCF boasts a perfect record of 12-0. Scott Frost is making good on his promise to coach his (now former) team in this game, so you can bet those players will be motivated. UCF ended its last game on a high note; Auburn did not. How Gus Malzahn and Auburn will respond on the field is compelling enough to keep you in your recliner for all 60 minutes of this one.
3. Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s: No. 17 LSU vs. No. 14 Notre Dame | Monday, January 1 | 1 p.m. ET on ABC
Brian Kelly and Ed Orgeron. Are there two more opposite personalities in all of college football? One coach is likable; the other is not. Both teams are 9-3 on the year. One team is happy about that; the other is not. LSU got better as the year progressed. I’m not sure the same is true of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame brand in a New Year’s Day bowl is the most college football thing ever, but if LSU plays to their potential, they’ll give the Fighting Irish their first loss of 2018. Seriously, don’t miss any of this one.
2. CFB Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson | Monday, January 1 | 8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
Each team has one loss in this year’s edition of the newest rivalry in college football. Alabama’s last game was a loss, and Nick Saban isn’t one to lose consecutive games. However, the Auburn defense gave a blueprint for how to stop Alabama’s offense and the Crimson Tide will face a better defense than what they faced against Auburn. How will Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant do against Alabama’s defense? Will Jeremy Pruitt really have his unit ready, even though he has a new job as head coach at Tennessee? Will Alabama finally have an answer for Hunter Renfrow? Drink your afternoon coffee on January 1, because this is sure to be another classic game and you can’t be dozing off.
1. CFB Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game: No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma | Monday, January 1 | 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
I cannot overstate how excited I am about this game. Each team has only one loss. Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is in his first year as head coach of the Sooners. Kirby Smart is in his second year at Georgia. The Sooners have the Heisman Trophy winner on their team, but they have no defense. The Bulldogs have a backup true freshman quarterback slinging it around, but their defense is by far better than any Oklahoma has faced all year. Did I mention Nick Chubb and Sony Michel? This game has it all. If you say you’re a college football fan but you don’t prioritize this game, then you’re a poser.
Regardless of how much (or how little) time you spend watching bowl games, I hope your days doing it are merry and bright!
I’m already looking forward to SEC Media Days. It Just Means More.