2. Georgia - if there were any out there who questioned the legitimacy of this Bulldog team, those questions were likely answered. Georgia lost on Saturday night, but the effort put forth was unquestionably championship-caliber. UGA stood toe to toe with the top program in college football and traded punches to the last second of the contest. For the Bulldogs, coming up four yards short of their ultimate goal was a heartbreaking defeat. But going forward, most Georgia fans feel pretty good at the direction the program Mark Richt is taking the program.. The Bulldogs will look to finish strong to put themselves in good position next pre-season with a victory over #16 Nebraska.
3. Florida - For the Gators, a Sugar Bowl bid will be the reward for their fine season in which they accomplished more than most thought they would in a year where their offense struggled at times. Outstanding defensive play and no frills physical run play were the keys to their 11 win season, and in the end, that's what this conference is about. The Gators probably won't be tested by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
4. LSU - Favorites to start the year, the Tigers couldn't quite overcome some of their losses on the defensive side of the ball and achieve the expectations that were set for them. But despite that, still a top 10 team that could beat most teams in the country. Zach Mettenberger has room to improve, which is a plus. Tigers could end the season with positive momentum with a thrashing of Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
5. Texas A&M - It seems almost wrong to put the only team that beat Alabama this low, but somebody has to go here. Aggie fans have to wonder how things would have worked out if they had an easier opponent in week 2 of the season than Florida. Still, remarkable inaugural season for this team and for Johnny Manziel, who is probably a lock to win the Heisman, and the Aggies get to showcase him in the Cotton Bowl versus old foe Oklahoma.
6. South Carolina - Another strong season for Spurrier's Gamecocks, just not quite good enough. A lack of consistency hurt this team more than anything this season. There were times they looked like the best team in the conference and times when they looked like a different team altogether. But again, another top 10 SEC team, 5th in their own conference. Gamecocks could have won two other BCS conferences with this team - just not the SEC. I should note that I'd have the Gamecocks another spot up if they still had Lattimore healthy right now. Without him I have them one spot lower.
7. Vanderbilt - Highlighting the "best of the rest" category are the somewhat surprising Vanderbilt Commodores. James Franklin has earned a rightful share of respect for leading Vandy to an 8-4 victory and the Music City Bowl. He says he'll be at Vandy for a long time - but will bigger names come calling if he keeps this up?
8. Ole Miss - I thought Hugh Freeze should have been seriously considered as coach of the year. Most considered Ole Miss a long shot to win more than 2-3 games this year, and none had them winning any conference games. Yet they finish 6-6, with three SEC wins, an Egg Bowl victory and headed to a bowl game! You've got to respect what they did with what most called a "bare cupboard" in Oxford.
9. Mississippi State - For most Bully fans, this season was a bit unsatisfying. They steamed through the early part of their schedule without much trouble but just didn't look impressive very often in the second half. 8-4 isn't a bad season, but dropping four of their last five games isn't going to make anyone in Starkville feel good about next year.
10. Missouri - Not the campaign the Tigers wanted in year one of the SEC, but a learning experience no doubt. Mizzou has already let their OC resign and will no doubt look to build an offense next year that can keep them competitive in 2013.
11. Arkansas - Hog fans are grateful this season is over and that they can now look forward to seeing what new coach Bret Bielema will have in store for them next year.
12. Tennessee - A disappointing year for Tennessee fans who believe that offensively they'd have enough success to possibly get to 8 wins. Instead, a 5-7 overall record is their result and their shopping for a new coach. Exciting times are ahead though, as all new hires bring with them eager anticipation of what's to come.
13. Auburn - It was shocking how far the mighty fell in such a short time, but that's exactly what happened on the Plains. Auburn Tigers, nat'l champs two years ago now winless in the SEC and 3-9 overall. But, they've kicked out Chizik, and re-called Malzahn. Meet the new boss... same as the old boss?
14. Kentucky - You could really interchange these last two. There was nothing good about UK football in 2012, but Cats fans are all looking forward to the new regime under Mark Stoops to see if he can get them competitive in 2013.
Final Thoughts: It's been pretty crazy just how clearly defined the upper and lower tier of the conference was this season. With very few exceptions, the top six has remained isolated from the lower 8 for the majority of the year. I can't remember a time when there was such a drop-off between the top and the bottom, but I can't remember ever a time when six SEC teams finished the season ranked in the BCS top 10, either.
I appreciate you all taking the time to read and comment on these power rankings throughout the season, I know we've had a lot of fun and heated debate with them. I look forward to doing them again next year.
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Edited by HobnailedBoots, 05 December 2012 - 03:27 PM.