Alabama (12-0, 7-0)
King Saban & the Disciples are a band most figured were a year or two away from national stardom. Then, they strummed that first chord: an opening week annihilation of the supposed ACC Champ, followed with the trouncing of the supposed SEC Champ, concluded by 10 more weeks of no-nonsense precision, and the Disciples were quickly #1 with a bullet.
Peak: In progress.
Rock-bottom: ummm…(rifles through accordion file) well, an uninspired 20-6 job over Tulane in week 2 had the creatures stirring a bit.
In a word: command.
LSU (7-5, 3-5)
The SEC’s co-disappointing team of the year, yeah, you’re gonna have to throw Les Miles (more savings!) over that fire as well. It’s one thing to be Kentucky and lose a rare cluster of NFL athletes you are struggling to replace, but there’s no reason for a talent stuffed roster like LSU’s to go 3-5 in league play. Oh, wait a minute…16 passes thrown to the wrong jersey by QB Jarrett Lee, nearly half of which returned for six. If anything’s been proven in this life, it’s heroin addicts make the best music, and, you can’t win in the SEC without a serviceable backing of the quarter.
Peak: Week 3 on the road versus a pre-imploding Auburn, LSU got a boost from prior backup Jarrett Lee, and the Tiga’s knocked out a 26-21 bruiser as Todd Blacklidge and Mike Patrick discussed chicken fried steak and ACC basketball, respectively.
Rock-bottom: Giving up 51 points to Florida in week 6 had to be sobering to the unsoberable faithful, but the 52 racked up by Georgia two weeks later in Baton Rouge provided the knockout blow to this wobbling belt holder.
In a word: tired.
Arkansas (5-7, 2-6)
Talk about a talent drain, the Hogs had massive holes to fill on both sides of the ball and a new, albeit skanky, head coach. Not to mention Casey Dick, the league’s worst passer in 2007, leading Petrino’s downfield offense. They were lucky to win weeks 1 and 2 against a pair of cupcakes, and were served on a stick the following weeks for the likes of Bama, Florida and Texas. But the Hogs showed steady improvement and eventually became a tough out. Yeah, there’s a reason Petrino’s phone still rings.
Peak: Last week’s win over a disinterested LSU didn’t get the Hogs bowl eligible, but offered plenty of hope for next season. JR RB Michael Smith was 2nd in the league in rushing, and Michigan defect QB Ryan Mallet should thrive in this system.
Rock-bottom: C’mon, that Angels in the Outfield-comeback in Lexington had to burn.
In a word: Dick.
Ole Miss (8-4, 5-3)
Well, they beat Florida, the end. They also beat 7 others, and by all indications, Houston Nutt is heading to the Cotton Bowl in his inaugural run at the helm. Ol’ Orgeron was a disastrous head coach, but he brought in enough talent to win the division. Soph. QB Jevan Snead fits Nutt’s gunslinger mentality perfectly and is right up there with Stafford and Tebow, statistically speaking.
Peak: Ok, we all know winning in the Swamp against this Florida team is ESPY-worthy, but last week’s 45-0 shellacking of the Crooms in the Egg Bowl capped an impressive 5 game winning streak to close the season, and thrust Ole Miss back into legitimacy.
Rock-bottom: Week 4 saw Vandy come to Oxford and literally steal one on the goaline late in the 4th. Could be looking at 9, even 10 wins.
In a word: Wild.
Miss St (4-8, 2-6)
I like to think I properly savored the Sly Croom Experience while tangible, but it just, happened so fast. You’d think a year removed from 8 wins and SEC COY honors would shine a little brighter, but there’s no arguing the limits to which State stunk things up this year. Happy huntin’ Sly.
Peak: Ended the insanity and handed Vandy their first loss in week 7.
Rock-bottom: How hollow it must feel to be on the losing end of a 3-2 final.
In a word: unpleasant.
Auburn (5-7, 2-6)
The absurdity of firing the coordinator you just hired, mid season, is pretty much all you need to know. As the offense waded in confusion under the new Tony Franklin offense, the defense united in submission.
Peak: How hollow one must feel to be on the winning end of a 3-2 final.
Rock-bottom: Opening kick.
In a word: Circus.
Can Bama do it?
It looks like the Tide will become the first #1 team to ever be a double-digit underdog in the postseason. Even with a blemish on the resume, Florida has been unprecedented in their dominance and lured most of the nation’s college football braintrust with their sultry speed and humanlike QB. Meanwhile, the Tide sacrificed points for game eating drives, and efficiently and methodically won all but two of the crucial bookend quarters (1st and 4th, to the layman) all year. The Tide have also remained remarkably healthy, while Florida comes in with some doubt at key positions. The adages “the game is won at the line of scrimmage” and “defense wins championships,” have held up over time. But many think Urban Meyer’s Gators are simply too fast for any time honored adage to contain. I can not foresee a focused and disciplined Saban game plan steering Bama into a blowout, and if the John Parker Bowles can part the bangs and make the big throws when asked, and the running game can average around 4-5 yards a carry (they have in every game) and limit Florida’s possessions, then I think this one will come down to the 4th quarter, and right into Saban’s wheel house. Not saying they’ll win, but I’d be shocked if they did not cover.