Brace yourself for a forthcoming hard dose of reality, CFB fans…
There are only 60 minutes of football left in the 2016 season. As we anticipate “Tigers vs. Tide Two,” let’s take a look back at this season’s bowl season. It’s time to award some 2016 SEC bowl superlatives!
Best Team Performance: LSU
Going into the Citrus Bowl, one of the major points of discussion was whether or not LSU could contain Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Not only were the Tigers able to contain Jackson, they were nearly able to stop him altogether. The LSU defense only gave up 153 yards passing and 33 yards rushing to the Heisman holder, and only gave up nine points to one of America’s most prolific offense. On the offensive side, Danny Etling, Derrius Guice, and Malachi Dupre led the way as the Tigers put it all together to give Ed Orgeron his first win as LSU’s new head coach.
Runner Up: Florida
Best Offensive Performance: Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee)
Senior QB Joshua Dobbs had one of his best games of the season in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30th. Dobbs was 23 for 38 for 291 yards passing and one TD. He also added 118 yards on the ground and three rushing TD’s, his highest rushing TD total of the season. Dobbs’ performance helped the Volunteers mount their ninth win of the season and take down their Big Ten opponent in Nebraska 38-24.
Runner Up: Jake Bentley (South Carolina)
Best Defensive Performance: Trenton Thompson (Georgia)
Georgia took down TCU in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30th, largely in part to a defensive performance that saw the Bulldogs give up only seven second-half points to Kenny Hill and the Horned Frogs. Bulldogs’ sophomore Trenton Thompson finished second on the team for the game with eight tackles (six solo) and also recorded three sacks. While those numbers are already impressive, what makes them more notable is that Thompson came in to the game with only two sacks to his name all year…and his previous high for solo tackles in a game was five. Thompson had his best game of the year, and it helped Georgia get a Liberty Bowl victory.
Runner Up: Tashawn Bower (LSU)
Most Exciting Game: Birmingham Bowl
There is no such thing as “moral victories” for Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks as the program is rebuilt…for them. For the onlooker’s though, the general consensus is that South Carolina has nothing to hang its head about after an impressive showing against a Top 25 team in South Florida. South Carolina went in to the Birmingham Bowl as ten-point underdogs. And for much of the game, it looked as though Cocky just simply couldn’t run with Quinton Flowers and USF. The score was 29-14 USF at the half. South Carolina had shown flashes of being offensively capable in the first half, but the feeling at halftime was that the offense simply couldn’t keep up. But a resiliency began building in the boys from Columbia.
The South Carolina defense clamped down to allow only ten second-half points to USF, while young Gamecock QB Jake Bentley went off, throwing for a total of three TD’s and 390 yards. Bentley found surging TE Hayden Hurst in the back of the end-zone for a 2 pt. conversion after an A.J. Turner 1-yard TD run to tie the game at 39 with only 1:11 left on the clock. Once in OT though, USF only needed one play to put a TD on the board. Bentley was sacked on 4th down of the Gamecocks’ possession to end the game. This game set the Birmingham Bowl record for most points scored in the bowl’s history.
Runner Up: Texas Bowl (Texas A&M vs. Kansas St.)
Most Improved Draft Stock: Bo Scarbrough (Alabama)
Bo Scarbrough has not declared for the NFL draft; he may very likely return for his junior year next season. In the CFP semifinal game against Washington, Scarbrough went off. The sophomore from Northport, AL rushed for 180 yards (a season high by 71) and two TD’s. Scarbrough showed a good mix of speed and power, including this impressive TD run to put the Tide on the board:
When Scarbrough does decide to enter the NFL, it’ll be performances like this one that do him nothing but good.
Runner Up: Josh Malone (Tennessee)
Most Disappointing Team Performance: Arkansas
Razorbacks may still be cringing in Fayetteville…or giving up points…who knows. Arkansas came out firing in the Belk Bowl, pulling out to an impressive 24-0 halftime lead over Virginia Tech and holding the Hokies to only 180 first half yards. But unfortunately for the Razorbacks, this game had a second half. All Arkansas did in the second half was put a goose-egg on the scoreboard while their ACC opponent scored 35 unanswered points. Also disappointing for the Razorbacks? Rawleigh Williams III, the SEC’s leading rusher in 2016, ran for only 34 yards.
Runner Up: Vanderbilt
Most Disappointing Individual Performance: Rawleigh Williams III
Williams had one heck of a sophomore season. The running back from Dallas racked up 1,360 yards during the season, emerging onto the scene for bowl-bound Arkansas. In the Belk Bowl though, Williams was virtually shut down by Virginia Tech. Williams rushed for only 34 yards (his second lowest output of the season) and couldn’t find the end-zone. His total game yardage checked-in at 27 after he added a -7 yard reception. As one of the Razorbacks’ most effective playmakers, Williams couldn’t afford to have a poor showing.
Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas’ senior TE was suspended before the game, so even more pressure fell on Williams. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, he couldn’t quite come through.
Runner Up: Stanley “Boom” Williams
Least exciting game: Independence Bowl
Coming in to this game, these two teams seemed to be pretty evenly matched. Coming out of this game one team seemed to be far superior. Vanderbilt was coming off of two impressive wins to end their season: A 38-17 win over Ole Miss and a 45-34 win over rival Tennessee that gave head coach Derek Mason a pretty memorable post-game interview. Once the game started though, it didn’t take long for the Commodores to lose all momentum and the Wolfpack to pull ahead. NC State went up 14-3 in the second half and never looked back. Going into the 4th quarter, the Pack was up by 25 and won the game 41-17. This game was over halfway through the 3rd quarter.
Runner Up: Taxslayer Bowl (Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech)