It was a crazy season in the SEC – even by its own standards.
There were unpredictable upsets, midseason coaching changes and a two-horse race for the Heisman Trophy.
There were also a number of teams that surprised and disappointed based on preseason expectations. Here are the end-of-season grades for the 14 SEC teams as compared to what we expected at the start of the 2015 season:
Sure, the Gators stumbled down the stretch, but no one believed they could make the SEC Championship Game before the season began. Florida was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East by the media. Kudos to the Gators for maximizing their roster.
Even though Georgia didn’t play well enough to save Mark Richt’s job, they showed moxy down the stretch after losing to Tennessee and Florida. However, the Bulldogs should have beaten Tennessee and should not have been so thoroughly dismantled by Florida.
The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth in the SEC East. They wound up fourth. While that’s better than expected, Kentucky was expected to reach bowl eligibility, but seems to be floundering in Mark Stoops’ third season.
Not much was expected out of the Tigers this season. With the extenuating circumstances, not much should have been. Missouri faced a myriad of off-the-field issues in a season they’d just as soon forget. The Barry Odom led defense saved Mizzou from a “D” ranking, providing one of the few bright spots for the 2015 season.
South Carolina: F
The Gamecocks were picked to finish fourth in the SEC East and wound up dead last. Their head coach, Steve Spurrier, quit in early October and his players may have given up on him even before that. Under interim coach Shawn Elliott, the Gamecocks showed some spunk but not enough to warrant a passing grade.
The Vols were picked to finish second in the SEC East and that’s exactly what they did. However, it’s tough for Tennessee fans not to lament the games that got away, like Oklahoma and Florida.
The Commodores were picked to finish last in the SEC East. Vandy held true to form. It certainly wasn’t a stellar season but the Commodores showed some improvement in coach Derek Mason’s second season. Much like Mizzou, the Vanderbilt defense was one of the team’s few positives.
In an odd year of preseason voting, Alabama was picked to win the SEC West and not the SEC Championship. Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide can do both on Saturday with a win over Florida. ‘Bama slipped up against Ole Miss but has looked like the most dominant team in the nation ever since.
The Razorbacks were headed for a failing grade in September with three losses. However, Arkansas turned it around beginning with a come-from-behind win in Knoxville against Tennessee. A one-point loss (51-50) to Mississippi State would be their only blemish through the final six games of the season
Auburn was picked to win the SEC Championship. Those hopes were quickly dashed with two losses in September; LSU completely destroyed them in Death Valley (45-21). In what was supposed to be a chase for the SEC Championship, the Tigers barely managed to become bowl eligible.
It was a tumultuous season for the Bayou Bengals. LSU rose to No. 2 in the nation before losing to Alabama en route to a three-game losing streak. LSU’s players should be given credit for winning their home finale when it looked like coach Les Miles was about to be axed.
Ole Miss: B-
Ole Miss was the only team to beat Alabama this season. That’s no small feat. The Rebels were one game away from playing in their first SEC Championship Game. However, a crazy overtime loss to Arkansas kept them from playing in Atlanta. An October loss to Memphis is still tough for Rebel fans to swallow.
Mississippi State: C
The Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the SEC West. They ended up sixth. State just couldn’t close the deal often enough. They were in every game they played except for a 31-6 loss to Alabama. Quarterback Dak Prescott is a once-in-a-generation player and State couldn’t help him get to Atlanta.
Texas A&M: C-
The Aggies looked like they may be the surprise team in the SEC early in the season. Then, quarterback issues cropped up. A&M finished 8-4, but just 4-4 in the SEC. With the talent they have, the Aggies should have had a better season.