The SEC posted a 6-6 record in bowls to end the 2018 season. The league’s winners included Auburn 63-14 over Purdue in the Music City, Florida 41-15 over Michigan in the Peach, Texas A&M 52-13 over North Carolina State in the Gator, LSU 40-32 over UCF in the Fiesta and Kentucky 27-24 over Penn State in the Citrus. SEC teams that lost included Vanderbilt 45-38 to Baylor in the Texas, South Carolina 28-0 to Virginia in the Belk, Missouri 38-33 to Oklahoma State in the Liberty, Mississippi State 27-22 to Iowa in the Outback and Georgia 28-21 to Texas in the Sugar. In the CFP, Alabama appeared on both sides of the ledger, beating Oklahoma 45-34 in the Orange Bowl and losing to Clemson 44-16 in the national-championship game. Ten numbers from bowl season:
2 1,000-yard rushers for Georgia in the 2018 season after RB Elijah Holyfield ran for 62 yards in the Bulldogs’ 28-21 loss to Texas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. That lifted Holyfield to 1,018 rushing yards for the season as he joined teammate D’Andre Swift, who had 1,049 yards, with more than 1,000. After Nick Chubb and Sony Michel ran for more than 1,000 yards apiece for Georgia last season, the Bulldogs became the first NCAA FBS team with two 1,000-yard rushers in back-to-back seasons with four different players. In addition to the two Georgia duos, eight other SEC teams have had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season — Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in 2012, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in 2006 and 2007 and Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins in 2014, Auburn’s James Brooks and Joe Cribbs in 1979 and Cam Newton and Michael Dyer in 2010, Kentucky’s Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell Jr. in 2016 and Tennessee’s Gerald Riggs Jr. and Cedric Houston in 2004.
3 SEC players had more than 200 rushing yards in bowls this season. Vanderbilt RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 243 yards and two TDs on 13 carries in a 45-38 loss to Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27, Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams ran for 236 yards and three TDs on 19 carries in a 52-13 victory over North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 31 and Missouri RB Larry Rountree II ran for 204 yards and one TD on 27 carries in a 38-33 loss to Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31. Vaughn had 68- and 69-yard TD runs and another run of 66 yards to the Baylor 1-yard line as he set the Texas Bowl rushing record and piled up the second-most rushing yards in one game in Vanderbilt history, behind Frank Mordica’s SEC-record 321 against Air Force in 1978. Williams broke the Gator Bowl rushing record of 216 yards set by Syracuse’s Floyd Little in an 18-12 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 31, 1966, and he broke the game’s record for the longest TD run (set at 69 yards by Florida State’s Leon Washington in a 30-18 victory over West Virginia on Jan. 1, 2004) with a 93-yarder. Williams’ big game boosted his 2018 total to 1,760 yards, breaking the Texas A&M single-season record of 1,692 established by Darren Lewis in 1988. Rountree ran for 102 yards in each half as he posted the second-most rushing yards in Liberty Bowl history, behind the 254 of Colorado’s Bob Anderson in a 47-33 victory over Alabama on Dec. 13, 1969. Vaughn and Williams now rank third and fourth in SEC history for rushing yards in a bowl, behind the 266 yards of Georgia’s Nick Chubb in a 37-14 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30, 2014, and the 250 yards of Tennessee’s Chuck Webb in a 31-27 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1990.
4 TD passes and three incompletions were thrown by Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa in a 45-34 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. Tagovailoa completed 24-of-27 passes for 318 yards against the Sooners. He became the first player with at least 20 passes in a bowl to have more TDs than incompletions since Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen in a 49-21 victory over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, 2008. Clausen completed 22-of-26 passes and threw for five TDs. Tagovailoa’s first TD pass against Oklahoma came in Alabama’s 21-point first quarter — the most points scored in the opening period of the Orange Bowl, eclipsing the 19 points by Georgia in a 40-26 victory over TCU on Jan. 1, 1942.
4 Teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll were beaten during the 2018 season by LSU after the Tigers stopped Central Florida’s 25-game winning streak with a 40-32 victory in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. The Tigers had never topped more than three top-10 teams in a season previously. UCF entered the game ranked seventh in the AP poll. LSU also defeated No. 8 Miami (Fla.) 33-16 on Sept. 2, No. 7 Auburn 22-21 on Sept. 15 and No. 2 Georgia 36-16 on Oct. 13 (with rankings at the time of the game). The Tigers defeated the Knights even though UCF scored two TDs in the first quarter, matching the total TDs given up by LSU in the first period in its first 12 games of the season. One of UCF’s TDs came on a 93-yard interception return.
55 Victories, four losses and two national titles apiece for Alabama and Clemson in the past four seasons after the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 44-16 in the CFP championship game on Monday night. The programs are tied for the NCAA FBS record for the most victories in four seasons, breaking the mark of 53 set by Alabama from 2014 through 2017. Each team owns two wins over the other in the past four seasons. Alabama posted records of 14-1 in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and 13-1 in 2017. Clemson posted records of 14-1 in 2015 and 2016, 12-2 in 2017 and 15-0 in 2018. Alabama’s other losses over the past four seasons came 43-37 to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, 2015, and 26-14 to Auburn on Nov. 25, 2017. Clemson’s other losses came 43-42 to Pittsburgh on Nov. 12, 2016, and 27-24 to Syracuse on Oct. 13, 2017.
56 More yards of total offense were compiled by Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald than by Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, yet the Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs 27-22. Fitzgerald ran for 103 yards and one TD on 20 carries and completed 14-of-32 passes for 152 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Iowa passed for 214 yards and finished with a net rushing total of minus-15 yards for a game total of 199. Even with the 21 yards lost on three sacks taken out, the Hawkeyes ran for only 6 yards on 17 carries. Iowa got 75 of its yards on a TD pass and moved 13 and 32 yards for its other two TDs. The Hawkeyes weren’t penalized in the game either. In addition to throwing two interceptions, Fitzgerald had Mississippi State’s first lost fumble of the season.
63 Points were scored by Auburn in its 49-point victory over Purdue in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 28 — the most points scored by an SEC team in a bowl. The Tigers topped the conference bowl mark for points established by Alabama in a 61-6 victory over Syracuse in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1953, and the Music City record set by West Virginia in a 49-38 victory over Ole Miss on Dec. 28, 2000. The most points that Auburn had scored in its preceding 42 bowls had been 43 in a 19-point victory over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31, 2011. Auburn scored 56 points in the first half to break the school record of 49 points scored in the first half against Chattanooga in 1995, and the Tigers’ 28 first-quarter points tied a feat accomplished against Kansas in 1987 and 1988. Auburn also set a school bowl record with 586 yards on offense, surpassing the 559 gained in a 35-28 victory over Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2, 1971. The Tigers scored TDs on their first eight full possessions against Purdue and also returned an interception for a TD during that stretch. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham tied Auburn’s record for TD passes in a game with five, which also tied the SEC bowl record established by Georgia QB Aaron Murray in a 45-31 victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013.
101 Games for Alabama since the previous time that the Crimson Tide didn’t record a sack or a takeaway, which happened again on Monday night in a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the CFP championship game. In its 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern on Nov. 19, 2011, Alabama did not have a takeaway or a sack against the Eagles, who employed a triple-option offense, threw only seven passes and recovered their lone fumble. Clemson threw 32 passes in the CFP title game and did not fumble. Alabama entered the game against the Tigers with 21 takeaways and a league-leading 45 sacks in the 2018 season. On Monday night, Clemson had two sacks and two takeaways (both interceptions, with one returned 44 yards for the game’s opening TD) as the Tigers pinned the most one-sided loss on the Tide of coach Nick Saban’s Alabama career. Alabama had lost three games by 14 points previously under Saban — to Utah in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2008 season, South Carolina in 2009 and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season. The Tide hadn’t lost by a margin of 28 or more points since a 38-7 setback against Virginia Tech in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 29, 1998.
257 Rushing yards were gained by Florida in a 41-15 victory over Michigan in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29 — nearly as many yards as the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense was yielding rushing and passing entering the game. Michigan was giving up a national low of 262.5 yards per game entering the bowl season. The Gators also had 170 passing yards for 427 yards in the game. Florida had 60 more rushing yards against Michigan than the Wolverines had allowed in any of their previous games this season.
3,873 Career rushing yards for Kentucky’s Benny Snell after he ran for 144 in the Wildcats’ 27-24 victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, and 8,865 career passing yards for Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur after he threw for 286 in the Commodores’ 45-38 loss to Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27. Both players became their school’s all-time leader with their bowl performances. Snell moved past Sonny Collins, who ran for 3,835 yards for Kentucky from 1972 through 1975. Shurmur moved past Jay Cutler, who passed for 8,697 yards for Vanderbilt from 2002 through 2005. Snell’s performance helped Kentucky secure its 10th victory of the season — the third with double-digit wins in Wildcats’ history, joining 1950 and 1977 — and place 12th in the final AP poll, its first appearance there since 1984 and its highest showing since a No. 6 finish in 1977. Shurmur’s output was part of the 1,241 yards piled up by Baylor and Vanderbilt — the highest total for a Commodores’ game and the second-highest for a bowl involving an SEC team. The contest featured five scoring plays of more than 50 yards, including a 65-yard TD pass by Shurmur 56 seconds into the game.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.