The College Football Season finally ended as the Clemson Tigers easily defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday by a score of 44-16. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19.
Final Grade: A-
The Crimson Tide were without question the best team in the SEC this season. That is not up for debate. What is up for debate is defining the success of this Alabama team. On one hand, the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 for basically the entire season, dominated all their opponents expect for Georgia, and were SEC Champions once again.
But on the other hand, Alabama was greatly embarrassed in front of a national audience on Monday as they were dominated in the National Championship Game. That simply does not happen to Nick Saban ever.
The last coach to beat Alabama by 16+ was Nick Saban at LSU.
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 8, 2019
That’s why despite the Crimson Tide’s mostly dominate year, I cannot give Saban’s squad anything higher than an A-. While this one massive failure does not define this team, it is still a failure for a program that expects national titles with its incredible pool of talent.
What’s most concerning is the feeling that most people had in Santa Clara last night. Every time Alabama drops a game the public always asks, “Is Saban’s dynasty finally over?” And every time those people look like fools for asking that. However, last night was very, very different.
What happened tonight completely changes the story of this entire college football era. A year from now there may not be a changing of the guard so much as a realization we were witnessing the age of #ClemsonFootball the whole time. #ClemsonAlabama #NationalChampionshipGame
— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) January 8, 2019
Day after with Clemson: "I definitely think it was a changing of the guard tonight," per Austin Bryant. https://t.co/2mnuN9khEY
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) January 8, 2019
Only time will tell if this title game was a changing of the guard in college football as you can never count out Alabama and Nick Saban. But for now, Clemson and Dabo Swinney unquestionably sit atop of the college football world.
Final Grade: A-
The first thing you are probably thinking to yourself is, “How can I give Texas A&M the same grade that I gave Alabama?” Well it has everything to do with expectations and what each team did with those expectations. The Crimson Tide had arguably the most talented team in the sport and failed to win a championship while the Aggies were supposed to be in a rebuilding year and placed second in the SEC West.
Yes, the Aggies lost four games on the season. However, that included three incredibly tough road games against Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State which are three teams that have more talent than Texas A&M had this season. Plus, they managed to give Clemson the best game the Tigers played in all year as the Aggies fell 28-26.
Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to their best possible season given their absurdly tough schedule and the fact that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year in College Station. Add in their crushing 52-13 bowl victory over a talented NC State team, and you have a very successful season.
The momentum Fisher and the Aggies have going into the 2019 season is at an all-time high as most of their starters return and they add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Buy stock now in Texas A&M. The Aggies are on the come-up.
Here's your Top 25 for next CFB season!
11 Texas A&M
21 Miss St
22 Where Jalen Hurts is
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: B+
The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. They did win their first five games on the season and shot up the rankings. They were picked to finish on the lower side of the SEC West, but they managed to beat those expectations as they placed third in their Division. If you had told me before the season started, they would finish 10-3 with a New Year’s Bowl victory, I would have been surprised.
However, a deeper analysis of their season reveals some complex issues. A huge reason why they shot up the rankings is because they throttled a Miami team that everyone overrated before the season started.
They were very lucky to beat Auburn as they did so on a last-second field goal, they looked bad against a lesser Florida team, got utterly embarrassed by Alabama at home, and they only beat UCF by eight points with the Knights not having their best player in program history.
Nevertheless, LSU’s season is still a surprising success. However, they had some rough games, and if it wasn’t for some good luck they would have finished fourth or fifth in the West. As long as Ed Orgeron is still in Baton Rouge, the future is still looking good for the Tigers.
"He lived out his childhood dream. His dream was to be an LSU head football coach."
John Battle says Ed Orgeron isn't only coaching the Tigers, he's doing it at a high level. pic.twitter.com/lztMWEj1r5
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) January 4, 2019
Final Grade C-
The Bulldogs were a very trendy pick in the preseason to finish second in the West. Many picked quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and company to be in a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, Miss. State finished fourth in their division and finished with a mediocre 8-5 record after losing to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
That’s a pretty disappointing season despite some bright spots. The Bulldogs basically wasted Fitzgerald’s last season in Starkville and many of their NFL prospects on defense will probably be leaving for the Draft.
However, I can’t give Miss. State a failing grade considering their strong wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. This was a very talented team this season that was just too wildly inconsistent due to a new head coach in town and inconsistent quarterback play. Losing to Iowa also stalls all momentum going into next year. Watch out for Head Coach Joe Moorhead to possibly end up on the hot seat by 2020.
Final Grade: C
The Tigers are really in the same league as Mississippi State here. Auburn was the favorite to finish second in the West, but they instead finished fifth which is a *really* bad look. Add in the fact they lost five SEC games this season and man does Gus Malzahn have some questions to answer.
In fact, the only reason I gave them a higher grade than the Bulldogs is because of their legendary beatdown Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Winning the last game of the season 63-14 gives this program momentum heading into next season no matter how disappointing the year was.
Like Miss. State, the Tigers wasted their final season with their talented quarterback (Jarret Stidham) and now they will have to find someone to lead the program behind center in 2019.
Heading into next season, Malzahn will have a mountain of pressure on him. After an up-and-down year, boosters will be expecting a better finish, or he might be on his way out of Auburn. It’s one of the most interesting storylines in the SEC heading into next season.
Since 2015, 8 teams have started ranked in preseason Top 10 & finished year unranked. Of the 8, Mark Richt & Gus Malzahn are only coaches to do so twice. Richt (2015 at UGA & 2018 at UM), Malzahn (2015 & 2018 at Auburn)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: D+
The Rebels were on a postseason ban this season, so this was mostly a year to give young players a lot of reps and valuable experience. Despite having a very talented quarterback, one of the best receiving cores in college football, and a running back who totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage Ole Miss still finished with a losing record (5-7).
It’s all because the Rebels’ defense might have been the worst in all of the SEC. Giving up 482 yards of offense per game speaks for itself. One has to wonder where exactly Ole Miss goes from here. Gone are stars Jordan Ta’amu and A.J. Brown. Who will step up offensively, and can the defense improve at all?
One decent starting point is the hiring of Rich Rodriguez has offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator. Both are former national head coaches of the year so who knows what next year will bring. It just needs to be better than this disappointing season.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) January 3, 2019
Final Grade: F
It’s pretty easy to write about a team that went 0-8 in conference play and 2-10 overall. The Razorbacks stunk all over the field this season. Offensively they were pitiful, and their defense couldn’t stop anyone.
This was a disastrous season that deserves the bare minimum of words written about it. Teams that are this bad deserve to be forgotten forever. Hopefully something may go right next season for Arkansas, because there is no place to go but up from here.
Final Grade: B+
The Bulldogs were easily the most frustrating team to grade out of the 14 squads in the SEC. Except for a strange no-show against LSU, Georgia dominated their SEC opponents in the regular season.
Then we all know what happened next. They gave Alabama an amazing game in the SEC Championship, but they fell just short of a victory and a playoff bid. Considering that Clemson proved that the Crimson Tide were not all that great, I am giving exactly zero brownie points to the Bulldogs for giving them a close game. Throw in the fact that they were beaten because of one of the worst play calls ever and this defeat is unforgivable.
Georgia Athletics recent history:
– Lose SEC title game on a fake punt to keep 5 star QB
– 5 Star QB transfers as result
– Lose to UT jr, while their beloved mascot becomes national joke
– Lose half their roster to NFL Draft
– Lose by FOURTY-SIX in SEC opener
— Cody Conrad (@cody__conrad) January 6, 2019
Georgia then performed terribly and got blown out by a decent Texas team. Quite frankly, I do not accept the excuse that “their hearts were not in it.” I could write an entire article about why that excuse is not adequate for ANY team, but the fact that we are at that point speaks for itself.
The season ended so badly for the Bulldogs that their most talented overall player (Justin Fields) up and transferred to Ohio State. Look, I think Jake Fromm is a great college quarterback, but I truly think Fields is the more talented player. The fact that Kirby Smart couldn’t figure out how to make him happy is embarrassing to say the least.
Georgia was oh so very close to receiving an A+ on this season. But bad decisions and no-shows led to an abysmal ending of what should have been a great overall year. Take your B+ and do better next season.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, Georgia slaughtered Kentucky in the regular season which may make you wonder why I gave the Wildcats a better grade. It has everything to do with how each team performed with the talent they had at hand. The Bulldogs ended the season about as bad as they possibly could, while the Wildcats were the absolute best versions of their selves this year.
Seriously, if you had told me that the Wildcats would finish 10-3 after winning the Citrus Bowl over Penn State by only passing for an average of 161.5 passing yards per game, I would have laughed in your face.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened in Lexington. Every single week the Wildcats manage to prove me wrong. Josh Allen developed into a superstar before our very eyes and Benny Snell Jr. went down as the most loved player in recent memory for Kentucky fans.
The scary thing is that the Wildcats were just one incredibly strange defeat to Tennessee and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M to being in the conversation for the playoff. That speaks for itself. This is the best Kentucky team I have seen in my lifetime, and they finally put some respect on the SEC East’s name. This was a season that will not be soon forgotten by Big Blue Nation.
After a historic 10-3 season, Kentucky is No. 11 in the final @AmwayUS Coaches Poll!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: A-
Florida is back folks. I have been trying to tell people since I analyzed the Gators during the preseason all the way back in July. I told everyone that Florida would at the very least double their win total from last season and everyone mocked the idea to no surprise.
Well I think it’s safe to say that the Gators got the last laugh as they blew out Michigan in a New Year’s Six Bowl to finish 10-3 on the season. For a team that only won four contests in 2017, the lowest possible grade they could possibly receive is exactly what I gave them.
They lost to Kentucky mostly since Head Coach Dan Mullen was still trying to figure out what he had with this new team, they lost to Georgia because the Bulldogs were just the better team, and, like the Wildcats, they had a bizarre loss which was to Missouri.
Besides these hiccups, everything went right for the bounce-back team of the year. Because of their fantastic hiring of an all-around good head coach in Mullen, the Gators can finally get back to the days of Tebow and Chris Leak.
Mark my words now folks, Georgia and Kentucky will have their hands full with the Florida Gators next season.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator pic.twitter.com/ZuCTcTUhBq
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) January 6, 2019
Final Grade: D+
I could care less that the Gamecocks finished with a winning record (7-6), this was a bad football this season and I stand by that opinion.
Besides a decent victory over Vanderbilt and a lucky win over Missouri, South Carolina defeated the following teams in 2018: Coastal Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and Akron. In other words, the Gamecocks did not beat single team that finished the season ranked in the AP top-25 poll.
To make matters even worse, South Carolina was absolutely embarrassed by an incredibly average Virginia team in their bowl game. Losing 28-0 to an average ACC team is what it is. The Gamecocks will enter the 2019 season with absolutely no momentum. This year was so incredibly forgettable that it may end up hurting this team’s development.
With an absurdly hard schedule next season, look out for rumblings against Head Coach Will Muschamp. Things could get bad in a hurry, and we all know how quickly things can change for head coaches in the SEC.
South Carolina’s 2019 Schedule = BRUTAL
What will their record be? pic.twitter.com/Un7ZEsNMas
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 4, 2019
Final Grade: B-
This is another example of the transitive property not being a true indicator of overall program morale. Yes, South Carolina defeated the Tigers in the regular season, however the way Missouri ended its season was considerably better than how the Gamecocks did.
Even with a very close bowl game loss, the Tigers scored at least 30 points in their last five games which led to a 4-1 record. That stretch included a very impressive win on the road against Florida where Missouri won 38-17.
Despite a strange loss to South Carolina and a very unlucky defeat at the hands of Kentucky, the Tigers did everything right in Drew Lock’s last season. Now with the addition of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant by means of transfer, Missouri seems to be locked and loaded for another good year in 2019. Things did not go exactly right in 2018, but head coach Kevin Odom has solidified a program that can beat anyone on any given Saturday.
— College Football (@holidayhqteam) December 5, 2018
Final Grade: C+
For the third straight season the Commodores finished with seven losses. That fact alone prohibits this team from earning anything higher than a C+ in my book. Vanderbilt defeated every team that they should have beaten, but they also didn’t beat anyone they should not have beaten.
However, winning three out of their last four SEC games on the season is very noteworthy. Head Coach Derek Mason entered the year on the hot seat, and he will be entering 2019 still with his job. That’s a success within itself.
Besides a heart-breaking bowl defeat to Baylor, the Commodores ended their season on a very high note. Now with one of the program’s best all-time quarterbacks leaving in Kyle Shurmur, the pressure will be on Mason and the rest of the program to finally break through and lose less than seven games. While that may end up being a tall task, they had a decent enough season to have hope for 2019. Hope is sometimes all a program needs.
Final Grade: C+
I put the Volunteers right there with Vanderbilt. Tennessee just came off one of its worst seasons ever in 2017 after they failed to win a single SEC game. But with the hiring of Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Volunteers were able to turn things around a bit in 2018. While they still had a losing season (5-7), Pruitt led Tennessee to huge upset victories over Auburn (on the road) and Kentucky.
These victories showcased that there is still talent in Knoxville, and Pruitt may just be the coach to revive this program once he gets a fair amount of time at Tennessee.
With a losing record and no bowl appearance I can’t give the Volunteers anything higher than an average grade. But considering how honestly terrible Tennessee was in 2017, blatantly average is something fans in Knoxville will gladly take. Also, the Volunteers managed to pull offensive coordinator Jim Chaney away from Georgia for the same position. This is a massive upgrade for Tennessee and step in the right direction to say the least.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) January 9, 2019
I’ve had a blast writing this weekly SEC column this college football season. This was another incredibly fun season to analyze and write about. Hopefully, you found some enjoyment in these articles as I know I had a blast writing them.
Overall, I think the SEC showed why it’s still one of the best conferences in college football this season despite a 6-6 bowl record and an embarrassing National Championship defeat. This conference still has the most overall talent and best storylines in the sport, and I think that’s something we can all agree on.