Honestly, between the snow, the Kirby Smart debacle, and personal matters, I’m not at all sure that I’m getting this in on time. If I’m not, I apologize to the powers that be, but here is my postseason SEC Power Poll ballot for the 2009 season:
1. Alabama (14-0): If you’re the best team in the country, you must necessarily also be the best team in your conference. Because I believe that, I (a) ranked the Crimson Tide No. 1 and (b) oppose a playoff.
2. Florida (13-1): The Gators beat everyone they played except the best team in the country. I’d call that a successful year. I mean, yeah, they’re losing the best player in school history, their defensive coordinator, their defense, and possibly their head coach, but, aside from that, they’re poised for another run.
3. Ole Miss (9-4): The Rebels finished strong after starting the season with high expectations and the paradoxical situation of having everyone believe they were overrated. Mississippi began 2010 by becoming the first team to win back-to-back Cotton Bowls since Notre Dame did so at the end of the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Could next fall see the Rebs become the first team ever to win three consecutive Cotton Bowls?
4. Louisiana State (9-4): This could not more completely be a default pick.
5. Georgia (8-5): Tuesday, January 12, 2010, marks the 742nd straight day of abject suckitude in Bulldog Nation following the 2008 Sugar Bowl win over hapless Hawaii, yet the Red and Black finished as the fifth-best team in the league. That ought to tell you just how down a year it was for the SEC.
6. Auburn (8-5): The Plainsmen’s claim to fame is that they arrested a late-season skid including losses to their two biggest rivals by claiming a postseason victory in overtime against a team that hasn’t won a bowl game since the Truman administration. In this cruddy year, that was enough to get the Tigers in the top half of the league.
7. Arkansas (8-5): I probably shouldn’t hold the Hogs’ narrow escape over East Carolina against them, since I’m sure Skip Holtz was motivated to take it out on the Razorbacks for the way they treated his dad during Lou’s days in Fayetteville. If it’s any consolation to the Coaches Holtz, Frank Broyles pretty much did that to every coach who followed him. Anyway, Arkansas ended up 8-5, which earned them the top spot in the bottom half of the conference.
8. Tennessee (7-6): I admit it; I was skeptical about Lane Kiffin, but he sure showed me. In 2008, the Vols were a team that recruited at a high level, played solid defense, and lost seven games. Now, thanks to the turnaround engineered by the Coaches Kiffin, the Vols are a team that recruits at a high level, plays solid defense, and loses six games! Yeah, all right, the Big Orange went 7-6, but can anyone deny that Tennessee is, hands down, the best 7-6 team in the SEC? Well, then, mission accomplished! Lane Kiffin proves again that
the surge the plan is working.
9. Kentucky (7-6): The Wildcats were competitive in their postseason setback, which is more than I can say for some SEC teams with 7-6 records I could name. To some extent, Big Blue’s recent gridiron success has been the product of smoke and mirrors---Rich Brooks’s teams were 0-21 against Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee; his two wins over the Bulldogs caused sufficient embarrassment to force Georgia to change coordinators; his squads’ non-conference schedules consisted of a fallen Louisville program and a series of Division I-AA, Sun Belt, and MAC patsies from which even lowly Indiana eventually vanished---but, on the whole, his tenure saw improvements in recruiting, toughness, and competitiveness. Joker Phillips doesn’t inherit a Wildcat program even remotely as strong as the one Bear Bryant left, but, in Lexington, being even passably good at football without cheating is enough of a rarity to be considered a meaningful achievement.
10. South Carolina (7-6): I would pay cash money to be able to play these guys in November. Every year, it’s a 5-1 or 6-1 start followed by a late-season slide. South Carolina is Michigan State with better weather and less scowling. Maybe next year is the year "next year" finally arrives, and MaconDawg and I will be able to make a fortune by selling "Beat Mor Chikin" T-shirts to the Gamecocks’ opponents at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. For now, though, the Palmetto State Poultry made the top ten (in the league, but still) and they have the consolation of knowing they’re in much less big a mess than any other USC in Division I-A.
11. Mississippi State (5-7): Still the finest 5-7 team in America. I don’t think there’s any doubt Dan Mullen is your SEC coach of the year.
12. Vanderbilt (2-10): The Commodores staked their claim to the title "worst team in the SEC" every bit as convincingly as the Crimson Tide staked their claim to the title "best team in the SEC."
If you’re like me, you spent way too much of your time on Monday tracking airplanes and checking Twitter feeds. That, plus outside obligations of a more pressing nature, probably will prevent me from tending to my duties here at Dawg Sports for the next few days. Barring breaking news on the defensive coordinator search, expect a light week of posting from me. Anyone so inclined is encouraged to take up the slack in the fanposts, particularly with regard to next fall’s away game get-together.