The SEC and Big Ten have completed their annual three-game appetizer on the New Year’s Day afternoon undercard. The Big Ten matched up a little better this season than was the case the past three years, aided by two missing SEC quarterbacks. They handed the nation’s top conference their first loss of the college bowl season. But at day’s end, the SEC still won two of the three matchups.
Nebraska 24 Georgia 19: It’s easy to attribute Nebraska’s win to the absence of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. While I won’t dispute that, we do have to point out that backup Hutson Mason still played reasonably well (21/39 for 320 yards, one interception). Well enough to win in fact. But Georgia couldn’t run the ball, getting only 96 yards on the ground, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah ran for 122 yards.
LSU 21 Iowa 14: The fact LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberg was out surely kept this one close. LSU pounded the ball on the ground with Jeremy Hill and rushed for 216 yards as a team. They had no one who could get the ball to their dynamic wideouts, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, and backup quarterback Anthony Jennings threw for just 82 yards. The lack of offensive punch kept Iowa in the game, but LSU’s defense was too good.
South Carolina 34 Wisconsin 24: One SEC team had its quarterback and Connor Shaw was the star of the show in Orlando. Shaw threw for 312 yards on 22/25 passing, and he got help from Bruce Ellington who made two spectacular catches at key moments in the game.
Wisconsin showed they could pound the ball on the ground, as the tandem of Melvin Gordon and James White helped roll up 293 yards as a team. Four turnovers killed Wisconsin, as did missing a field goal and being stopped on 4th-and-1 near the South Carolina 20
And the one game outside the Big Ten-SEC trifecta turned into a somewhat surprising blowout. Although since the oddsmakers had North Texas has a (-7) favorite to begin with, maybe I was the only one who was surprised.
North Texas 36 UNLV 14: North Texas broke open a game they led 14-7 after three quarters, and the ultimate reason for their success was shutting down UNLV’s rush attack to just 66 yards.