And so it ends. The final SEC Football Power Poll of the season is up over at Team Speed Kills, and there are some fairly predictable patterns. Auburn is, as would be expected of a team which won the conference title game convincingly (and very nearly the national title game) the unanimous top pick. Arkansas and Kentucky are, as anyone who's seen them play football this season would expect, numbers thirteen and fourteen on every ballot. Everything in between is a jumbled mess of teams rising and falling in America at a pace that would make Hawthorne's mustache spin. For my part, here's how I rank the league's football teams, with an eye toward what the future holds for them:
1) Auburn: These Tigers came up just a whisker shy of defending the conference's streak of BCS titles. I'm curious to see what a Gus Malzahn offense with a more experienced Nick Marshall (and perhaps without Tre Mason) will look like in 2014.
2) Missouri: These Tigers proved they belonged in college football's premier conference, capping a 12-2 campaign with a 41-31 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Now we'll await the beginning off the Maty Mauk era. Behold, a scooting menace will lead them. Yeah, them boys are SEC, now.
3) South Carolina: I sense that we'll only really recognize how good a healthy Connor Shaw was now that he's gone. Steve Spurrier already knew. The Gamecocks will be competing with the Georgia Bulldogs to see which team led by a veteran backup quarterback can contend for an SEC East title.
4) Alabama: A really unimpressive Sugar Bowl performance had knowledgeable observers heralding the end of the Bama Dynasty. I think that's a little premature. But I also think the Tide's preparation for this game showed a degree of immaturity we're not used to seeing from the SabanBot 3000. The beatings will continue until the Process improves.
5) Texas A&M: Johnny F . . . our points better than Duke! With Manziel and Mike Evans headed to the NFL Kevin Sumlin will have to adapt just a little. Maybe check out this "defense" thing all the kids are talking about.
6) LSU: Took care of business against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Now begins the annual exodus of underclassman talent in Baton Rouge and the companion signing of future phenoms. It's all part of Les's plan, y'all.
7) Vanderbilt: Beat Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Will now try to hold onto James Franklin so they don't have to usher in another "culture change."
8) Ole Miss: Beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in more resounding fashion than the Georgia Bulldogs. Hugh Freeze's challenge now is to develop his team of bonus babies into a real SEC contender. And to teach this year's signing class not to flash their cash on Twitter and Instagram.
9) Georgia: Beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets less emphatically than the Ole Miss Rebels. Lost to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a game that no one wanted to be at, in weather no one wanted to play in. Appropriately, several key contributors suffered from a stomach bug in the lead up to the game, which allowed them to check off "intestinal distress" on the Bulldog Injury Bingo card. Stay down, champ. It's just not your . . .year.
10) Mississippi State: Ended the year with a win over Ole Miss and a bowl victory. If Mississippi State fans expect more than that from Dan Mullen going forward then they have forgotten that they are Mississippi State.
11) Tennessee: The Volunteers will sign a recruiting class of 35 players next month. The fact that they have to do that (and that Butch Jones is willing to test the rules and risk the bad publicity involved) tells you a lot about how things have gone in Knoxville over the past four years.
12) Florida: This is the space in which I should say something encouraging for Gator fans about how 2014 will be a better year. But I'm too truthful for that.
13) Arkansas: Ended the year better than they started it, which is kind of what you expect when you pay out the rear for a new head coach. The second year of the Bielema era will be a lot more telling.
14) Kentucky: The good news is that with SEC basketball play beginning Kentucky fans don't care that their football team sucks. Which it does. Again.
So there you have it. My final misranking of SEC football teams for the 2013 season. Where did I go wrong? Feel free to let me know in the comments below. Until later . . .