@MrSEC yes, he did a great job with all that 4* and 5* talent.
What’s left but to show you our final Power Rankings for 2013? Casting aside our usual method of rankings — assigning each SEC program to one of four tiers — we today go the old-fashioned route with a 1 through 14 countdown of the SEC’s best and worst.
1. Auburn — The best roster probably belongs to Alabama. But the best coaching job was done by Gus Malzahn this season. As a result, the Tigers won the conference and will face Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. For the cherry on top, Auburn beat their hated rivals on a last-second play that checkmated a Nick Saban coaching decision. Win, win. Literally. And while on the subject of the Plainsmen, let’s hand out our own MVP award to Nick Marshall. Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam were flashier at their positions, but without Marshall AU would not be heading to Pasadena.
2. Alabama — The Tide had the players, the coaches, and the schedule to pull a BCS threepeat. What they didn’t have were the breaks. The reasons we didn’t pick the Tide to even win the SEC West this season were a) the fact that no one ever repeat as SEC champs (at least not since 1998) and b) every championship team needs some luck. Saban’s bunch lost on the last weekend of the regular season. So when this year’s big break came the SEC’s way — Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State — Auburn was the squad to benefit.
3. South Carolina — Let’s hope USC fans aren’t so cocky — pun intended — that they’ll start complaining about not getting to “the next level.” Steve Spurrier has led Carolina to consecutive 11-2, 11-2 and 10-2 seasons. They have played in one SEC title game, but they’ve so far missed out on BCS trips. No matter. The Gamecocks knocked off a pair of BCS-bound teams (Clemson and UCF) and were one of the SEC’s toughest teams, handing Missouri it’s only loss prior to the SEC title game. What Spurrier has done in Columbia is almost unfathomable when you consider Carolina’s history. He deserves a heckuva lot of praise.
4. Missouri — In the end, Mizzou got slashed and gashed by Auburn’s steamroller of an offense just like everyone else. But this batch of Tigers were for real and MU fans should take solace in the fact that Gary Pinkel’s 2013 crew earned Missouri some respect respect from most of their new conference brethren. The Tigers could have easily been listed third on our list, but the head-to-head overtime loss to Carolina was the difference. Still, a great year for Mizzou. Even if they are heading back to a familiar bowl to face a familiar Big 12 team.
5. LSU — It was a down year for the Bayou Bengals. They were forced to play a youthful defense. They couldn’t hang with Alabama. And yet… they can still finish the season 10-3 with a bowl win over Iowa (a team they should crush, by the way). If your “down” year is a 10-3 campaign, you’re in pretty darn good shape overall.
6. Georgia — What a disappointment. Not their play, but their injuries. UGA looked to have the best offense in the SEC East (at least) in what turned out to be a year of big offense across the league. But one long-term injury after another befell key players, sidetracking what could have been a very special season. Fair thee well, Aaron Murray.
7. Texas A&M — The Aggies learned in 2013 what we’d tried to warn both A&M and Mizzou of in 2012 — teams don’t stay on top for long in the SEC. Kevin Sumlin’s offense still hummed with the remarkable Johnny Manziel at quarterback, but the defense was just horrible. Oh, how very, very horrible.
8. Ole Miss — 2013 would’ve looked a lot better to Rebel fans if they’d finished 8-4. Instead they’ll head to the Music City Bowl with a 7-5 record… and what makes that so darned awful is the fact that loss #5 — the difference between 8-4 and 7-5 — came at the hands of despised rival, Mississippi State. Another step forward for Hugh Freeze program, even if the loss to State dampened the mood.
9. Vanderbilt — How far has James Franklin taken the VU program? So far that Commodore fans now complain about their bowl lot. The Dores’ 8-4 overall record looks good on paper, but the non-conference schedule was ridiculously easy. Four wins against SEC East foes — Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee — show that Vandy is headed in the right direction, regardless of pansy scheduling.
10. Mississippi State — By now, we all know what to expect from a Dan Mullen Mississippi State squad. It will beat up on ne’er-do-wells, lose to college football’s big boys, and then more times than not beat Ole Miss. Looking back at MSU’s history, there are many fans who know that a win over Ole Miss and a bowl trip are nothing to be ashamed of. Man, that Egg Bowl win was huge.
11. Florida — Let’s get this out of the way… we’ve never seen a college football team lose so many key players to significant injuries. There might have been one, but we can’t remember it. Now, UF didn’t look to be a BCS-worthy team before all the injuries took their toll, but they would have finished better than 4-8 without question. A year from now we’ll either be talking about UF’s Auburn-like turnaround or the Gators’ search for a new coach.
12. Tennessee – It’s no surprise the three teams at the bottom of our rankings are the three teams in true, pure rebuilding mode. Unlike Auburn, Tennessee still needs an influx of talent and depth — as do Arkansas and Kentucky — to go with their new coach. The Vols are putting together one of the best and biggest signing classes in the country. That’s more important to the health of the program than one more win and a bowl game would have been.
13. Arkansas – OK, ditto much of the comments from the Tennessee’s summary. But things took an uglier turn in Fayetteville as the Hogs dropped nine straight game and finished 0-8 in conference play, both firsts for the proud program. Razorback fans looking for a positive should hang their plastic hog hats on the effort UA played with in its season finale against LSU. The team didn’t win for Bret Bielema, but they didn’t quit, either.
14. Kentucky — Woe is Kentucky. Too little talent. Too little speed. Too little depth. Mark Stoops is trying to rectify those problems on the recruiting trail, but it will take time. The Wildcats finished 0-8 in SEC play for the second straight year despite the change in coaches. If they’re ever going to snap their 16-game league losing streak they’ll have to find a quarterback who can stay healthy.