Throughout the 2017 SEC season, we graded teams week-to-week on their performance. But at no point did we step back from the individual trees and assess the forest. Well, the season’s over now, so it’s as good of a time as any to give out final season-long grades for the teams of the SEC.
Was tempted to make it just an A. After all, Alabama lost a game and won three more by a single score. But the fact that Bama wasn’t as dominant as the last two seasons ultimately makes its national title that much more impressive.
Sure, there was a loss to Auburn and that horrifying ending of the CFP final. But the Bulldogs established themselves as miles ahead of the rest of the East. While coming up short of the title was a heart-breaker, the Dogs served notice that they’ll be back again. And soon.
South Carolina: A-
This was a solid nine-win season that was essentially the ceiling for this USC team. Sure, they could have beaten Kentucky, but on the other hand, they took care of NC State and Michigan out of conference and finished second in the East. Will Muschamp reversed his Florida days, doing more with less.
Mississippi State: B+
State ended up with a nine-win season that was almost spectacular. The Bulldogs had Alabama where they wanted them, but couldn’t quite close the deal. That said, they had a nice bowl win over Louisville, and almost certainly would’ve won the Egg Bowl had Nick Fitzgerald not gotten his leg torn half off.
On the one hand, they beat Alabama and won the West, and they also beat Georgia … so knocking off the two teams that played for the national title is no small feat. But at the same time, they lost to Central Florida and they lost to LSU. The Tigers were close, but they don’t get the honor roll cigar.
After Mizzou struggled to a 1-5 first half of the season, its situation looked hopeless. It wasn’t. The Tigers swept the second half of the regular season, and even though their bowl performance was ugly, this was a program climbing off the mat and looking very much like one of the most interesting teams to watch for 2018.
On the upside, LSU knocked off Auburn and won nine games. But the Troy loss and not closing the deal against Notre Dame hurt the overall results. It was a decent season, but the Tigers were a clear third in the West, and that’s not their ultimate goal.
A second consecutive 7-6 season is normally the sort of thing that gets people excited in Lexington. So are wins over South Carolina and Tennessee. But this UK team may have underachieved, as possible wins over Florida, Ole Miss and Northwestern were all left on the field by mere inches. A 10-3 season could’ve been in the cards, and that’s not something that will happen often in Lexington.
A 6-6 season may not look like much, particularly when you’ve got the most talented passing attack in the SEC. But Matt Luke fought uphill all the way, kept the fan base engaged, and ended the season with an impressive Egg Bowl upset. Now what can he do next?
Texas A&M: C-
Really, this entire 7-6 season comes back to blowing a 34-point lead to UCLA in the game’s final 19 minutes. That just doesn’t happen. Or if it does, it says a ton about the character and coaching of your team. This A&M team had the talent to compete for the West, but the Aggies shot themselves in the foot too much.
The Commodores just really weren’t that good. An early 3-0 run and a victory over Tennessee are the commendable things about the year. The not-so-good: their losses were by margins of 59, 14, 31, 22, 7, 23 and 28 points. It wasn’t a hard-luck season — they just got dominated by good teams.
The Razorbacks didn’t quit and played competitive football to the finish, losing three games by one score. So they could have gone 7-5. They also could’ve gone 2-10, as they won two games by one point each. Arkansas was perhaps the league’s most disappointing team—well, at least the most disappointing in the West.
What can you say about a 4-7 season that easily could’ve been a 2-9 season? The Gators started out 3-1, but then the wheels fell off, Jim McElwain got the axe, and a team full of 5-star recruits absolutely limped to the end of a bowl-less season. This was awful.
Tennessee: ‘Mr. Blutarsky, 0.0’
The worst season in the school’s history? Yes. The only 0-8 SEC team? Yes. Hire a new coach who was about the 10th choice? Yes. There’s not a grade for a train wreck like this. An F is too good for what Tennessee did this season.