Nine teams in the SEC are bowl eligible: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tennessee all missed bowl games. Ole Miss won two games near the start of the season; they haven’t won since Oct 1st, when they were 2-3. Kentucky and Tennessee both had chances to be bowl eligible. Tennessee, if they would have defeated Kentucky (10-7 loss) or Georgia (20-12 loss) would have been bowl eligible. Kentucky, by contrast, had only one close game, against rival Louisville, a 24-17 loss, early in the season.
It’s time to look at the fourth quarter of the season report card for SEC teams; the regular season is over, heading into the bowl season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. In the event a team is playing in a bowl game, it will be noted.
Note: No predictions were done for the conference title.
Because of the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, conference schedules have yet to be completely finalized.
Alabama – Projected Record: (12-0); Actual Record: (11-1)
Total Offense: 433.42 yards/game; 30th.
Run Offense: 219.83 yards/game; 15th. Pass Offense: 213.60 yards/game; 72nd.
Total Defense: 191.25 yards/game; 1st.
Run Defense: 74.92 yards/game; 1st. Pass Defense: 116.33 yards/game; 1st.
Notes: The Crimson Tide were dealt a blow with a 9-6 overtime home loss to #1 LSU. Many believed this knocked Alabama out of the national title picture, that is, until Oregon, Stanford, and Oklahoma State all went on to lost another game. Alabama is back in the national title for the second time in three years, this time facing #1 LSU, in the first Allstate BCS National Championship game pairing conference opponents. QB A.J. McCarron (2400 passing yards, 66.7% completion, and 16 passing TDs), RBs Trent Richardson (1583 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 23 total TDs) and Eddie Lacy (631 rushing yards, 7.5/carry, and 7 rushing TDs) have led the Alabama offensively. Alabama has had double-digit wins for four straight years now; the last time that happened it was 1977-1980. Alabama has easily been in the top third in recruiting in the SEC in the recent years; they picked up a 5 star recruit in 2010 (DE DeMarcus Milliner), in 2011, the Tide picked up three-5 star recruits (DB Hasean Clinton-Dix, RB Demetrius Hart, and Cyrus Kouandjio). For the 2012 class, Alabama has verbal commitments from nine-4 star (WR Chris Black, WR Amari Cooper, ATH Kenyan Drake, and ATH Justin Thomas) and one-5 star (DB Eddie Williams) recruits. Alabama has non-conference games against Michigan, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, and Western Carolina next season. The Tide will travel to Arkansas, LSU, and Tennessee, and host Auburn.
Wins: Kent State (48-7); @ #23 Penn State (27-11); North Texas (41-0); #14 Arkansas* (38-14); @ #12 Florida* (38-10); Vanderbilt* (34-0); @ Ole Miss* (52-7); Tennessee* (37-6); @ Mississippi State* (24-7); Georgia Southern (45-21); @ #24 Auburn* (42-14).
Losses: #1 LSU (6-9 OT).
Current Grade: A.
Arkansas – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (10-2)
Total Offense: 445.83 yards/game; 27th.
Run Offense: 138.08 yards/game; 81st. Pass Offense: 307.80 yards/game; 13th.
Total Defense: 371.42 yards/game; 51st.
Run Defense: 174.33 yards/game; 79th. Pass Defense: 197.08 yards/game; 27th.
Notes: Its’ tough to be Arkansas. The Razorbacks went 10-2, with their two losses to teams that are a combined 24-1. Arkansas finishes third in the SEC West and sixth in the BCS standings. Because of the BCS rules limiting conferences to two bid each, Arkansas becomes the odd team out. Arkansas will draw #6 Kansas State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, a very high profile matchup; great matchup for the Cotton Bowl. QB Tyler Wilson (3422 passing yards, 63.1% completion, and 22 passing TDs), WRs Jarius Wright (1029 receiving yards, 16.3/catch, and 11 receiving TDs), Cobi Hamilton (516 receiving yards, 16.6/catch, and 3 receiving TDs), and Joe Adams (630 receiving yards, 12.9/catch, and 4 total TDs), and RBs Dennis Johnson (637 rushing yards, 6.3/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) and Ronnie Wingo Jr. (440 rushing yards, 4.6/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) led the Hogs. Arkansas has actually been in the bottom half in recruiting in the SEC in the past three years, but has done a great job in developing talent. Arkansas had four-4 star recruits last season: QB Brandon Allen, OL Brey Cook, DB Tevin Mitchel, and WR Marquel Wade. For 2012, Arkansas has verbal commits from two-4 stars, WR Jalen Cobb and RB Jonathan Williams. Arkansas has non-conference contests against Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe (Texas A&M was slated as a non-conference game, too, and depending on the divisions, that could change). The Razorbacks face tough home tests against Alabama and LSU; they have a tough road test against South Carolina. Its tough to give a prediction without a complete schedule, but if Tyler Wilson returns to Arkansas, I like the Hogs chances to at least match their win total from 2011, if not exceed it. They are a legitimate threat to win the SEC in 2012.
Wins: Missouri State (51-7); New Mexico (52-3); Troy (38-28); vs. #14 Texas A&M (42-38); #15 Auburn* (38-14); @ Ole Miss* (29-24); @ Vanderbilt* (31-28); #9 South Carolina* (44-28); Tennessee* (49-7); Mississippi State* (44-17).
Losses: @ #3 Alabama* (14-38); @ #1 LSU* (17-41).
Current Grade: A-.
Auburn – Projected Record: (5-7); Actual Record: (7-5)
Total Offense: 328.17 yards/game; 104th.
Run Offense: 174.75 yards/game; 38th. Pass Offense: 153.40 yards/game; 106th.
Total Defense: 405.75 yards/game; 78th.
Run Defense: 194.75 yards/game; 99th. Pass Defense: 211.00 yards/game; 45th.
Notes: Auburn won the BCS National Championship last season, so this season figured a bit to be a letdown, especially with losing QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Auburn exceeded expectations, though, as Las Vegas bookmakers had Auburn at six wins. Three of the first four wins were by seven points or less. The final three wins gave Auburn an average MOV of 16. Auburn has one more shot to get to eight wins, which would be their third straight season with at least eight wins, which the Tigers accomplished from 2005-2007. Auburn will meet Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. QB Clint Moseley (794 passing yards, 62.5% completion, 5 passing TDs, but 3 INTs), RBs Michael Dyer (1242 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 10 rushing TDs) and Onterio McCalebb (532 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 4 rushing TDs), WR Emory Blake (505 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 5 receiving TDs), and TE Philip Lutzenkirchen (238 receiving yards, 9.9/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) led the Tigers’ offense. Auburn hauled in thirteen-4 star recruits last season, including RB Quan Bray, WR Jaylon Denson, QB Kiehl Frazier, TE Brandon Fulse, RB re Mason, and OL Christian Westerman, and one-5 star (LB Kris Frost). 2012 is looking promising for Auburn’s recruiting class, as they have verbal commits from ten-4 stars (DB Joshua Holsey, OL Will LAtu, WR Ricardo Louis, TE Ricky Parks, QB Zeke Pike, and WR JaQuay Williams) and one-5 star (RB T.J. Yeldon). Auburn will play Clemson, McNeese State, Alabama A&M, and Louisiana-Monroe in non-conference; McNeese State and Alabama A&M are FCS teams, so the Tigers will need to get to seven wins to be bowl eligible in 2012. Auburn will have road tests against Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi State, and home tests against Georgia, Arkansas, and LSU. Because of how weak Auburn’s non-conference schedule is, Auburn has a great shot at topping this season’s seven wins, in 2012.
Wins: Utah State (42-38); #16 Mississippi State* (41-34); Florida Atlantic (30-14); @ #10 South Carolina* (16-13); Florida* (17-6); Ole Miss* (41-23); Samford (35-16).
Losses: @ Clemson (24-38); @ #10 Arkansas* (14-38); @ #1 LSU* (10-45); @ #15 Georgia* (7-45); #2 Alabama* (14-42).
Current Grade: C+.
Florida – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 334.17 yards/game; 102nd.
Run Offense: 144.00 yards/game; 75th. Pass Offense: 190.20 yards/game; 87th.
Total Defense: 299.58 yards/game; 9th.
Run Defense: 132.33 yards/game; 40th. Pass Defense: 167.25 yards/game; 9th.
Notes: Earlier this year, I said Florida was the classic team that could have benefitted from scheduling a tough team in non-conference play. While the Gators could have benefited from tougher competition in preparation for 2012, a tougher non-conference schedule would likely have resulted in Florida not being bowl eligible. Florida averaged 40.25 points/game in their first four games, but averaged only 18.25 points/game in their last eight games (and that includes dropping 54 on Furman). Florida is now in their 25th straight bowl game, in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Ohio State. QB John Brantley (1912 passing yards, 58.9% completion, 10 passing TDs, but 6 INTs), All-purpose Chris Rainey (1140 total yards, 5.1/carry, and 4 total TDs), RB Jeff Demps (539 rushing yards, 5.9/carry, and 6 rushing TDs), and WR Andre Debose (423 receiving yards, 28.2/catch, and 4 receiving TDs) led Florida offensively. Despite the coaching transition last season, Florida still ranked in the top half in recruiting in the SEC, pulling in eleven-4 stars, including QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Mike Blakely, QB Jeff Driskel, TE A.C. Leonard, WR Javares McRoy, WR Ja’Juan Story, and OL Trip Thurman. Right now, the Gators are in the top third of the SEC in recruiting for 2012, with one-5 star (OL D.J. Humphries) and ten-4 stars (RB Matt Jones, WR Latroy Pittman, TE Kent Taylor, and TE Colin Thompson) as verbal recruits. Florida plays Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, and at Florida State in non-conference play. They have tough home games against Auburn, LSU and South Carolina; and a tough road game against Tennessee. The Gators also play Georgia in Jacksonville. Worst-case scenario is Florida matches the six-win total of 2011, in 2012. Florida is a dark horse candidate to return to the SEC Championship in 2012; Florida should easily improve in the win total, next season.
Wins: Florida Atlantic (41-3); UAB (39-0); Tennessee* (33-23); @ Kentucky* (48-10); Vanderbilt* (26-21); Furman (54-32).
Losses: #3 Alabama* (10-38); @ #1 LSU* (11-41); @ #24 Auburn* (6-17); vs. #22 Georgia* (20-24); @ #13 South Carolina* (12-17); Florida State (7-21).
Current Grade: C-.
Georgia – Projected Record: (9-3); Actual Record: (10-3)
Total Offense: 413.85 yards/game; 39th.
Run Offense: 172.69 yards/game; 41st. Pass Offense: 241.20 yards/game; 49th.
Total Defense: 268.46 yards/game; 3rd.
Run Defense: 103.38 yards/game; 9th. Pass Defense: 165.08 yards/game; 7th.
Notes: After opening the season 0-2, Coach Mark Richt was officially on the hot seat. Georgia fans were prepared for the worst, another 500 season and another season with not being competitive in the already weaker SEC East. Georgia then rattled off ten straight wins, clinching the SEC East Title, and setting up a showdown with #1 LSU in the SEC Championship. In fact, the only time LSU trailed at halftime was against Georgia, 10-7. LSU outscored the Bulldogs 35-0 in the second half, taking the SEC Championship. Despite the SEC Championship loss, Georgia fans should be thrilled with their season; they will now meet #17 Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. QB Aaron Murray (2861 passing yards, 58.8% completion, 35 total TDs, but 12 INTs), RB Isaiah Crowell (847 rushing yards, 4.7/carry, and 6 total TDs), freshman WR Malcolm Mitchell (614 receiving yards, 16.2/catch, and 4 rushing TDs), WR Tavarres King (472 receiving yards, 11.8/catch, and 7 receiving TDs), and TE Orson Charles (572 receiving yards, 13.0/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) led Georgia. Georgia has been among the tops in recruiting in the SEC and the country. Last year, the Bulldogs had two-5 star recruits (RB Isaiah Crowell and DE Ray Drew) and twelve-4 star recruits (including, QB Christian LeMay, TE Jay Rome, WR Justin Scott-Wesley, and WR Malcolm Mitchell). In their 2012 class, Georgia has one-5 star (OL John Theus) and three-4 star (DE Leonard Floyd, DT Jonathan Taylor, and WR Blake Tibbs) verbal commits, with plenty of room in their class, still. Georgia has non-conference dates with Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, and rival Georgia Tech, all at home. Georgia faces tough tests at South Carolina, Alabama, and Auburn; Georgia hosts a key game against Tennessee and meets Florida in Jacksonville. Aaron Murray can go pro, but will likely return to Athens for his junior season. Assuming Murray returns, consider Georgia to be a favorite to win the East Division. Despite being considered a favorite, don’t expect Georgia to get to ten wins next season; the schedule is tougher in the SEC, next year.
Wins: Coastal Carolina (59-0); @ Ole Miss* (27-13); Mississippi State* (24-10); @ Tennessee* (20-12); @ Vanderbilt* (33-28); vs. Florida* (24-20); New Mexico State (63-16); #20 Auburn* (45-7); Kentucky* (19-10); @ #23 Georgia Tech (31-17).
Losses: vs. #5 Boise State (21-35); #12 South Carolina* (42-45); vs. #1 LSU* (10-42).
Current Grade: B+.
Kentucky – Projected Record: (6-6); Actual Record: (5-7)
Total Offense: 259.75 yards/game; 118th.
Run Offense: 124.17 yards/game; 91st. Pass Offense: 135.60 yards/game; 114th.
Total Defense: 377.00 yards/game; 58th.
Run Defense: 183.17 yards/game; 87th. Pass Defense: 193.83 yards/game; 20th.
Notes: If you’ve followed Kentucky football lately, you know the recipe for success since 2006 – 4 non-conference wins, a win over Vanderbilt (except 2008), and at least one other conference win. Kentucky failed to follow that recipe for “success”, going 3-1 in non-conference, defeating Ole Miss AND Tennessee, but failing to defeat either Vanderbilt or Louisville. Kentucky hasn’t been home for the bowl season since 2005. Kentucky struggled offensively this year, averaging 15.8/game, good for 117th in the nation. QB Maxwell Smith (819 passing yards, 54.9% completion, 4 passing TDs, but 4 INTs), WR La’Rod King (598 receiving yards, 15.0/catch, and 7 receiving TDs), RB CoShik Williams (486 rushing yards, 4.1/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) led the ‘Cats. Kentucky has been in the bottom third of the SEC in recruiting under Coach Joker Phillips, pulling in only one-4 star recruit, TE Alex Smith, in 2010. Kentucky’s only 4 star recruit in 2011 was DB Glenn Faulkner, also brought in starting QB, and 3 star, Maxwell Smith. Kentucky’s 2012 class is fairly full, and they only have one-4 star verbal recruit, DT Thomas Chapman. Kentucky has non-conference tilts at Louisville, and home stands against Kent State, Western Kentucky, and Samford in 2012. Kentucky faces winnable home contests against South Carolina and Vanderbilt; they have winnable road contests against Mississippi State and Tennessee. In order to improve upon this year’s record, Kentucky will have to get back to their recipe for “success;” Kentucky does not play Ole Miss, and most of their winnable conference games are on the road. Unless they get more consistent QB play, Kentucky will be lucky to match their 2011 win total, in 2012.
Wins: vs. Western Kentucky (14-3); Central Michigan (27-13); Jacksonville State (38-14); Ole Miss* (30-13); Tennessee* (10-7).
Losses: Louisville (17-24); #15 Florida (10-48); @ #1 LSU (7-35); @ #18 South Carolina (3-54); Mississippi State* (16-28); @ Vanderbilt* (8-38); @ #14 Georgia* (10-19).
Current Grade: D.
LSU – Projected Record: (10-2); Actual Record: (13-0)
Total Offense: 375.31 yards/game; 75th.
Run Offense: 215.15 yards/game; 17th. Pass Offense: 160.20 yards/game; 105th.
Total Defense: 252.08 yards/game; 2nd.
Run Defense: 85.46 yards/game; 3rd. Pass Defense: 166.62 yards/game; 8th.
Notes: LSU is averaging 38.5 points/game, yet are ranked near the bottom in total offense and passing yards. The defense has led the way, giving up an average of 10.5 points/game, 2nd in the country. LSU has defeated FIVE top 25 teams, including THREE top 10 teams! Since 2001, LSU has had seven seasons of at least ten wins. After knocking off #2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, LSU has outscored opponents 177-39, including defeating two top 20 foes. LSU, after trailing 10-7 at halftime in the SEC Championship, knocked off #14 Georgia. #1 LSU will now face #2 Alabama in the Allstate BCS National Championship, in what could be viewed as more of a home game for LSU, than for Alabama. QBs Jordan Jefferson (932 total yards, 60.2% completion, and 9 total TDs) and Jarrett Lee (1306 passing yards, 62.3% completion, and 14 passing TDs), WR Reuben Randle (904 receiving yards, 18.1/catch, and 8 receiving TDs), RBs Spencer Ware (700 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 8 rushing TDs), Alfred Blue (539 rushing yards, 6.9/carry, and 7 rushing TDs) and Michael Ford (755 rushing yards, 6.1/carry, and 7 rushing TDs) led LSU this season. LSU has had recruiting classes ranked high nationally, and easily in the top third of the Sec; in 2010, LSU had one-5 star (RB Spencer Ware) and fifteen-4 star recruits (including WR Kadron Boone, RB Jakhari Gore, QB Zach Lee, DB Tyrann Mathieu, ATH Tharold Simon, and WR James Wright). LSU picked up three-5 stars in 2011 (OL La’El Collins, DT Anthony Johnson, and WR Jarvis Landry), adding in nine-4 stars (WR Odell Beckham Jr., RB Kenny Hilliard, QB Zach Mettenberger, QB Jerrard Randall, and DE Jermauria Rasco), as well. To date, LSU has twelve-4 star recruits verbally committed, including WR Travin Dural, DE Ronnie Feist, WR Avery Johnson, DE Danielle Hunter, and OL Patrick Miller. LSU’s non-conference schedule in 2012 is notably easier, playing North Texas, Washington, Idaho, and Towson. LSU hosts a tough game against Alabama; the Tigers will travel to Auburn, Arkansas, and Florida. Expecting LSU to match a perfect season next year in a tough conference may be too much to ask. Don’t expect LSU to run the table in the regular in 2012, again.
Wins: vs. #3 Oregon (40-27); Northwestern State (49-3); @ #25 Mississippi State* (19-6); @ #16 West Virginia (47-21); Kentucky* (35-7); #17 Florida* (41-11); @ Tennessee* (38-7); #20 Auburn* (45-10); @ #2 Alabama* (9-6 OT); Western Kentucky (42-9); @ Ole Miss* (52-3); #3 Arkansas* (41-17); vs. #14 Georgia* (42-10).
Current Grade: A+.
Mississippi State – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 355.08 yards/game; 87th.
Run Offense: 168.83 yards/game; 45th. Pass Offense: 186.30 yards/game; 92nd.
Total Defense: 355.92 yards/game; 43rd.
Run Defense: 161.00 yards/game; 65th. Pass Defense: 194.92 yards/game; 23rd.
Notes: If not for the non-conference slate, Mississippi State would be home for the holidays. In the non-conference games, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents by an average of 40-14. In conference play, they were outscored by an average of 23-18. Mississippi State’s thrashing of rival Ole Miss made the Bulldogs bowl eligible for back-to-back years, for the first time since 1999-2000. Mississippi State will play Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. QBs Chris Relf (1083 passing yards, 59.6% completion, 9 passing TDs, but 7 INTs) and Tyler Russell (1034 passing yards, 53.5% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 4 INTs) split time for the Bulldogs under center this year. The Bulldogs have been led by RB Vick Ballard (1009 rushing yards, 5.6/carry, and 8 rushing TDs) and WRs Chad Bumphis (342 receiving yards, 14.3/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) and Arceto Clark (404 receiving yards, 14.4/catch, and 3 receiving TDs). Coach Dan Mullin is in his third season in Starkville and is rumored as the top choice for Penn State as their next head coach. Mullin’s Bulldogs have been in the bottom half of the SEC in recruiting rankings, but he has had the most of his talent and schedule, now making a bowl game in two of his three years there, despite having Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU in the same division with them. Mississippi State brought in five-4 star recruits in the 2010 class: DT James Carmon, ATH Michael Carr, DE Kaleb Eulls, and WR Robert Johnson. In 2011, the Bulldogs added another 4 star, DT P.J. Jones. They have two verbal commits as 4 stars for the 2012 class, DT Quay Evans and ATH Will Redmond. Mississippi State still has one non-conference game left to put on their schedule, but they will open with Jackson State, at Troy, and South Alabama next season. The Bulldogs face winnable games against Kentucky and Auburn at home; they play Ole Miss on the road. Without knowing Mississippi State’s full schedule and whether Mullin will be on campus, speculating to the Bulldogs’ success is tough. Six wins is a good start, though.
Wins: @ Memphis (59-14); Louisiana Tech (26-20); @ UAB (21-3); @ Kentucky* (28-16); Tennessee-Martin (55-17); Ole Miss* (31-3).
Losses: @ Auburn* (34-41); #3 LSU* (6-19); @ Georgia* (10-24); #15 South Carolina* (12-14); #3 Alabama* (7-24); @ #6 Arkansas* (17-44).
Current Grade: C-.
Ole Miss – Projected Record: (6-6); Actual Record: (2-10)
Total Offense: 281.25 yards/game; 114th.
Run Offense: 129.58 yards/game; 84th. Pass Offense: 151.70 yards/game; 107th.
Total Defense: 419.33 yards/game; 89th.
Run Defense: 224.92 yards/game; 111th. Pass Defense: 194.42 yards/game; 21st.
Notes: As a result of one of Ole Miss’s worst seasons, Coach Houston Nutt was shown the door. Ole Miss has hired Arkansas State Coach Hugh Freeze to take over in Oxford. Freeze was a former Ole Miss assistant and a Mississippi native. Ole Miss has missed bowl games in five of the last seven years. QB Randall Mackey (1112 passing yards, 49.7% completion, 7 passing TDs, but 5 INTs), RBs Jeff Scott (529 rushing yards, 4.6/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and Brandon Bolden (472 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 4 rushing TDs), and freshman WR Donte Moncrief (454 receiving yards, 14.6/catch, and 4 receiving TDs) led the Rebs. Under Houston Nutt, Ole Miss was no higher than 7th in the SEC in recruiting rankings, but they did pick up a 5 star in 2011, LB C.J. Johnson. If the Rebels want to be competitive with the SEC West, they will need to start picking up the recruiting. So far, Ole Miss has verbal commitments from two-4 stars for 2012: RB I’Tavius Mathers and OL Jake Meador. Ole Miss has non-conference games against Central Arkansas, UTEP, Texas, and at Tulane. Ole Miss has winnable conference home games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State; they face, potentially, no winnable games on the road (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and LSU; teams were a combined 44-6 this year). Ole Miss should improve upon their two wins in 2012, especially with Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Tulane on the schedule. Beyond that, Ole Miss may extend their SEC winless streak to 22 games.
Wins: Southern Illinois (42-24); @ Fresno State (38-28).
Losses: BYU (13-14); @ Vanderbilt* (7-30); Georgia* (13-27); #2 Alabama* (7-52); #9 Arkansas* (24-29); @ #23 Auburn* (23-41); @ Kentucky* (13-30); Louisiana Tech (7-27); #1 LSU* (3-52); @ Mississippi State* (3-31).
Current Grade: F.
South Carolina – Projected Record: (9-3); Actual Record: (10-2)
Total Offense: 375.42 yards/game; 74th.
Run Offense: 198.00 yards/game; 26th. Pass Offense: 177.40 yards/game; 97th.
Total Defense: 268.92 yards/game; 4th.
Run Defense: 135.92 yards/game; 45th. Pass Defense: 133.00 yards/game; 2nd.
Notes: South Carolina has back-to-back nine or more win seasons for the first time in program history. South Carolina entered the season as the favorite to win the SEC East, and even beat the East Divisional winner Georgia, but had to play two of the tougher West Division opponents, which Georgia avoided. The Gamecocks last won ten games in 1984; they can exceed that with a bowl game victory. The Capital One Bowl pairs #9 South Carolina and #20 Nebraska. QB Connor Shaw (1218 passing yards, 65.5% completion, 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs), RB Marcus Lattimore (818 rushing yards, 5.0/carry, and 11 total TDs) and WRs Alshon Jeffrey (614 receiving yards, 13.6/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) and Ace Sanders (338 receiving yards, 13.0/catch, and 2 receiving TDs). South Carolina has been in the middle to bottom part of the SEC in recruiting; in 2010, the ‘Cocks picked up one-5 star (RB Marcus Lattimore) and four-4 star recruits (OL A.J. Cann, LB Toquavius Gilchrist, DB Victor Hampton, and WR Ace Sanders). Last year, South Carolina picked up one-5 star (DE Jadeveon Clowney) and six-4 fours (WR Damiere Byrd, DT Phillip Dukes, DT Kelcy Quarles, DB Sheldon Royster, OL Brandon Shell, and DB Brison Williams). The Gamecocks have five-4 stars verbally committed for 2012: ATH Jerell Adams, WR Jody Fuller, OL Joe Harris, WR Shaq Roland, and OL Brock Stadnik. South Carolina faces UAB, Wofford, East Carolina, and Clemson (road game) in non-conference play. The Gamecocks will have tough tests at home against Arkansas and Georgia, with a road test against Florida. South Carolina has two conference games left to be announced, so its tough to speculate as to a win total. With a healthy Lattimore and Shaw having a year’s experience, expect South Carolina to make a strong run at the SEC East Division title.
Wins: vs. East Carolina (56-37); @ Georgia* (45-42); Navy (24-21); Vanderbilt* (21-3); Kentucky* (54-3); @ Mississippi State* (14-12); @ Tennessee* (14-3); Florida* (17-12); The Citadel (41-20); #17 Clemson (34-13).
Losses: Auburn* (13-16); @ #7 Arkansas* (28-44).
Current Grade: A-.
Tennessee – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (5-7)
Total Offense: 322.67 yards/game; 103rd.
Run Offense: 90.08 yards/game; 116th. Pass Offense: 242.60 yards/game; 28th.
Total Defense: 344 yards/game; 32nd.
Run Defense: 162.67 yards/game; 69th. Pass Defense: 177.83 yards/game; 12th.
Notes: Tennessee has missed a bowl game for the second time in four years, matching their 2008 record. The last time Tennessee had back-to-back losing seasons, it was 1909-1910! Tennessee suffered through numerous injuries this season to the QB, RB, and WR positions, just to name a few. QB Tyler Bray (1983 passing yards, 59.5% completion, and 17 passing TDs), RB Tauren Poole (693 rushing yards, 3.7/carry, and 5 rushing TDs), WRs Da’Rick Rogers (1040 receiving yards, 15.5/catch, and 9 receiving TDs) and Justin Hunter (314 receiving yards, 18.5/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) led the Vols offensively. Tennessee has been in the top half of recruiting in the SEC lately, including 2010, picking up one-5 star (WR Da’Rick Rogers) and twelve-4 stars (including, RB Rajion Neal, WR Matt Milton, WR Ted Meline, WR Justin Hunter, and QB Tyler Bray); there were twelve-4 stars that committed to the orange and white in 2011, including, WR DeAnthony Arnett, OL Cameron Clear, RB Marlin Lane, LB Curt Maggitt, and OL Antonio Richardson. Tennessee has eight-4 star verbal commits for 2012, like, WR Drae Bowles, WR Jason Croom, QB Nathan Peterman, and LB Otha Peters. Tennessee has non-conference matchups against North Carolina State (@ Atlanta, GA), Georgia State, Akron, and Troy in 2012. Tennessee has winnable games at Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The Vols will host winnable games against Kentucky and Florida. Tennessee will top five wins in 2012 and will be bowl eligible.
Wins: Montana (42-16); Cincinnati (45-23); Buffalo (41-10); Middle Tennessee (24-0); Vanderbilt* (27-21 OT).
Losses: @ #16 Florida* (23-33); Georgia* (12-20); #1 LSU* (7-38); @ #2 Alabama* (6-37); #13 South Carolina* (3-14); @ #8 Arkansas* (7-49); @ Kentucky* (7-10).
Current Grade: D+.
Vanderbilt – Projected Record: (3-9); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 342.75 yards/game; 97th.
Run Offense: 167.58 yards/game; 47th. Pass Offense: 175.20 yards/game; 98th.
Total Defense: 324.58 yards/game; 19th.
Run Defense: 123.00 yards/game; 27th. Pass Defense: 201.58 yards/game; 33rd.
Notes: After starting the season 3-0 and outscoring opponents an average of 33-14, Vanderbilt lost five of their next six games. With the Commodores first loss, to South Carolina, Coach James Franklin turned the keys of the offense over to Jordan Rodgers, against Alabama. Rodgers is now 3-5 as a starter, but is the reason why Vanderbilt is to their first bowl game since 2008, when Jay Cutler was under center. Vanderbilt will face Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. QB Jordan Rodgers (1498 passing yards, 51.5% completion, 13 total TDs, but 9 INTs), RBs Zac Stacy (1136 rushing yards, 6.2/carry, and 13 rushing TDs) and Jerron Seymour (263 rushing yards, 3.2/carry, and 4 rushing TDs), and WRs Jordan Matthews (722 receiving yards, 19.5/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) and freshman Chris Boyd (404 receiving yards, 13.9/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) led the ‘Dores offensively. The year before Coach Franklin arrived in Nashville, Vanderbilt was last in the SEC in recruiting (3 star QB Jordan Rodgers and 4 star RB Rajaan Bennett signed); his first year was the same, garnering no 4 stars. To date, Vanderbilt is nearly in the top half of the SEC in recruiting, including four-4 star verbal commits: DE Caleb Azubike, DE Josh Dawson, RB Brian Kimbrow, and WR Andre McDonald. Vanderbilt’s non-conference schedule in 2012 is workable: Presbyterian, at Northwestern, Massachusetts, and at Wake Forest; because Massachusetts will be a MAC conference member, the Commodores will only need six wins to be bowl eligible. Vanderbilt hosts winnable conference games against Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina; they have winnable conference road games against Ole Miss and Kentucky. Assuming Vanderbilt sweeps their non-conference slate, they will need to pick up at least two wins in conference; if they go 3-1 in non-conference, they need at least three conference wins. Vanderbilt has a very good chance at it least getting to six wins, again, in 2012, and putting together back-to-back seasons of at least six wins, for the first time since 1974-1975!
Wins: Elon (45-14); Connecticut (24-21); Ole Miss* (30-7); Army (44-21); Kentucky* (38-8); @ Wake Forest (41-7).
Losses: @ #12 South Carolina* (3-21); @ #2 Alabama* (0-34); Georgia* (28-33); #10 Arkansas* (28-31); @ Florida* (21-26); @ Tennessee* (21-27 OT).
Current Grade: B.