SEC 2011: Review of the Preview

Way back in the pre-season, I predicted the order of finish for both divisions in the SEC, along with who I thought would meet next Saturday in Atlanta.  Now that the regular season is finished, let’s take a look at how I did.

SEC East

1) Georgia Actual 10-2 (7-1), Predicted  10-2 ( 7-1)

  • Preview: “Mark Richt will remain on the hot seat after the Bulldogs lose to Boise and South Carolina, but 10 straight wins later, his future in Athens is extended.  Georgia probably has the league’s best quarterback, at least for this year, and brings in hotshot freshman Isaiah Crowell, who will try to be this year’s version of Marcus Lattimore or Michael Dyer.”
  • Review: This is probably my best call of the season, although I thought South Carolina would wind up in Atlanta.  Crowell had a decent year, but never came close to Lattimore status.  Murray exceeded expectations and has a good shot to be the SEC’s offensive player of the year.

2) South Carolina Actual 10-2 (6-2), Predicted 11-1 (7-1)

  • Preview: “Steve Spurrier calls this his best team yet in Columbia.  If OBC can keep his troops clear of the buffet lines and cocktail parties he may be right.  Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore and yes, even Stephen Garcia make it hard to pick against the Gamecocks for a repeat.  They’ll stumble against Mississippi State, but earn another berth in the SEC Championship Game.”
  • Review: The Gamecocks successfully transitioned from Garcia to Connor Shaw and finally hit their stride when Shaw came up to speed.  Although the Gamecocks lost to Arkansas, it was a lackluster loss to Auburn that kept them from a repeat trip to Atlanta.

3) Florida Actual 6-6 (3-5), Predicted 7-5 (4-4)

  • Preview: “A new coaching staff, thin roster (albeit talented) and a tough schedule make this another subpar year for the Gators. Will Muschamp’s first Florida team will struggle record-wise but won’t be an easy out. Expect losses to Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State.”
  • Review: Like South Carolina, the Gators suffered an unexpected loss to Auburn.  Flip that loss and the Gators finish 7-5, as predicted.  This was a really bad team and was an easy out.

4) Vanderbilt Actual 6-6 (2-6), Predicted 4-8 (0-8)

  • Preview: “A new head coach and 11 returning starters on offense, but the Commodores still play in the SEC. The Dores will beat up on out-of-conference foes, but struggle with league teams.”
  • Review: I missed on this pick badly.  The Dores were so bad in 2010 that I just didn’t expect this sort of “drastic” turnaround.

5) Kentucky Actual 5-7 (2-6), Predicted 5-7 ( 1-7)

  • Preview: “Former coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips takes over the Wildcats and their string of five straight bowls seasons ends after their 27th straight loss to the Tennessee Vols.”
  • Review: I had the overall record pegged, but missed the conference mark by one game.  Phillips’ team struggled mightily at times this year, but managed to snap their 26 game losing streak to Tennessee.

6) Tennessee Actual 5-7 (1-7), Predicted 7-5 (3-5)

  • Preview: “Derek Dooley’s second edition of the Vols improves by one game in the regular season and they make their third straight bowl. An October stretch of Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina is the make or break portion of the season.”
  • Review: The Volunteers were a horrible football team.  Losing to Kentucky will make this a tough off season for Dooley and the gang.

SEC West

1) LSU Actual 12-0 (8-0), Predicted 9-3 (6-2)

  • Preview: “I know, this is a shocker and it doesn’t even factor in potential suspensions related to a preseason bar brawl. An opening loss to the Oregon Ducks, an upset shocker in Knoxville and a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas in the season finale drop the Tigers to third in the West.”
  • Review.  Wrong, again.  The Tigers cruised past the Ducks with Jarrett Lee and survived the Game of the Century to win the SEC West.

2) Alabama Actual 11-1 (7-1), Predicted 11-1 (7-1)

  • Preview: “The Tide is loaded and only inexperience at quarterbacks keeps this team from an undefeated season.  The Tide stumbles late at home against LSU, but still heads to Atlanta to play the Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game.”
  • Review:  Right and wrong at the same time.  I think I was right about quarterbacking holding us back from an undefeated season (although AJ McCarron has had a great year), but, obviously, LSU didn’t stumble.

3) Arkansas Actual 10-2 (6-2), Predicted 10-2 (6-2)

  • Preview: “The Razorbacks are without Ryan Mallett, DJ Williams and Knile Davis (injury) this year, but Bobby Petrino’s squad returns enough talent to make them a dark horse national title contender. Bama and South Carolina hand the Hogs their only losses this year.”
  • Review: The Hogs have had a fantastic season, yet have to be disappointed that they didn’t compete better against Alabama and LSU, their only two losses of the season.

4) Auburn Actual 7-5 (4-4), Predicted 4-8 (1-7)

  • Preview: “It’s not easy to put the defending national champions here, but I think it’s where they land. They have the perfect storm of negative factors: six returning starters (three each on offense and defense), a rebuilt offensive line, no Cam Newton, a difficult schedule and a target on their back as the result of being the defending national champions and a lot of close losses along they way last year. Things should pick back up for the Tigers next year.”
  • Review: Great coaching or great amounts of fortune?  The Tigers almost lost to Utah State and Mississippi State, beat a beat up Florida team and received the gift that keeps on giving from South Carolina.

5) Mississippi State Actual 6-6 (2-6), Predicted 6-6, (3-5)

  • Preview: “It’s always supposed to be the year the Bulldogs break out. This year is no different, but I don’t see it happening. In fact, I see the Dan Mullen’s dogs taking a step back this year as they finish the regular season with a loss to Ole Miss at home.”
  • Review:  The Dogs took a step back, but not so far back that they lost to the RBBs.

6) Mississippi Actual 2-10 (0-8), Predicted 7-5 (4-4)

  • Preview: “Expectations are down for Houston Nutt’s Rebels and his teams always seem to thrive in these situations. They’ll battle Mississippi State for the fourth spot in the West and earn it with an Egg Bowl win in Starkville.”
  • Review:  Nutt managed to stumble over even the lowest of expectations.  So much so that he’s now jobless.

The predictions called for Alabama and South Carolina to meet this weekend in the SEC Championship game.  Obviously, I got that one wrong.  A few field goals here and there and a less mind-numbing offensive performance from the Gamecocks versus Auburn and I could have pegged this call.

All in all, I correctly called the records for five of the 12 teams:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi State.  I totally whiffed on Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss.