<
>

Roundtable: How many bowl games will the SEC win?

As the bowl games approach, ESPN's SEC reporters expect a better showing than last season from Alabama and the SEC. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There is no question it's an important bowl season for the SEC. Despite posting a 7-5 record in last season's bowl games, the conference lost the showcase games, as Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all lost New Year's Six games. The conference doesn't enter this year's postseason with the same juice it had last season, yet it is favored in all but one bowl game. Can its top teams earn a measure of redemption for last season's performance? Our reporters give their predictions for how many bowl games the conference will win.

Edward Aschoff: In keeping with the whole way-too-early theme, I’m going with the SEC winning six games. Now, that could all change in a week, but as of Dec. 15, I’m saying that the SEC will come away from bowl season with yet another winning record. There are only a few games I feel pretty comfortable about right now. Arkansas will beat Kansas State because it will dominate the game up front. Ole Miss will out-offense Oklahoma State. Tennessee will keep its winning streak going against Northwestern. Dak Prescott will go out a winner with Mississippi State against NC State. And Alabama will outlast Michigan State. The SEC hasn’t been great from top to bottom this season, but, hey, things can change in the postseason. Time off can make the preparation, uh, grow fonder, so expect some teams to show some new wrinkles.

David Ching: Betting houses list SEC teams as the favorite in nine of the conference’s 10 bowl games, and those folks certainly pick winners much more effectively than I do. That said, my confidence is shaky on a couple of those SEC teams -- especially Auburn. Also, Texas A&M is a narrow favorite against Louisville and Florida is an underdog against Michigan. I’m not saying the SEC teams lose all three of those games, yet they are the most likely losses according to the lines and my own perceptions. One of those teams might still win and one of the bigger favorites might lose, but 7-3 feels like a safe prediction for the SEC this bowl season.

Sam Khan Jr.: I think the SEC could win as few as six of these games. I think Memphis has a quarterback (Paxton Lynch) better than Auburn's. LSU struggled in the last month of the season and Texas Tech, though lacking a good run defense, can put up points with anybody. Florida's offense doesn't inspire much confidence as it matches up with Michigan. Georgia is in flux after losing its head coach and offensive coordinator for the bowl. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that a national semifinal between Alabama and Michigan State should be close and could go either way. It could be a shaky bowl season for the SEC.

Greg Ostendorf: For all the heat the SEC took last year during bowl season, the conference did finish 7-5 in bowl games. The problem was that the losses took place in the big games. Alabama lost in the College Football Playoff. Ole Miss and Mississippi State were blown out in New Year’s Six bowl games. I think that changes this season. I think Alabama and Ole Miss get redemption in their respective games and bring some credibility back to the league. There will be a few teams that lose, likely those with some quarterback issues -- I’m looking at you Auburn, Florida and Georgia. But I can see six wins this bowl season, and more importantly, the league will win the games that matter.

Alex Scarborough: Scarborough: Let's get the big game out of the way -- I like Alabama to beat Michigan State. Though I can see Sparty bottling up Derrick Henry for a half, I think he will get his yards (and touchdowns) in the third and fourth quarters.

That said, I see the SEC going 6-4. LSU should be able to run on Texas Tech, and Texas A&M and Tennessee will overwhelm Louisville and Northwestern with their size and talent. Arkansas is playing too well right now to lose to Kansas State, which looks good on paper with three consecutive wins, but beat West Virginia and Iowa State by a combined four points.

The losses will come by way of Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss. With the coaching upheaval, I don't see Georgia beating Penn State, and I think Christian Hackenberg will put on a show for NFL scouts. Auburn will remain stuck in reverse and get beat by another star quarterback in Memphis' Lynch. Florida is too one-dimensional to score on Michigan. And, finally, Ole Miss will repeat last season's debacle against TCU, come out flat and get run over by Oklahoma State.