The SEC is a wild place, where chances at a division crown or playoff berth, or a coach’s job security, can vary widely week to week. Whose stock is rising and whose is dropping as we wrap up bowl season in the SEC West?


Lane Kiffin: Most fans’ image of Kiffin is of an arrogant, underqualified coach who left Tennessee, Southern Cal and the Oakland Raiders in shambles. That changed a bit in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Kiffin designed an offensive game plan that was effective without a big day from Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. Though Henry still finished with 20 carries, Coker attempted 30 passes, completing 25 of them for 286 yards and two TDs. It was Alabama’s finest offensive performance of the year.

Mississippi schools: Ole Miss and Mississippi State suffered blowout losses in the Peach and Orange Bowl, respectively, last season. Both redeemed themselves this year. Behind QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss destroyed Oklahoma State 48-20 in the Sugar Bowl. In QB Dak Prescott’s final game, Mississippi State beat up NC State 51-28 to capture the Belk Bowl. It’s the first time ever that the two Mississippi schools combined for 19 victories and won two bowl games in one season.

Alex Collins: Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette come to mind when thinking of bruising SEC West running backs. Add Collins to the same tier. He left Kansas State black and blue, rushing for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Collins set a school record with 20 rushing TDs in a season.

Auburn defense: The Tigers defense has been below average all season, but credit interim defensive coordinator Lance Thompson for motivating the Auburn defense to play its best game in the Birmingham Bowl. Auburn held mighty Memphis to just 205 offensive yards and three points on offense.


Texas A&M offense: First, the Aggies were the only SEC West team to lose a bowl game. Second, after two quarterbacks transferred, the pieces were still falling apart for the Texas A&M offense. The Aggies announced Sunday that offensive coordinator Jake Spavital would not return. Kevin Sumlin’s decision on a replacement may be his most important to date at College Station.

Mississippi State coaching staff: After a 6-1 bowl record, it’s hard to find any other negatives in the SEC West, but the Bulldogs suffered a blow to its coaching staff when defensive coordinator Manny Diaz left for the same position with Mark Richt at Miami. Dan Mullen expressed his dissatisfaction with his previous DC Geoff Collins leaving for the same job at Florida in December of 2014, calling it “a lateral move.” Now Mississippi State is losing coordinators to ACC teams. To be fair to Diaz, he is a Miami native.