I would hate to have to handicap any game that featured #1 - #6 against any other team #1-#6 on this board. I think this is the best top 6 roster I have ever seen in the SEC. I'm sure there was a better leader board sometime, but for Pete's Sake, every one of them is in the top 10 nationally. And I have long been a fan of Spurrier (as a coach folks, not as a guy standing at the microphone), and have to agree that he is one of the best all time performers in college ball. The Gamecocks have done very well indeed with him at the helm.
With the regular season now in the books, we’re going to change up our Power Rankings chart and actually rank teams from #1 all the way down to #14. We take into account the entire season’s worth of games, but we’ll put added emphasis on how teams ended their seasons.
Enjoy (or get mad, depending on where your favorite team is ranked)…
1. Alabama (11-1, 7-1) – The real #1 team in the SEC will be decided on the field of the Georgia Dome on Saturday, but as of right now, we give the edge to the Tide. They’ve played a few more bowl-eligible teams than Georgia has and their lone loss was one bad pass away from being a victory (against Texas A&M). The Tide’s pass defense has had some hiccups down the stretch, but Bama still looks to be the best team from top to bottom this season.
2. Georgia (11-1, 7-1) – The Dawgs can prove us wrong on Saturday. Since Shawn Williams called out his defensive mates as playing “soft,” UGA has played as well as most people expected before the season. Georgia’s run features a pair of dynamic backs but will the title game in Atlanta finally show us the UGA really does miss Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown at the receiver position?
3. Florida (11-1, 7-1) – When it comes to defense and toughness, the Gators can match up with anyone. But the offense remains an issue, especially the UF passing attack. Kudos to Florida for marching into Tallahassee and smacking down an FSU team that featured — up until then — the #1 defense in the nation, but the Gators did benefit from five Florida State turnovers. Just as Georgia benefited from six Florida turnovers in UF’s only loss of the season.
4. Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2) – Maybe we’re just wowed by Johnny Football, but the Aggies wrapped up their season with five consecutive wins. The knocked off Mississippi State and Alabama who were ranked #15 and #1 respectively at the time. Both of those wins came on the road. Aside from Bama’s 29-24 loss to A&M, no school came closer than 19 points to the Aggies down the stretch.
5. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2) — After losing back-to-back games to LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks lost start tailback Marcus Lattimore for the season to a knee injury. Quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney have been in and out of the lineup due to foot/ankle injuries. Yet the Cocks still managed to sweep the November portion of their schedule and knock off rival Clemson for a fourth consecutive season. Steve Spurrier has done a flat-out remarkable job in Columbia.
6. LSU (10-2, 6-2) — You know you’re looking at one heck of a conference when a 10-2 team as good as LSU ranks just sixth-best in the league. The Tigers came within a minute of knocking off then-unbeaten Alabama four weeks ago and they then hammered Mississippi State. But if you’re splitting hairs — and to separate the teams on this list you have to — LSU’s defense showed some cracks down the stretch. The Tiger run game fell off a bit, too. Ole Miss and Arkansas were a combined 5-11 in SEC play but both played the Tigers down to the wire to close the season.
7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3) – The Commodores haven’t beaten an FBS team with a winning record all season. It’s hard for us to ignore that. In fact, we came close to sliding Ole Miss — which does have a win over a team with a winning record — into this slot ahead of Vandy. But the Dores have won six games in a row, have blown out Tennessee and Wake Forest by a combined 57 points the last two weeks, and they came from behind to pull out a 27-26 win at Ole Miss on November 10th. Read ‘em and weep, Vandy-mockers… James Franklin’s team is in the top half of our MrSEC.com Power Rankings.
8. Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5) – If any school in the country should be happy about a 6-6 record it’s Mississippi. The Rebels were expected to be one of — if not the — worst teams in the SEC this year. Instead, first-year coach Hugh Freeze turned his team into a bunch of fighters. With less than 60 scholarship players on the roster at times, they had to be. The Rebels lost three of their last four games, but included in that stretch were a one-point loss to 8-4 Vandy, a six-point loss at 10-2 LSU, and a 17-point win over 8-4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
9. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) – Dan Mullen’s team had a better record than Ole Miss, but last weekend’s 41-24 throttling at the hands of the Rebels stands out to us. The Bulldogs began the season 7-0 against very weak competition and then ended the year by losing four out of five games to stronger foes. The lone win in November came against 4-8 Arkansas. Flip State’s schedule and we might be talking about the great finish Mullen had put together. But unfortunately for MSU fans, the meat of the schedule came late rather than early and that creates a bit of a disappointing feel.
10. Missouri (5-7, 2-6) – Speaking of disappointing. Whether it was numerous injuries to numerous key players, turmoil (remember the James Franklin pain-killer kerfuffle?), or off-field nonsense (a big hand for Sheldon Richardson not going to class, everyone)… Mizzou’s first SEC season was one to forget. The Tigers have a sharp coach in Gary Pinkel who’ll set out to improve the Tigers next year. Having been through the SEC wringer, MU Pinkel should now have an idea of what types of players he needs to recruit. (Hint: bigger linemen and more of them.)
11. Arkansas (4-8, 2-6) – In terms of bad years, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever having a worse year than the one Razorback fans have just suffered through. In March, the Hogs were being talked about as a dark horse BCS title contender with a possible Heisman-winner at quarterback. That all came crashing down — pun intended — on April Fool’s Day. From Bobby Petrino’s implosion to John L. Smith’s bizarre comments and “smile!” press conference to Tyler Wilson disappointing senior campaign, 2012 will be one to forget in Ozarks.
12. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7) — Meanwhile, Derek Dooley will be a coach to forget in the Smokies. After stating at SEC Media Days that the league would no longer have UT to kick around anymore, Dooley and Vols proceeded to get kicked around by every opposing offense they faced. Tennessee’s record-setting defense — and we mean that in a bad way — was only good enough to beat one SEC foe all year and that team missed a number of open receivers or else the Volunteers might have gone winless in conference play.
13. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8) – The one team that couldn’t take full advantage of Tennessee’s secondary, UK finished in the cellar of the SEC’s East Division. That much was expected before the season. What wasn’t expected was a string of injuries that forced Joker Phillips to play younger and younger players by the week. How bad was it? The Wildcats used four different quarterbacks on the season. And while the offense struggled, the defense was run over, around and through by darn near every team it faced.
14. Auburn (3-9, 0-8) — As bad Kentucky was, no team in the SEC compared to Auburn. The Tigers won the BCS championship just two short seasons ago. They’ve signed one highly-ranked recruiting class after another. Yet both new coordinators — Scot Loeffler on offense and Brian VanGorder on defense — failed implement anything that worked. The Tigers set records for AU futility and lose their last two SEC games to arch-rivals Georgia and Alabama by a combined score of a 87-0. On top of all that, NCAA investigators are once again snooping around the Plains. A historically bad season.