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:
|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:
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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:
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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.