Six bowl games involving SEC teams have given us plenty to digest.
Granted, two still remain with Arkansas taking on Kansas State on Friday night in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and then Alabama and LSU squaring off on Monday night in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
Before we look ahead, let’s look back with a special bowl edition of Hot and Not:
SEC momentum: The league is already 4-2 in bowl games and assured of winning its sixth straight BCS national championship. Not only that, but if Arkansas can take care of Kansas State, there’s a pretty good chance that four of the top 8 teams in the final polls will be from the SEC. Alabama, LSU and South Carolina are top 10 locks. And looking ahead to next season, the early feeling among several in the college football world is that Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina could all start the season in the top 15, maybe even the top 10. Arkansas isn't going away, either.
Georgia’s Brandon Boykin: What a show the do-it-all senior cornerback put on in the Outback Bowl. Too bad the Bulldogs’ collapse spoiled what was one of the better all-around performances you’re ever going to see from a college player. Boykin returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown, recorded a safety when he tackled Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin in the end zone and also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. Boykin’s a terrific football player and vastly underrated. I’m as guilty as anybody for not giving him more props throughout his career.
Mississippi State’s Chad Bumphis: After catching one pass for minus-3 yards and rushing twice for minus-4 yards in Mississippi State’s 23-17 win over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Bumphis went out and got arrested the next night in his hometown of Tupelo, Miss., on charges of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct at a local bar. Making it even worse for Bumphis is that he claims he did nothing wrong and was hit in the face with champagne bottles while posing for pictures. So much for a Happy New Year.
South Carolina’s defense: Not a bad debut at all for newly promoted defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. The Gamecocks held Nebraska scoreless over the final three quarters in their 30-13 Capital One Bowl win, and the Huskers had minus-15 total yards in the fourth quarter. They don’t call him “Whammy” for nothing.
Vanderbilt’s passing game: The Commodores had seemed to solve their passing game woes this season. But outside of Chris Boyd’s 68-yard catch and run for a touchdown, they didn’t make much happen through the air in their 31-24 loss to Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Jordan Rodgers started out ice cold and was injured. Senior Larry Smith came off the bench to throw the touchdown to Boyd on a short flip, but his late interception sealed the Commodores’ fate. Rodgers and Smith finished a combined 12-of-34 for 168 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter: He’d been forgotten about by most fans, but Trotter came off the bench for the injured Clint Moseley and saved some of his best passing of the season for the finale, leading Auburn to a 43-24 win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Trotter is a perfect example of an upperclassman who lost his starting job, didn’t sulk, hung in there and was ready to answer the call when his team needed him.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray: It wasn’t the return Murray was hoping for to his hometown of Tampa. The Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback had a banner season with his school-record 35 touchdown passes, but the Outback Bowl turned in Michigan State’s favor on Murray’s two third-quarter interceptions. The first pick set up a touchdown, and the second pick was returned 38 yards for a touchdown, completely changing the complexion of that game.
Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: We heard all season how bad the Gators were on offense -- and they were. It’s about time, though, that Quinn and that Florida defense get a little love. The Gators deserved better defensively this season and got it done in the 24-17 win over Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. It’s a defense that returns most of its key pieces next season and should be really good in 2012. Then again, the Gators ended this season ranked No. 9 nationally in total defense. Now, let’s see if they can move in the direction of building a top 10 offense.
Alshon Jeffery being kicked out: OK, he shouldn’t have been mixing it up with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the first place and should have been smart enough to walk away. That’s easier said than done when a guy is hounding you all day. But go back and watch the replay. Only one of the two threw a punch, and it wasn’t Jeffery. Yet, both were ejected from the game.
Mark Richt’s overtime strategy: His decision to play for a field goal -- a 42-yard field goal -- after Bacarri Rambo came up with the big interception in the first overtime was baffling enough. But then you consider how erratic the Bulldogs’ kicker, Blair Walsh, had been this season, and it’s even more baffling. Walsh had already missed 12 field goals coming into the game. The Bulldogs even took a 2-yard loss on second down to position the kick, and it backfired … badly. It was a good season for Richt and the Dawgs, especially the way they battled back from the 0-2 start, but the ending sure was weak.