Related: SEC team-by-team recruiting rankings
Here at SDS, we like to call them as we see fit, not necessarily by win-loss record, but by the whole body of work. There’s little doubt who wound up the top two teams, but the real controversy is who finished 3-6.
Remember, ranked wins reflect wins over currently ranked teams.
Related: Final SEC regular season standings
1. Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1):
From 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC to 12-1, SEC Champions and playing for the national championship, Auburn has far surpassed any goal anyone had for them in 2013. The winner of the last four Iron Bowls has won the BCS National Championship, and Auburn gets Florida State next. The Tigers lead the country in averaging over 335 rushing yards per game. Gus Malzahn should be the national coach of the year, let alone the SEC coach of the year. A fantastic season could get even better in January against FSU, a team that has looked dominant throughout the season.
Ranked wins: #21 Texas A&M, #22 Georgia, #3 Alabama, #8 Missouri
Ranked Losses:#16 LSU
Related: AP All-SEC team for 2013
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1)
Alabama’s quest for a three-peat fell short on a miracle missed kick-six return by Auburn’s Chris Davis. The goal for Alabama is national championship or bust every single year, and it’s a testament to what Nick Saban has created. The dynasty is still intact, but Gus Malzahn and Auburn will threaten to rip it apart in the future. The Iron Bowl returns as college football’s best rivalry, and 2013’s will go down as the greatest ever. Alabama’s offense was great this season, but the defense wasn’t as great, particularly in the secondary. Saban has some work to do to recruit specific types of players to combat the hurry-up, no-huddle attack.
Ranked wins: #21 Texas A&M, #16 LSU
Ranked Losses:#2 Auburn
3. Missouri Tigers (11-2, 7-1):
In a season similar to Auburn’s, Missouri made the second biggest turnaround in college football. One of the biggest goals in 2013 was earning respect in the SEC, and I’d say, for the most part, they did earn it. Finishing the regular season 11-1 and beating two quality teams down the stretch in Ole Miss and Texas A&M was a strong finish that cemented them in Atlanta. They just couldn’t stop Auburn’s running game, nor did they try to make any adjustments, which was surprising. The future looks bright for Missouri in 2014, too.
Ranked wins: #22 Georgia, #21 Texas A&M
Ranked Losses:#9 South Carolina, #2 Auburn
4. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2)
Had South Carolina beaten Tennessee, the Gamecocks would have had their shot to play for a national championship. Instead, the loss to Tennessee overshadows another 10-win season for Steve Spurrier at Carolina. Outside of Auburn, Carolina has the SEC’s strongest resume with wins over UCF, Missouri and Clemson, and with a lighter schedule than normal, several thought this was the Gamecocks’ season to put it all together. Still, the future is bright even though Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles are all leaving, and Spurrier isn’t leaving anytime soon.
Ranked wins: #15 UCF, #8 Missouri, #12 Clemson
Ranked Losses: #22 Georgia
Related: SEC bowl game swag
5. Georgia Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3)
Georgia entered 2013 with national championship aspirations, and those fell short for two reasons: lackluster defensive play and injuries. Still, the defense had more to do with the outcome of the season than injuries, but both attributed to a worse finish than anticipated. Three of the four losses were to top 25 teams, and wins against South Carolina and LSU were impressive early in the season. Georgia is a better overall team than LSU with QB Hutson Mason. The Bulldogs return a lot of great players in 2013 and will make another strong run.
Ranked wins: #9 South Carolina, #16 LSU
Ranked Losses: #12 Clemson, #8 Missouri, #2 Auburn
6. LSU Tigers (9-3, 5-3)
LSU just missed another 10-win regular season, and with replacing eight starters on defense, the unit was figured to take a step back. And they did just that with – at times – some bad secondary play. However, the offense was electric and explosive with a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back. It was a big year for the offense and a down year for the defense. QB Anthony Jennings gives the offense hope for next season, but how many draft-eligible juniors will leave?
Still, LSU was the only team to beat Auburn. Good thing the Tigers caught AU early in the season and on a rainy night.
Ranked wins: #2 Auburn, #21 Texas A&M
Ranked Losses: #22 Georgia, #3 Alabama
7. Texas A&M Aggies (8-4, 4-4)
Texas A&M entered 2013 as a national championship contender, and had the defense been any better or more consistent throughout the season, the offense may have been good enough to get there. Johnny Manziel put on another show, but two losses against LSU and Missouri down the stretch likely killed his Heisman campaign. The Aggies’ defense gave up over 30 points per game and over 221 yards rushing per game. You won’t win nine games with a defense that bad.
Ranked wins: None
Ranked Losses: #3 Alabama, #2 Auburn, #15 LSU, #8 Missouri
8. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4, 4-4)
I thought there was a chance that Vandy could win 10 regular season games if everything fell into place this season, but key losses to Ole Miss and Missouri were two that had to go in their direction. Wins against Georgia and Florida were an incredible accomplishment to the program James Franklin is building. Ranked wins build programs and put programs on the map. If Vandy wants to keep Franklin, they’re going to have to start selling out home games and showing evidence fans are buying in. Another eight-win season sounds like a broken record for an up-and-coming program in Nashville.
Ranked wins: #22 Georgia
Ranked Losses: #9 South Carolina, #8 Missouri, #21 Texas A&M
9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5)
It was a successful season in Starkville. We knew the schedule would be difficult to navigate through, but we didn’t know just how difficult. Look at all those ranked teams the Bulldogs ended up playing, including non-conference Oklahoma State. Once Dan Mullen made the switch to QB Dak Prescott, the offense started opening up, evolving and creating a sense of identity. The defensive front seven were strong all season, led by freshman lineman Chris Jones, and there’s a core of young talent returning, including WR Jameon Lewis. State could win eight games next season, depending on how much overall talent is lost in the SEC West. And a bowl game win against Rice is huge for momentum.
Ranked wins: None
Ranked Losses: #13 Oklahoma State, #2 Auburn, #16 LSU, #9 South Carolina, #21 Texas A&M, #3 Alabama
10. Ole Miss Rebels (7-5, 3-5)
I thought Ole Miss had an opportunity to be the surprise team in the SEC West this season, much like Auburn. Not to the extent of Auburn’s success, but had Auburn not exploded onto the scene, Ole Miss could have finished second or third in the West. Instead, they finished 3-5 in conference and lost the Egg Bowl. It was a nice 7-5 season, improved from 6-6 last year, but to lose two straight down the stretch to Mizzou and MSU made it an unsuccessful season in my mind. Still, loads of talent are returning next year, when the Rebels should make some serious noise.
Ranked wins: #16 LSU
Ranked Losses: #3 Alabama, #2 Auburn, #21 Texas A&M, #8 Missouri
11. Tennessee Volunteers (5-7, 2-6)
Tennessee truly had a very tough season. Had they not played Oregon, the Vols would be bowling. Instead, they didn’t go bowling for their third straight season. Butch Jones has a strong recruiting class that will bring in some talent and help, but replacing the entire offensive line will be difficult. Is Josh Dobbs the future? Is Riley Ferguson the future? Can the defense improve? There are more questions than answers in Knoxville.
Ranked wins: #9 South Carolina
Ranked Losses: #10 Oregon, #22 Georgia, #3 Alabama, #8 Missouri, #2 Auburn
12. Florida Gators (4-8, 3-5)
Florida had their worst year since 1979! Still, Will Muschamp will return, but a philosophical change on offense must be had. Florida lost their last seven games. Granted, it was to five ranked opponents, but losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern are unacceptable for a program that should compete for national titles, injuries or not. Florida plays one of the toughest schedules in college football every single year, but the Gators did go through injuries of biblical proportions to nine different starters. It was an overall forgettable year that will leave Muschamp sitting on the hottest seat in college football entering 2014.
Ranked wins: None
Ranked Losses: #16 LSU, #8 Missouri, #22 Georgia, #9 South Carolina, #1 Florida State
13. Arkansas Razorbacks (3-9, 0-8)
The Razorbacks finished exactly what Auburn did last season, winless in the SEC. Bret Bielema needs to weed out the weak players and keep the strong. He also has a nice nucleus of returning players in RBs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, TE Hunter Henry and QB Brandon Allen, but needs much better players at receiver. Bielema also needs more size and athleticism at linebacker and in the secondary. Overall, this team isn’t SEC-ready, but a couple more good recruiting classes will help. A bowl game is the expectation for 2014. Finishing the season on a nine-game losing streak isn’t what was expected.
Ranked wins: None
Ranked Losses: #21 Texas A&M, #9 South Carolina, #3 Alabama, #2 Auburn, #16 LSU
14. Kentucky Wildcats (2-10, 0-8)
Mark Stoops endured a tough first season in Lexington. Things really got off to a tough start after the loss to Western Kentucky. Wins against Miami (OH) and Alabama State were imperative. The ceiling was probably four wins entering the season. The Cats played Louisville, Florida and Mississippi State pretty tough. Stoops just needs athletes on both sides of the ball, primarily to fit his throw-it-around identity on offense. There’s another nice nucleus of players in the 2014 class, headlined by QB Drew Barker to help Kentucky get better. The defensive line wasn’t bad, led by DEs Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, along with DT Donte Rumph.
Ranked wins: None
Ranked Losses: #18 Louisville, #9 South Carolina, #3 Alabama, #8 Missouri, #22 Georgia
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