Okay, okay, it’s time to call my own ass out. I made my preseason picks and now I have to live with them. It’s time for my annual modest attempt at keeping myself accountable.
As always, schools are listed in the same order as they were in the preseason post, with this season’s won-loss totals.
[Ed. note: Please read that last sentence again, carefully, before you blast me in the comments for not agreeing with the order of presentation. You’ll save us both a lot of time. Thanks!]
ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1)
- What I said: Did you ever see Groundhog Day? Nothing changes under Saban.
- How I did: Close, but no ceegar. It turns out even Alabama can have enough injuries to expose depth problems. Who knew?
- Final grade: B+
AUBURN (10-3, 7-1)
- What I said: If you believe the Stidham hype, Auburn is going to have a great season. I’m a little skeptical because of the small sample size and because of the change at offensive coordinator. On the other hand, the Tigers looked better on defense last season than I thought they would under Steele, so I expect the losses they suffered on the d-line won’t affect them too adversely. That being said, Gus has proven he doesn’t do as well when big things are expected at Auburn. Add it all up, and it comes to nine wins.
- How I did: It took a little while for Stidham to get untracked, but when he did, so did Auburn. I have to give Gus credit for going against type, too. If Auburn beats UCF in the bowl game, that means the Tigers will have beaten three ranked undefeated foes in the same season.
- Final grade: B+
LSU (9-3, 6-2)
- What I said: On paper, there’s a lot to like: talent in many places and two well thought of coordinators, for starters. So why does it feel like some cracks are starting to show? Part of it’s probably due to Orgeron’s ceiling as a head coach. The extra SEC road game doesn’t help, either. It looks like another eight-win season from here.
- How I did: The Tigers won a game more than I thought they would, but lost to Troy. I’d call that a draw.
- Final grade: B+
TEXAS A&M (7-5, 4-4)
- What I said: Sumlin’s looking at more hot seat talk. The real issue for TAMU is that while he’s a good in-game coach, he’s clearly not as good at talent evaluation and signing as Mike Sherman was. The Aggies get Alabama and Auburn at home, which can’t hurt, but that last three quarters of the schedule looks like a real grind. It’s hard to see them notch more wins in 2017 than they did in 2016.
- How I did: They dropped one more game than they did the previous season. Then they dropped Sumlin.
- Final grade: B+
ARKANSAS (4-8, 1-7)
- What I said: Is this the SEC’s most meh team? It’s not that the Hogs are outright bad; it’s just that it’s hard to see much to get excited about. Seven wins again sounds about right.
- How I did: I predicted mediocrity and got bad instead.
- Final grade: D
MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)
- What I said: Mullen is an excellent quarterbacks coach and Fitzgerald is his latest success story. Grantham is an improvement at defensive coordinator; unfortunately he doesn’t have much to work with. The middle part of the schedule is a weekly grind. There is also the question of whether the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss winds up ensnaring the Bulldogs, or at least diverting some attention to the season. This season looks like another fight for bowl eligibility.
- How I did: I underestimated this team, or maybe I overestimated the quality of the SEC West. In the end, same difference.
- Final Grade: D+
OLE MISS (6-6, 3-5)
- Outlook: Man, what a mess. I figure there’s about a 20% chance of the team rallying with an “us against the world” attitude and about an 80% chance things snowball quickly as the schedule toughens. The Egg Bowl ought to be fun, though. Even if the Rebels were bowl-eligible, they wouldn’t be going.
- How I did: The 20% chance hit. The Egg Bowl was fun. They aren’t going to a bowl game.
- Final grade: C+
FLORIDA (4-7, 3-5)
- What I said: McElwain is two-for-two in division titles, which is particularly impressive given the personnel flaws on offense he’s had to manage around. He faces different challenges in 2017, though. The offense ought to be better on the o-line, at receiver and at running back, while the defense has suffered significant losses at every level. The schedule helps, but this is a team that could go south in a hurry if injuries mount. If that can be avoided, the East being weak should keep the Gators in contention. In that regard, it helps that the two toughest games on the schedule are against non-conference opponents. (Not to mention the Gators have five home conference games.) I’ll say nine wins for now.
- How I did: Oof. Didn’t see the wheels coming off this particular wagon the way they did. One of my bigger whiffs.
- Final grade: D-
TENNESSEE (4-8, 0-8)
- What I said: Boy, did I whiff on last year’s prediction that Shoop was the best offseason hire in the SEC. The Vols’ disappointing 2017 season can be blamed on several things, but the defense was a major contributor. It’s hard to see the losses in the offensive backfield and Barnett being replaced without a hitch. This season has the feel of a reboot. Eight wins, if they get some breaks; otherwise, seven seems likely.
- How I did: The Vols were so far off from my expectations that they made me look like Nostradamus when it came to Florida.
- Final grade: F
GEORGIA (12-1, 7-1)
- What I said: On paper, this is a team that should win at least nine games and the SEC East. As last year’s Nicholls game indicated, though, Georgia often doesn’t play on paper. The rising talent base fueled by two excellent recruiting classes should fix the problem areas; the question is how long it takes. If the offensive line gels early on, the season shapes up quite favorably. I’ll say nine regular season wins and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
- How I did: What can I say? I was pleasantly surprised.
- Final grade: B
KENTUCKY (7-5, 4-4)
- What I said: There’s a lot of “if this team wore Florida’s or Georgia’s uniforms, they’d be taken as a serious division contender” talk for the Wildcats. But they don’t, and that’s because it’s hard for a perennial doormat to take that next big step. That being said, there is a fair amount to like about UK, as Stoops has done a good job upgrading the talent base. I don’t think the ‘Cats slide and may actually add a win to last year’s total.
- How I did: Came out where I expected, but that may be more attributable to the weakness of the division than Kentucky’s quality.
- Final grade: A-
VANDERBILT (5-7, 1-7)
- What I said: Derek Mason knows how to coach defense. That’s good, because losing Zach Cunningham hurts. Vandy starts at a talent disadvantage against the rest of the conference and this year’s schedule doesn’t help. If the ‘Dores make it back to six wins, Mason’s done a good job.
- How I did: It looked early on like Mason was on his way to exceeding expectations, but then his team imploded. The big surprise was how much the ‘Dores regressed defensively. This was not a good season.
- Final grade: C
SOUTH CAROLINA (8-4, 5-3)
- What I said: Although the talent situation is less dire than Spurrier left it, there are still a lot of holes on the roster. Muschamp did a respectable job managing last year’s team to bowl eligibility. A respectable job this year might mean another win.
- How I did: Helped by divisional mediocrity, Boom did a better than respectable job.
- Final grade: C-
MISSOURI (7-5, 4-4)
- What I said: The offense was okay last year. The defense was abysmal. The offense will probably be better with another year under its belt. If the defense shows even modest improvement, the Tigers should be bowl eligible, especially with that non-conference schedule. It’ll be close, but I think they’ll get to six wins.
- How I did: It took a while to kick in, but the defense stabilized in time for Mizzou to rattle off wins in its last six games.
- Final grade: B+
Overall, it felt like I was about as mediocre with my picks as the conference was with its results. How did your expectations turn out?