Biggest regret for every SEC team in 2015
Coaches hate the “what if” game as much as we enjoy it.
So what if certain things had gone another way this season? Here’s each SEC team’s biggest regret for the 2015 season.
There isn’t much to regret during a championship season, and Nick Saban is almost beyond reproach, but his decision to start Cooper Bateman against Ole Miss backfired and helped create an early deficit from which the Crimson Tide never recovered. Bigger picture, it turned out that Jacob Coker was capable of more, he just wasn’t asked to do more early in the season.
Remember the Toledo? Arkansas was a huge favorite in its home-away-from-home in Little Rock but suffered its most puzzling loss of the season. Worse, it started a three-game slide and knocked the Razorbacks out of the polls for good.
“I’m embarrassed for our fans and the people that traveled today — all the people here in Little Rock that this game means a lot to,” coach Bret Bielema told reporters. “It means a lot to us, and to not play well here for the second year in a row is very frustrating and something that I know that we are going to have to correct.”
There are more choices here than any other SEC team. The lofty expectations — preseason No. 6, SEC champions — were too much to handle. Jovon Robinson’s ankle injury certainly didn’t help. But Duke Williams’ inability to control himself led to his early-season dismissal. His behavior was the easiest to second guess because it was self-inflicted and it cost the Tigers.
The most impactful what if of the college football season: What if Will Grier hadn’t decided to take those banned substances? His suspension changed the Gators’ fortunes — and maybe Alabama’s as well. We’ll never know.
What if Georgia had called another play, instead of the soft toss to Nick Chubb, who bounced it outside before landing awkwardly and injuring his knee against Tennessee? Chubb’s season-ending injury changed Georgia’s fortunes, too, though the Bulldogs’ ceiling was never as high as the Gators’.
The Wildcats pushed Florida at home, but the season-changer was the 30-27 home loss on Thursday night to Auburn. QB Sean White played his best game of the year for the Tigers. Patrick Towles threw for a season-high 359 yards and Stanley Williams ran for 2 TDs for the Wildcats. Towles also threw an interception in the end zone and then was chased down while scrambling on 4th-and-3 near midfield as the Cats were trying to drive for a tying field goal. Kentucky entered that game 4-1. That loss started a five-game losing streak.
The obvious re-do opportunity is the Alabama game, in which the Tigers’ entire operation was unmasked as Leonard Fournette was held to just 31 yards. The problem wasn’t losing that game. The problem was losing that game three times. LSU went from 7-0 and No. 2 in the first playoff poll to 7-3 and wondering when Les Miles would be fired.
The Bulldogs’ biggest regret is they couldn’t do more to help Dak Prescott, who took on the role of a 25-game winner on a baseball team that fails to make the playoffs.
Maty Mauk, what were you thinking? One thing the Tigers should never regret is taking a stand in a very public way to help address racial tensions on campus.
There are four or five “what ifs” just on Arkansas’ 4th-and-25 miracle conversion. But if Marquis Haynes doesn’t grab Brandon Allen’s facemask on Arkansas’ first 2-point conversion try, Ole Miss still wins the game and heads to Atlanta for the SEC title game. This game is why coaches hate “what ifs.”
Steve Spurrier resigning wasn’t as regrettable as inevitable — at least in the sense that it didn’t prevent the Gamecocks from reaching .500. The biggest re-do impacting this season was the Gamecocks’ decision to not recruit Mason Rudolph, a Class of 2014 Rock Hill standout who went on to lead Oklahoma State to a 10-win season. QB problems dogged the Gamecocks all year — and will again next year. Rudolph, a four-star, in-state talent, could have solved all of that — and likely delayed Spurrier’s retirement party.
Not finishing games will motivate the Vols this offseason. The Vols lost four games by a combined 17 points. They led Oklahoma by 17 before losing in double overtime. The Sooners forced overtime with a TD in the final minute and forced the second OT by scoring a TD on fourth down. They led Florida by 13 in the fourth quarter and gave up a 63-yard TD to Antonio Callaway with 1:26 left to lose by one. They led Arkansas 17-14 before losing 24-20. And they had Alabama on the ropes, scoring a go-ahead TD with 5:49 left, only to watch the Tide drive 71 yards for the winning score three minutes later.
Making a mess of a good situation. Kevin Sumlin opened the season with two young, five-star QBs. Both left. And if Sumlin doesn’t contend for an SEC West title next season, he might not be far behind.
Not much went right for Vandy in 2015, and part of that was due to the QB rotation, which didn’t help either quarterback develop and ultimately led to Johnny McCrary’s decision to transfer. Derek Mason would have been better served by starting Kyle Shurmur on opening day, jump-starting the countdown to better days ahead in 2016.