The final weekend of the regular season has come and gone in college football and in the SEC. Their 14 teams have posted their final records, with nine earning bowl eligibility, while two are left standing to meet in Atlanta this weekend for the SEC Championship.
1. Georgia Bulldogs – 12-0
Surprise, surprise – Georgia find itself as the top dog once again with a season-long run at No. 1 in this rating. They earned that by finishing the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year and by pushing their winning streak to 29 straight games.
Georgia Tech was just the third team this year to keep it within single digits with the Bulldogs as Georgia may have been looking ahead to the conference title game. Nonetheless, their unblemished run still felt hardly in doubt against the Yellow Jackets and, in the end, they maintained it in their first of two trips to Atlanta over the course of a week.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide – 11-1
For whatever reason, Jordan-Hare is a place that causes chaos for Alabama. The Crimson Tide were seemingly on the wrong side of the environment on The Plains again as Auburn was within grasp of ruining their rivals hopes for the College Football Playoff.
Then, as so often happens in the Iron Bowl, magic happened. After a muffed punt gave them possession again, QB Jalen Milroe hoisted up a prayer, otherwise known as the ‘Gravedigger’, on 4th & 31 and connected with Isaiah Bond to give ‘Bama the miraculous, 27-24 victory over the Tigers.
3. LSU Tigers – 9-3
LSU had a very similar finish to what they did a season ago. After losing three games, there’s no consideration for them to make the College Football Playoff but, with the loss to Alabama this year, they don’t have the opportunity to at least play for the SEC Championship this time around
Still, the Tigers’ three losses are more than respectable as they’ve come against current Top-15 opponents. They’ve also closed the season on a 6-1 streak, including last weekend’s 42-30 win over Texas A&M, behind the nation’s top offense and a push for The Heisman Trophy by QB Jayden Daniels.
4. Missouri Tigers – 10-2
Missouri has been the surprise of this season for everyone in the league outside of CoMo. The Tigers blew their season win total out of the water with their first campaign with double-digit victories since 2014 – an accomplishment they reached with their 34-point win over Arkansas in the The Battle Line Rivalry.
Behind Brady Cook, Cody Schrader, Luther Burden, Mizzou has posted what’s by far their best campaign under Eli Drinkwitz. Now, with a likely Top-10 finish nationally, they have a very good shot at making the cut for making a New Year’s Six Bowl as they look for their first postseason win in almost a decade.
5. Ole Miss Rebels – 10-2
With their 17-7 win in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss secured their second 10-win season over the past three years. Their finish is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Rebels’ only two losses came on the road against the to teams that will play for the conference crown in Georgia and Alabama.
Lane Kiffin has brought a lot of energy and success to The ‘Sip over his four seasons. He’ll now be looking for a prime postseason opportunity for his program and their second bowl win in his time in Oxford.
6. Tennessee Volunteers – 8-4 (+1)
Coming into the season, those on Rocky Top expected to find themselves in that 9-3, 10-2, or better range. Still, at 8-4, this is just their fifth finish with eight wins or more over the past 16 years.
Losses in The Swamp and a 29-point loss at Mizzou held them back from reaching their potential heights. However, with the right perspective, there’s still a lot to be encouraged about when it comes to the Volunteers based on what they did this season with their third place finish in the SEC East and where they’re headed moving forward.
7. Kentucky Wildcats – 7-5 (+3)
The excitement in the bluegrass was almost snuffed out by a near breakup between UK and Mark Stoops. Since he’ll remain in Lexington, though, Kentucky feels much better than they were feeling as they enter their eight consecutive bowl appearance.
8. Texas A&M Aggies – 7-5 (-2)
With another season that finished below expectations in College Station, change finally came at Texas A&M. It started with the firing of Jimbo Fisher and, over the past 24 to 48 hours, the hire of Mike Elko as their next head coach.
The Aggies lost four of their five games to current Top-25 opponents that finished higher than them in this ranking. Now, the task at hand for A&M after their bowl game is finding a way to prove that they belong in that upper echelon of the league.
9. Auburn Tigers – 6-6 (+3)
Let’s be honest – Auburn should probably be entering this ranking as a winner after securing their seventh victory in The Iron Bowl. Instead, due to the stunning finish by Alabama, the Tigers closed the season at 6-6
Still, even so, Auburn was able to move up three spots just for their effort against the Crimson Tide. While the losses to New Mexico State and ‘Bama were anything but ideal, the program was already bowl eligible and has a chance to finish showing progress with a postseason win under Hugh Freeze.
10. Florida Gators – 5-7 (-2)
Had Florida had their starting quarterback, they may have had enough juice to close out an upset over Florida State this weekend. However, with an offense that sputtered in the second half, their season ended with a 24-15 loss to the Seminoles.
The Gators must now be kicking themselves as a five-game losing streak to end the year will keep them out of the postseason. The question now is how the program responds to this finish and how it could impact their future under Billy Napier.
11. South Carolina Gamecocks – 5-7 (-2)
South Carolina is another team that disappointed over the course of this fall. The Gamecocks did make a run at a bowl berth that would have salvaged their season with three wins in their final four.
Even so, their 2-6 start was too much to overcome as their loss to Clemson this weekend put the nail in their coffin. That leaves it up to Shane Beamer to bounce back next season and prove that the third of his three seasons in Columbia was a fluke compared to the other two.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs – 5-7 (-1)
Mississippi State seems to have been doomed from the start with Zach Arnett not even getting to complete his first season in Starkville. A 4-6 record at the time, though, and a 5-7 finish is all that they needed to see in order to make a decision on a reset.
13. Arkansas Razorbacks – 4-8
A six-game losing streak and a 2-8 finish in Fayetteville is going to define the season for Arkansas. It’s hard to tell which is worse, though, as they were at least close during their run of consecutive defeats while their final two losses came by an average of 36 points.
Still, even with that significant regression under Sam Pittman, he’s going to get another opportunity with the ‘Hogs next fall and will need to be much better after finishing tied for last in the division and posting the second worst record in the SEC this season.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores – 2-10
For the fourth straight season, Vanderbilt finished last in the SEC. They were dead last in the SEC East by three games and posted the worst overall record in the league by two games with a 2-10 finish overall.
After starting 2-0, the Commodores closed their season on a 10-game losing streak where they lost by an average of 20.1 points per game. Although they managed to go 5-7, with two coming in conference play, last fall, Vandy took a clear step back in their third season under Clark Lea.
In the final year of the 14-team version of the SEC, there were storylines across the conference and in each division. Now, from here, all that’s left to do is see how the postseason plays out for the league and find out if the Southeastern Conference will bring home a fifth straight national title.