SEC football year-in-review

Last updated on July 21st, 2016 at 05:40 pm

In our season-ending ranking, obviously the bottom four are the four who are not appearing in bowl games. South Carolina had an unexpectedly tumultuous season. The Gamecocks struggled to a 3-9 record, and Steve Spurrier abruptly resigned after a 2-4 start and a road loss to LSU in a game that was moved from Columbia due to flooding in South Carolina. They lost their final five, including one to The Citadel. At season’s end, South Carolina surprised many by hiring Auburn defensive coordinator and former Florida coach Will Muschamp as their new coach. I suppose they think lightning will strike twice with former Florida coaches? It was a dubious hire on the surface, to be kind.

Next comes Kentucky who once again, squandered a 4-1 start with a 1-6 finish for the second straight season to miss the postseason. Desperation led to the questionable shuffling of quarterbacks. Drew Barker is in and Patrick Towles is transferring—not good for the future. Vanderbilt comes in at #12 after a 4-8 campaign which saw a pair of home conference wins over Missouri and Kentucky. The Commodores were much better the second half than the first and 2016 figures to be even better. Missouri won only one game in conference play, over South Carolina, but a late win over BYU moves them to #11. Coach Gary Pinkel was forced to retire as he battles Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Former player and coach under Pinkel, Barry Odom, takes over as coach.

The rest are all going bowling this season. We start with the preseason choice to win the league, Auburn. Troubles at quarterback; inconsistencies in the running game; the dismissal of Duke Williams; and just not good enough defense all doomed the Tigers in the super-competitive Western Division. Texas A&M once again faded down the stretch with problems at quarterback. It will be Kyler Murray going forward as Kyle Allen is transferring. Georgia won nine games, but it was not good enough for Coach Mark Richt to keep his job. Alabama defensive coordinator and former Bulldog Kirby Smart will take over as Richt settles at Miami.

Mississippi State laid an egg in the Egg Bowl but still had a strong 8-4 season to finish in the top half of the league. LSU made a lot of drama it did not have to in the embarrassing handling of Coach Les Miles. The finale against A&M felt like the end for Miles, but he was finally told he could stay following the 19-7 win. How generous! Poor quarterback play could not propel the Tigers into contention or Leonard Fournette to the Heisman Trophy. Florida won the East but did it with smoke and mirrors. The loss of Will Grier doomed them offensively but the season was a huge success nonetheless. Arkansas folded under the weight of expectations, then got hot at midseason to finish with five league victories including road wins at Ole Miss and LSU.

Tennessee made huge strides with five league wins and were in every game. Had one of their three defeats gone the other way, it would have been a division winning year and perhaps more than that. Ole Miss beat Alabama but a bad loss at Memphis and a quirky loss against Arkansas kept them from Atlanta, where they still have never been the first Saturday in December.

But this season once again belonged to Alabama, who repeated as SEC champions. Jacob Coker emerged at quarterback; the defense emerged as the nation’s best; and Derrick Henry walked away with the Heisman. Just another banner year for the Crimson Tide.