Stop me if you've heard this one before — The SEC is off to a perfect start to its bowl season.
Just as waves roll into shore and day turns into night, the metronomic success of the Southeastern Conference in bowl games seems almost guaranteed at this point. The explosion in the number of bowl games being staged by ESPN only increases the number of wins SEC schools will pile up in a given year. This postseason the league will take part in 12 such contests. Win eight and it will be the biggest bowl win total in conference history. After a 3-0 start, a 5-4 mark the rest of the way would do the trick.
Over the weekend, South Carolina's defense managed to stop someone as the Gamecocks bested Miami 24-21 in the Independence Bowl. Yesterday, two more league squads got into the win column… at the expense of the SEC's newest bowl partner, the Big 12.
First, Texas A&M outgunned West Virginia 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl. Then Arkansas feasted on Texas — the weakest SEC bowl opponent of the season — devouring it's old rival 31-7 in the Texas Bowl.
The future looks bright for the Razorbacks. Pasting a Power Five squad in a bowl and finishing with four wins in six games should make for a rather upbeat offseason in the Natural State. It was only a couple of months ago that the Hogs were still looking for their first SEC win under Bret Bielema. Now UA fans can start to relax in the knowledge that Bielema is making progress. In case wins over LSU and Ole Miss didn't make that clear enough, Arkansas held Texas to just 59 yards of offense last night. Granted the Longhorns have been woeful on offense all year, but 59 yards? Enjoy the offseason, Razorback coaches.
As for Texas A&M, well, there are still plenty of issues on the horizon. Kevin Sumlin will certainly enjoy a shootout victory over his old offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen. An 8-5 finish in what was projected to be a rebuilding year over the summer isn't too shabby in hindsight, either. But the Aggies still need to make some important coaching hires and they'll need to scrub themselves clean after a student-assistant channeled Woody Hayes during yesterday's game.
First, student assistant coach Michael Richardson shoved a passing West Virginia player on the Aggies' sideline. Then he struck the back of a WVU player's head and shoved him forward as he backpedaled onto the A&M sideline after a play.
Clearly, that's unacceptable behavior. When made aware of the two first-half episodes, Sumlin told Richardson to stay in the lockerroom for the second half.
One thing to keep in mind? Richardson signed with A&M in 2012 but then broke his neck during a game. His football career over, Sumlin offered the young man an avenue for staying near the squad. This isn't to condone what he did — it was stupid and it was an embarrassment to Texas A&M — but he's also just 20-years-old. Yes, he's an "assistant," but this isn't a grown man on salary that we're talking about today. Richardson won't even be old enough to drink until late next month.
A&M will likely take action and hopefully Richardson will learn to better control his emotions, but we're basically talking about an injured player making these moves. That won't calm the calls for his head on Twitter, but it does play into our thinking. Go forth and sin no more, kid.
Meanwhile, Aggie fans are still waiting for three slots on Sumlin's coaching staff to be filled. Receivers coach and recruiting coordinator David Beaty left to take over as Kansas' head coach. Offensive line coach BJ Anderson was given his walking papers, though it's strongly rumored former Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen will fill his shoes. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder was canned immediately after the regular season but his slot remains unfilled and it's believed that one of Sumlin's two top targets is heading elsewhere. Florida interim coach DJ Durkin is reportedly set to join his former Stanford boss, Jim Harbaugh, at Michigan. That leaves LSU's John Chavis as the last big get on Sumlin's wish list. Chavis has a nice new LSU contract offer but he's yet to sign it. With LSU finishing up its season with today's Music City Bowl against Notre Dame, a decision by Chavis to stay in Baton Rouge or move to College Station could come quickly.
Sumlin says all three openings on his coaching staff will be filled by the end of the week.