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The SEC East Is Now 0-2 In Bowl Season, Thanks To Missouri And Florida. Who Can Step Up Next Week?

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We are fully into college football bowl season, especially in the SEC, as two teams have already wrapped up their seasons. Over the last two nights, we’ve seen Missouri and Florida compete for the final time of 2021, with one team trying to establish an identity for 2022 and another looking to transition a completely new staff.

We started on Wednesday night in Texas, as Missouri dropped a tight contest against Army, with the Tigers losing on a last second field goal, 24-22. The future of this program will need to start trending in a different direction, as the defensive was hard to watch this year. A lot can be said about the offense as well, with Eli Drinkwitz losing faith in starting quarterback Connor Bazelak, starting Brady Cook against the Black Knights. The Tigers did give us something to watch late this season, as they knocked off Florida at home, which was the last game for Dan Mullen.

Unfortunately for Missouri, this team started the season 2-2 and ended the season 2-2, not making much progress in between. As Connor Bazelak says goodbye to Columbia, Eli Drinkwitz will now rely on Tyler Macon, Brady Cook or Sam Horn to lead this team into the future. This team must take a few steps forward on defense in 2022, as opposing running backs usually had career days against the Tigers’ front seven. Don’t forget, Missouri must also replace one of the most explosive playmakers in recent memory, in Tyler Badie. Either way, it will be an interesting off-season in Columbia, as Drinkwitz looks to fix a 6-7 football team.

On Thursday night in Tampa, Florida took the field for the final time of 2021, looking to cap off a terrible season that saw the firing of its head coach and the hiring of Billy Napier. Thanks to the win over Florida State, the Gators were awarded one more game, which came against UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. The transition for the returning players with a new staff has been difficult at times, with this team not even using all of their allotted bowl practices. But this should’ve been expected, as you have an interim staff trying to keep the attention of the team, while the current players are trying to get comfortable with the new coaching staff waiting in the wings. While the team was preparing for the Golden Knights, their new head coach Billy Napier was busy putting together a staff that can lead Florida into the future.

The Golden Knights won 29-17 in front of a packed house in Tampa, as the Gators finished the season 6-7.

Overthrown passes and missed opportunity were the name of the game for Florida against UCF. On multiple occasions, the Gators had chances to capitalize on field position, but fell short to add points in key situations. It was already going to be difficult stopping UCF RB Isaiah Bowser, but he made life miserable for the Gators defense, finishing with 152 yards and 2 TD’s. We’ve seen the Florida rushing defense look bad this season, but the Golden Knights put the cherry on top Thursday night, with 289 yards on the ground. Offensively, it turned out to be a repeat of the entire season for Florida, even with over 200 yards rushing, Emory Jones couldn’t produce enough at the QB position. It was his last outing as a Florida Gator, with him entering the Transfer Portal, but sticking around the play in the bowl game. You have to credit Jones with helping his team out, especially with Anthony Richardson unavailable. A night filled with missed connections and ugly looking passes continued to be the story of this 2021 team. As the game wrapped up, we are now in the Billy Napier era in Gainesville. So, the program should forget about the ugliness of this past season and look towards the future, which has the chance to be bright, in a few years.

Looking Ahead

We will have a full week of SEC games starting on Tuesday, as Auburn will kick things off in the Birmingham Bowl against Houston. This will be a key game for Brian Harsin to finish the regular season on a high note, after letting Alabama slip away in the Iron Bowl. This season has been taxing on folks on the Plains, especially with that loss to South Carolina. A 6-6 regular season won’t cut it, and the folks around the program know it. The transfer of Bo Nix to Oregon signaled a new beginning at quarterback for the Tigers, which could use a fresh start. But, the 2022 season will need to bring a nice turnaround, with folks already getting antsy about Brian Harsin. This also goes both ways, as its taken a bit for Harsin to get comfortable around Auburn. It takes a special type of coach to lead an SEC program in the South, especially one that is two hours away from Nick Saban.  The Tigers need a win over Houston to finish this season with some kind of hope towards the future, not a bunch of ‘what ifs’.

Auburn is a 2.5 point favorite against Houston, according to FanDuel.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs will look to finish the regular season with eight wins, as they take on Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl. Talk about a blast from the past, as Mike Leach will take on the school that fired him, years ago. Leach joked around during the lead up to this game by saying Texas Tech officials still owed him a check from his last season in Lubbock and that they could bring it with them to Memphis. Safe to say there is still some bad blood between these two, which will make this game even more intriguing. Overall this season, the Bulldogs biggest win came against Texas A&M, with a home win over Kentucky as well. But, Mike Leach would be the first to tell you that his team left a lot of good plays on the field, even with QB Will Rogers breaking records and leading this pass-happy offense. The Bulldogs were in every game this season, besides Alabama, and showed that they could hang, but just struggled to finish in their five losses. Maybe a win over the Red Raiders can be a nice springboard into the 2022 season.

Mississippi State is a 9.5 point favorite against Texas Tech, according to FanDuel.

Breakdown of the Tennessee vs. Purdue and South Carolina vs. North Carolina bowl games will be headed your way early next week.

Stick with Outkick for coverage of the 2021-2022 SEC Bowl Season, including the College Football Playoffs, starting on December 31.

Written by Trey Wallace

2 Comments

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  1. A couple comments: The SEC (especially the east) is overrated; UCF will win the Big 12 within 2/3 years in the conference. Sleeping giant. No conference could replace OU and UT but adding UCF, BYU, Cinn (playoffs baby) and Houston will keep the conference strong. Basketball too becuase UT and OU don’t really add much there anyway.

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