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SEC Auditing: Crystal Ball, Revisited

Previous Crystal Balls, Revisited:
ACCBig EastBig 12Big TenPac Ten
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Go through the conferences listed above, and none of them hew as near to preseason form as the SEC, where - residual and internal hype aside - even the supposed duds (Alabama, South Carolina) weren't all that disappointing based on where they were actually pegged in August; collectively, they nailed almost half the conference in its exact finish. From the preseason consensus of 18 publications at Stassen.com, from most underrated to most overrated:

SEC Preseason Consensus vs. Eventual Reality
Preseason Actual Finish +/- Rightest Wrongest
Miss. State 6th W T-3rd W (4-4) + 3 Seven 5th Place Picks Eleven 6th Place Picks
Georgia 3rd E T-1st E (6-2) + 2 Three 1st Place Picks Jim Feist, SureFire (4th)
Alabama 4th W T-3rd W (4-4) + 1 Six 3rd Place Picks Four 2nd Place Picks
Kentucky 5th E T-4th E (3-5) + 1 Sixteen 5th Place Picks Four 9th Place Picks
Tennessee 2nd E T-1st E (6-2) + 1 Three 1st Place Picks Phil Steele (T-3rd)
Arkansas 3rd W T-3rd W (4-4) - Six 3rd Place Picks Six 2nd Place Picks
Auburn 2nd W 2nd W (5-3) - Seven 2nd Place Picks P. Steele, SportsForm (4th)
LSU 1st W 1st W (6-2) - Everybody except . . . Jim Feist (2nd)
So. Carolina 4th E T-4th E (3-5) - Fifteen 4th Place Picks Phil Steele (T-1st)
Vanderbilt 6th E 6th E (2-6) - Fourteen 6th Place Picks Three 5th Place Picks
Ole Miss 5th W 6th W (0-8) -1 Seven 6th Place Picks Eleven 5th Place Picks
Florida 1st E 3rd E (5-3) -2 Phil Steele, CFN (3rd) Twelve 1st Place Picks

The surest bets in the SEC were for LSU and against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, which almost everyone hit, but the combination of ties and wide variability among the consensus in general ensured that only Mississippi State and, to a lesser extent, Georgia were really surprises. About the former Bulldogs, like everyone else, this space was completely wrong:

The best that can happen is the `Dogs beats the Conference USA fare, pull an upset somewhere along the way and go into the Egg Bowl hoping to graduate from three wins, where they've been stuck the last three years, to four. If Croom needs to demonstrate a step forward, that's his ticket.
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Or he could lead unlikely upsets of Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama and come from behind in the Egg Bowl and Liberty Bowl and wind up voted coach of the year. Either way.

Dang, coach, sorry. Give a brother a break.
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Elsewhere, though, I was much wronger about the rest of the conference than the consensus: I stayed off the South Carolina bandwagon because of USC's perpetually sorry line play, thank goodness, but jumped on Arkansas' as well as riding Tennesse fourth in the East, Kentucky sixth and Auburn fourth in the West, with strong prejudice against the lackluster Tiger offense:
This team was very close to the edge last year, and fell off in a couple games, both at home, against true freshman quarterbacks. Relatively, though, it probably got off easier than it's likely to with the same kind of problems on offense.
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The offense was as atrocious as expected, maybe moreso - 97th in total offense, 84th in scoring, leading directly to the end of revolutionary West Coast guru Al Borges' stint in the South - but the defense overall rivaled LSU's as the best in the conference and kicked enough ass to finish in the top two in the division for the
fourth year in a row despite its worst record in-conference (5-3) and out (9-4) since 2003, the year the boosters tried to run Tommy Tuberville off in favor of Bobby Petrino. Given the expectations of that very talented team, and the inexperience of this one, it probably won't happen again.

Florida: a disappointment? Hard to argue about a team that finished 13th in the final AP poll, just six positions behind its championship-inflated preseason rank in the top ten. By my own estimation, I had Florida 14th at the start of the season and 9th at the end, so - although UF finished third in the East when I and most everyone else had the Gators repeating as division champ - it's more than Georgia and Tennessee significantly exceeded expectations. Georgia was the last team on my preseason ballot, and Tennessee was not even waiting; they both ended the year in the top ten. Aside from LSU, the totally inexperienced East was a more compelling, competitive race, the exact opposite of what I guessed. Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina missed their best chance to make a significant move; other than Tennessee's new quarterback, the East's Big Three are loaded entering `08.