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Monday bowl primer: It’s a big day for the SEC

Key SEC players in Monday bowls
PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS

Monday is the final official day of the “bowl season,” though there obviously will be one more game – the national championship game – on January 8.

New Year’s Day also is a big day for the SEC. There are five bowls and each has an SEC team. There are separate breakdowns for the Rose and Sugar bowls; this story focuses on Monday’s other three postseason games.

The biggest of these is the Peach Bowl, featuring Auburn (10-3) against UCF (12-0), the nation’s only unbeaten team. UCF features an incredibly potent offense, but the Knights haven’t played a defense that ranks higher than 37th overall and have played eight that rank 84th or worse; UCF has played five games against teams whose defenses rank 117th or worse.

Auburn ranks 12th in total defense; the Tigers allow just 4.58 yards per play, which is the eighth-best mark nationally. UCF’s offense averages 7.6 yards per play, which is No. 2 in the country.

UCF has scored at least 31 points in every game, and has scored at least 40 nine times, at least 50 five times and at least 60 three times.

Auburn has surrendered at least 20 five times but hasn’t allowed more than 28 in a game all season.

The big off-field storyline is that Scott Frost already has been hired at Nebraska and is coaching his final game at UCF. Actually, the entire UCF staff has been hired at Nebraska, but all of the coaches will be on the sideline (and in the booth) for the Peach Bowl. It will be interesting to see how often Nebraska – a team that went 4-8 and didn’t qualify for a bowl game – is mentioned during the Peach Bowl telecast; our unofficial over-under number is eight.

Outback Bowl

Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
TIME/TV: Monday, noon, ESPN2
BUZZ: Neither offense is anything to write home about, and the Gamecocks have been outgained by almost 400 yards this season. Michigan’s defense has been stout; the Wolverines are third nationally in total defense and lead the nation in pass defense. South Carolina often struggles to run; that can’t happen if the Gamecocks want to win this. Jake Bentley will be under siege if the Wolverines know the Gamecocks have to pass. South Carolina’s defense has struggled at time, but Michigan’s offense won’t scare the Gamecocks. Michigan’s passing attack is awful, and as with South Carolina in this one, the Wolverines have to run to win.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the ACC.
LINE: Michigan by 7.5.
THE PICK: Michigan 17-13.

RELATED: Producing on the big stage: The 10 best bowl performances by SEC players in history

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