(video courtesy of ESPN)
Five SEC bowl games are complete and the conference is holding a 3-2 mark. Here are five things that we've learned so far.
For most of Tuesday afternoon, Michigan kept Clowney under control in the Outback Bowl. It seemed that Michigan might be able to escape with a win and with a day free of much damage from one of the nation's best defenders. That all changed with one hit. The Wolverines didn't pick him up on one basic run play in the fourth quarter and the All-American defender sliced through their line and laid one of the biggest hits of the season on Michigan RB Vincent Smith. Smith lost his helmet -- and the ball. Clowney recovered it and QB Connor Shaw capitalized with a TD pass on the next play to help lead South Carolina to a 33-28 win.
2. Mississippi State's 7-0 start was fool's gold
The Bulldogs took care of business early in the season and were viewed as one of the surprise teams of 2012 after their 7-0 start. They got exposed the rest of the season. They lost five of their last six down the stretch and were barely competitive against top-tier SEC teams such as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M and lost 41-24 to rival Ole Miss. They had a chance to salvage some of the season by beating Northwestern, a team that hadn't won a bowl game since 1949, but again, they squandered their chance in a 34-20 loss in the Gator Bowl. Coach Dan Mullen has made some progess in Starkville, but the Bulldogs have some room to grow before being an SEC contender.
3. Vanderbilt is one of the hottest teams in the conference
Beating North Carolina State might not be the flashiest bowl win of the season for the SEC, but the Commodores again took care of business. Their 38-24 win over the Wolfpack in the Music City Bowl capped off a seven-game win streak to finish the season -- the longest current winning streak of any SEC team. Their schedule was relatively light down the stretch, but that doesn't take away all of the accomplishment. They won their final seven games by a total of 22.6 points per game. They'll lose several key seniors off this squad such as QB Jordan Rodgers and RB Zac Stacy, but coach James Franklin has them heading in the right direction.
After somewhat of a shaky start, Murray scorched Nebraska's defense, piling up 427 passing yards to go along with five TDs and two INTs in a 45-31 win in the Capital One Bowl. He made several NFL-caliber throws, leading WRs and hitting them on the back shoulder multiple times. He also did it all with his top WR targets on the bench with injuries. Now it's decision time for the redshirt junior QB -- stay or leave for the NFL Draft? Most draft experts think Murray could use one more year, but after a gutsy performance in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama and putting up big numbers against Nebraska, perhaps his stock has risen enough for him to make the jump. There's no clear-cut top QB at this point for the 2013 draft class, so Murray's got a tough decision to make.
5. LSU should've stuck with the run late
It's easy to use hindsight to criticize coaching decisions, but Les Miles is taking some heat for how he handled LSU's final offensive drive in a 25-24 loss to Clemson on Monday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU threw the ball three times late in the fourth quarter despite having an opportunity to run the clock down or force Clemson to take its final timeouts. Clemson got a stop and marched down the field to set up a game-winning field goal. LSU RB Jeremy Hill, who had 12 carries for 124 yards, didn't have a single carry in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Miles would change that given another opportunity.
For more up-to-the minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Larry Hartstein and Daniel Lewis, follow @CBSSportsSEC.