Alabama is your SEC Champion, just as we all predicted when the Crimson Tide limped past lowly USF in September.

Make no mistake, even though Eli Drinkwitz earned the SEC Coach of the Year honors bestowed upon him by the media this week, this was Nick Saban’s best coaching job at Alabama. At no point in time did I ever think Saban’s 2009 coaching job, where he ran the table and won a national title in his third season in Tuscaloosa, besting legendary Tim Tebow in the process, could be topped.

I was wrong. Saban took a team with objective weaknesses at the most important position in the sport in September and turned it into a position of strength capable of upending the Georgia dynasty by early December. Along the way, Saban’s team rode an elite defense and one of the nation’s best secondaries to victory after victory, including an iconic performance in the SEC Championship game, where they limited an explosive Georgia offense to 3 points over 3 quarters after Georgia’s opening drive.

Alabama, with all due respect to Dillon, doesn’t need to be the “big bad wolf” anymore.

They are the SEC champions. That’s big and bad enough.

As for the greatest “list” in college football, it’s the most wonderful time of the year — bowl season — and the final opportunity for SEC players to stake their claim as the best player in the nation’s perennially best football conference. Was the SEC the best this season? The numbers say no — after all, the league was just 4-6 against the ACC, which probably isn’t a compelling “best in the land” data point. But the SEC seems poised to have its 4th Heisman winner in 5 seasons, assuming the voters get it right (bold assumption, I know), and the league should also take home multiple positional honors, including Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year (Caleb Downs), Ray Guy Award (James Burnip), the Burlsworth Trophy (Best Former Walk-on, Cody Schrader), the Biletnikoff Award (Malik Nabers), and potentially the Joe Moore Award (best offensive line, Georgia). That’s cleaning up, and you could add a Mackey Award (tight end) to the list too if Georgia superhuman Brock Bowers didn’t miss a month due to an injury.

What a league. What an honor to rank the top 10 players every week.

Here’s the list following the SEC Championship. The previous list is here. As always, honorable mentions first, limited to 2 per institution.

Honorable Mention: Alabama: CB Terrion Arnold, LB Dallas Turner; Arkansas: DB Dwight McGlothern; QB KJ Jefferson; Auburn: K Alex McPherson; DL Jalen McLeod; Florida: QB Graham Mertz, DL Princely Umanmielen; Georgia: S Tykee Smith, TE Brock Bowers; Kentucky: LB D’Eryk Jackson, CB Maxwell Hairston; LSU: OT Will Campbell, WR Brian Thomas Jr.; Missouri:  LB Ty’Ron Hopper, WR Luther Burden III; MSU: LB Jett Johnson, LB Nathaniel Watson; Ole Miss: RB Quinshon Judkins, DE Jared Ivey; South Carolina: TE Trey Knox, LB Debo Williams; Tennessee: RB Jaylen Wright; Edge James Pearce Jr.; Texas A&M:  OL Layden Robinson, DB Josh DeBerry; Vanderbilt: LB CJ Taylor, OL Bradley Ashmore.

10. Carson Beck, QB (Georgia)

The first-year Georgia starter went from question mark to asset for the Dawgs in their 12-1 regular season, throwing for 3,738 yards and 22 touchdowns to pace an offense that ranked 7th in the country and 2nd in the SEC in yards per play (7.12). Beck wasn’t perfect in the SEC title game, but he did throw for 243 yards and connect on nearly 75% of his passes in defeat. Pencil the senior-t0-be into the early Heisman chatter for the 2024 season, as he should demonstrate an even firmer command of Mike Bobo’s offense in year 2 as a starter.

9. Xavier Legette, WR (South Carolina)

The Gamecocks didn’t have the season they wanted, but Legette had one that South Carolina fans won’t soon forget. The senior was positively Alshon Jeffery-like in his final year in garnet and black, hauling in 71 passes for 1,255 yards and 7 touchdowns, including 2 touchdowns in a late-season upset of Kentucky.

Legette’s future at the NFL level is bright, and he concluded his senior year 2nd in the SEC in receiving yards (1,255) and 3rd in receptions (71).

8. Kamari Lassiter, CB (Georgia)

Lassiter gave up just 1 reception on 5 targets in the SEC Championship, finishing the regular season as the SEC’s top corner in terms of completion percentage against (39.5%, per Stats Solutions). Lassiter will close out his junior year against Florida State in the Orange Bowl, but it’s unfortunate he won’t get a chance to shut down Keon Coleman or Johnny Wilson, both of whom opted out.

7. Caleb Downs, S (Alabama)

Alabama’s sensational freshman had 4 tackles, including 1 for a loss in Alabama’s SEC Championship win, building his team high-tackle total to 99 on the campaign. Downs was named the SEC Freshman of the Year this week for good reason, anchoring one of the nation’s best pass defenses (23rd in pass defense, per CFB Stats) and offering explosive plays on special teams.

Downs is a near lock to earn All-American honors when the teams are announced, capping an otherworldly freshman season with a parade of awards.

6. Javon Foster, OT (Missouri)

Missouri won’t win the Joe Moore Award, but the Tigers graded out as the SEC’s best offensive line, per PFF, and they played like it most the season. Foster was the centerpiece, protecting Brady Cook’s blindside (0 sacks allowed) and paving the way for a powerful run game behind the SEC’s leading rusher, Cody Schrader. Foster graded out as the best offensive lineman in the SEC and the nation’s 3rd-best tackle, per PFF, and was a no-brainer First-Team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches on Wednesday.

5. Edgerrin Cooper, LB (Texas A&M)

Cooper, who appears poised to be a consensus First-Team All-American,  was a stunning Butkus Award snub, but he was named First-Team All-SEC by the media and coaches alike after a staggering season where he led the SEC in tackles for loss, ranked 2nd in quarterback pressures, 4th in sacks, and 7th in tackles.

In the past 10 seasons of SEC football, only Georgia All-American and “List” Champion Nakobe Dean and Alabama All-American Will Anderson Jr., have finished a season ranked in the top 10 in the league in each of the above 4 categories. Alabama’s Dallas Turner won SEC Defensive Player of the Year, but by metrics and statistics, Cooper was the league’s best defender.

4. Jalen Milroe, QB (Alabama)

What a difference 3 months makes.

Benched after Alabama’s loss to Texas, Milroe fought his way back into the starting job and proceeded to win every game he started from that point forward, including last Saturday’s SEC Championship.

Milroe’s signature moment, of course, came on the “4th-and-31” miracle on The Plains. But his signature game was the SEC Championship, where he forced Kirby Smart to deploy 2 — yes 2 — spies at times and still made winning plays late with his legs.

Milroe finished the title game with 192 yards passing and 2 vital touchdowns, but it was the 29 hard-earned rushing yards that won the game — and sent Alabama to the College Football Playoff.

3. Malik Nabers, WR (LSU)

My Biletnikoff ballot was cast for Nabers, who led the SEC in receiving yards (1,546), yards per reception (17.98), receptions (86), and ranked 2nd in touchdowns (14) and 3rd in catches per targets (Ricky Pearsall of Florida, Luther Burden III of Missouri). Nabers didn’t get the invite to New York City that Marvin Harrison Jr., received, but he was the nation’s best wide receiver, capable of torching you from the slot or beating your best perimeter corner on the boundary. And he did all of that sharing targets with Brian Thomas Jr., who graced this list at times this season and was, without question, one of the elite receivers in the SEC.

2. Cody Schrader, RB (Missouri)

The best story in college football will close his career at the Cotton Bowl in a “Strength on Strength” matchup vs. Ohio State. Schrader has been counted out his whole career, so don’t be stunned if he runs all over the Buckeyes and hands Missouri an 11-win season in the process. The SEC’s leading rusher with 1,489 yards, Schrader also finished top 5 in touchdowns (13) and yards per attempt (6.03).

He’s also got jokes — which he flashed after collecting the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s best walk-0n this week.

1. Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU)

I don’t vote for the Heisman Trophy, but if the award is truly given to the best player in the game, not simply a guy who happens to be great on the best team, Daniels is a shoe-in to become the 2nd LSU quarterback to win the award in the past 5 seasons. The numbers are utterly spectacular, and if you want to do the team award thing, look only to the Alabama game, where LSU was neck and neck with the eventual SEC Champions until Daniels exited and suddenly, the Tigers couldn’t score. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year closes the season at the top of this “List,” and, while preparing for the NFL Draft makes sense, hopefully, he suits up one last time in purple and gold for all to enjoy when LSU plays in the ReliaQuest Bowl.