Bowl season is officially upon the SEC as Alabama emerged victorious over Georgia in a classic SEC Championship game. Here are the best storylines, players, coaches, and moments from the best conference in college football in 2018.
1. Best Team: Alabama
Not only has the Crimson Tide looked like the most dominant team in college football this season, but this year’s version of Alabama arguably looks like one of the best teams of our entire generation.
Apart from yesterday’s conference title game, no one has even come close to the Crimson Tide this season, so it was refreshing to see someone at least force Nick Saban’s team into a comeback victory.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 2, 2018
This year Alabama has showcased that not only do they have their yearly great defense, but that they also have one of the best offenses in the entire country.
However, the championship game showcased that this team is still human. Their biggest weakness is that great quarterbacks usually always play great against them. I would be very, very interested in seeing what Kyler Murray can do against the Crimson Tide.
Sure, Oklahoma would still give up hundreds of yards, but you never know what can happen in college football.
Honorable Mention: Georgia
You must feel for the Bulldogs. They just can’t find a way to beat Alabama. Yesterday was the third time in seven years that Georgia has suffered a crushing lost to the Crimson Tide. Now, it looks as if Georgia will be left out of the playoff as Oklahoma truly deserves a berth more.
There is always next season, Georgia fans. Maybe in 2019 Alabama actually suffers some bad luck for once.
2. Best Player: Tua Tagovailoa
Let’s admit it, this one was obvious as well. Despite an extremely disappointing SEC championship game, Tagovailoa easily had one of the best years we have seen from a quarterback in the modern era. He managed to complete 67% of his passes, pass for over 3,300 yards, and have a TD-INT ratio of 37-4.
While he may have lost the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, there is no question that he will be the only SEC player invited to New York for the ceremony. That alone gives him the distinction of best player in the conference.
Watching Tagovailoa play has been the highlight of conference play for me. He embarrassed every single SEC defense he faced in the regular season. He earned this accolade, and anyone that thinks this should go to another player just isn’t being realistic.
Honorable Mention: Josh Allen (UK), Quinnen Williams (ALA), Devin White (LSU), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Trayveon Williams (A&M)
New Big Board for the 2019 class:
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
3. Devin White, LB, LSU
4. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
5. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Top 25: https://t.co/kKMnxU2d9n
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) November 29, 2018
Take a bow Josh Allen. He absolutely earns the second spot on this list mostly because he led the conference in sacks and forced fumbles this season. But he is also deserving because of how often he exerted pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
Kentucky simply would not have had the season the Wildcats enjoyed without Allen. In my opinion, I think Allen is the best NFL prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft from the SEC.
3. Coach of the Year: Jimbo Fisher
I know I’m not going to win many fans with this pick, but just let me explain. Yes, it’s completely true that Mark Stoops has done a remarkable job at Kentucky. He is clearly in the running for this award and he may very well win it.
This was by far the hardest decision I had when making this list as there are several deserving coaches. However, I’m going with Fisher. The Aggies were a completely different team this year and I think it has everything to do with the acquisition of Fisher.
The fact that Texas A&M somehow finished second in the brutal in SEC West in his very first season speaks volumes. Also, the impact he has had on the growth of quarterback Kellen Mond has been nothing short of remarkable.
To see the Aggies this good this fast is surprising to say the least. It won’t be too much longer until Fisher transforms A&M into one of the best programs in the country.
Honorable Mention: Dan Mullen, Mark Stoops, Ed Orgeron, Nick Saban
Honestly, you can make a great argument for any one of these coaches to win coach of the year. All have great cases. I just think that the job Fisher has done in just one season in College Station showcases that type of impact he truly has.
4. Best Moment: Jalen Hurts’ Inspiring Comeback
So far, this has been the signature and most memorable moment from the college football season in 2018. Seeing Hurts lead the Crimson Tide on that amazing comeback after being benched for the entire season is nothing short of awesome.
Hurts’ comeback has not only left a huge impression on the SEC, but also on college football fans around the country. The social media reaction garnered on Saturday was massive as thousands of people praised Hurts’ attitude and commitment to excellence.
Jalen Hurts handprints and cleat prints should be immortalized in cement with the other legends at Denny Chimes. No matter what he decides to do next year. The attitude, humility and improvement is remarkable. Amazing story. @AlabamaFTBL
— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) December 2, 2018
This was a beautiful and inspiring learning moment for so many young athletes around the country. Remember, this was a moment that brought Nick Saban to tears here people. You don’t see that every day. This takes best moment quite easily.
Nick Saban got emotional when asked about Jalen Hurts' comeback pic.twitter.com/3N2Xrtr00b
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 2, 2018
Honorable Mention: Josh Paschal returns from battle with cancer, UK breaks losing streak with Florida, Derek Mason vs. Dan Mullen
Of course, there is no comeback greater than coming back from cancer. Paschal’s return to the field is an incredible and moving accomplishment that more people need to hear about.
I only put Hurts’ moment above Paschal’s because of the immediate impact and reaction given throughout the country. However, I think we can all agree that beating cancer is the only comeback that truly matters.
5. Best Game: Texas A&M vs. LSU
You knew this was going to be the pick here. This game went to seven overtimes and the final score was 74-72. This might have been the most amazing football game ever played. Enough said.
HISTORIC GAME IN COLLEGE STATION!
No. 22 Texas A&M upsets No. 7 LSU in 7-OT in the highest scoring game in FBS history. pic.twitter.com/F3ezxMA0rR
— ESPN (@espn) November 25, 2018
Honorable Mention: SEC Championship Game, LSU vs. Auburn, Florida vs. LSU
6. Biggest Surprise: The Rise of the SEC East
Finally, the SEC East woke up and had a great year in 2018! For the past five seasons this division has been an embarrassment for the conference. Sure, Georgia is always good but after that the East has struggled to compete with the West.
Now pair Georgia’s dominance with the emergence of Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri as Top 25 teams and you easily have one of the best divisions in football. That is a huge surprise.
If you told me at the start of the season that three teams from the SEC East would finish conference play ranked in the top 15 and four in the top 25, I would have said you were crazy.
The rise of the East easily made the SEC the best conference in college football this season which makes this easily my biggest surprise of the year
Honorable Mention: Kellen Mond’s Improvement, Tennessee’s Win Over Auburn
7. Biggest Disappointment: The Auburn Tigers
Auburn was picked ninth in the AP’s Preseason Top-25 poll and the Tigers ended up losing five SEC games. Folks, it doesn’t get much more disappointing than that. That’s a failure of a season for a team that started the season as a playoff contender.
Guz Malzahn’s job security is now something in the coming seasons to keep an eye on as Auburn fans are growing restless with the head coach for the Tigers.
Honorable Mention: Kirby Smart’s Fake Punt Call, Jarett Stidham’s Regression
Smart’s fake punt call in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship is bar none one of the worst play calls I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. He is so, so lucky that Hurts is taking much of the spotlight off of this terrible decision which should keep Georgia out of the playoff.
4th & 11
— len martez (@LMart810) December 2, 2018
Smart is a great head coach, but this a decision that preteens wouldn’t even make while playing Madden. At least draw up a decent play with Jake Fromm who was having the game of this life if you do decide to go for it. Georgia fans deserve better.