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2008 SEC Lookbacks/Recaps
Florida RB Jeffrey Demps
Florida RB Jeffrey Demps
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 10, 2009


Taking a look back at every SEC team's 2008 season.

2008 SEC Early Lookbacks

2009 Pages & Recruiting Classes
East
  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

2008 Pages
2007 SEC Season | 2007 SEC Lookbacks/Recaps
East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State
- 2008 CFN All-SEC Team
| 2008 CFN Preseason All-SEC Team
- 2007 SEC Lookback/Recaps | 2008 SEC Lookaheads


 - 2009 SEC Early Lookaheads

Alabama
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 8-4   Final Record: 12-2

Recap
: While the year ended with a wildly disappointing thud, the Tide came through with a breakthrough season in the Nick Saban era kicked off by a big win over Clemson to spark a 12-0 start and a No. 1 ranking on the way to the SEC title game. After three quarters against Florida, Bama had control of the game, and then Tim Tebow took over in a 31-20 loss. The Gators played for the national title, while Bama went to the Sugar Bowl and was thumped by Utah in a 31-17 stunner. In the regular season, Bama had one of the nation’s best defenses, while the offense did what it had to do, especially in the first half of a shocking 41-30 win at Georgia.        
 
Offensive Player of the Year: OT Andre Smith
Defensive Player of the Year: S Rashad Johnson

Biggest Surprise: 12-0. While the losses to Florida and Utah might have soured the joy that was the 2008 season, Bama was about two years ahead of schedule as far as being a national player in the national title chase. The near-perfect blend of youthful stars, like WR Julio Jones and LBs Donta Hightower and Rolando McClain, mixed with veteran from the Mike Shula regime like QB John Parker Wilson and C Antoine Caldwell to form an air-tight team.

Biggest Disappointment: The fourth quarter against Florida. Sure, the Sugar Bowl loss was a major disappointment, but with all due respect to Utah, that wasn’t the same Bama team that was so sharp throughout the 2008 season. In the third quarter of the SEC title game, the Tide went on a long, punishing march to take the lead, but the defense couldn’t stop Tebow in the fourth.

Looking Ahead: The needle is pointed up. While it might be asking way too much for another 12-0 start, the defense should be even better while the offense gets back just enough talent to be as strong as it was last year.  Last year should only be the beginning of what should be a sensational era of Tide football.


Arkansas
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 5-7

Recap
: Considering Bobby Petrino had to try to put square pegs into round holes by changing a run-first, run-only team into a balanced, passing attack, the team had a nice first year with the potential to be really good, really fast. The Hogs struggled through an early three game stretch with losses to future BCSers Alabama, Texas and Florida, but came up with a win against Auburn to stay in the bowl hunt. But considering just about every key game was close, the losses to Kentucky and Mississippi State were killers in the bowl hunt. With nothing left to play for but pride, the team came up with a thrilling 31-30 win over LSU to end the year. Eight games were decided by seven points or fewer, with six of them by three points or fewer.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Michael Smith
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Malcolm Sheppard

Biggest Surprise: The Dicks. Casey Dick was one of the nation’s most inefficient, ineffective quarterbacks when Houston Nutt was the head coach. He went from being a liability to one of the SEC’s better passers in one year as the Hog offense finished second in the SEC in passing with Dick throwing for 2,586 yards and 13 touchdowns. His younger brother, Nathan, came up with a 333-yard, three-touchdown day in the loss to Mississippi State.

Biggest Disappointment: Mississippi State 31 – Arkansas 28. The Bulldogs were awful, with no offense and a defense that was spotty at best. They were able to pull off a home win to end the Arkansas bowl hopes with QB Tyson Lee coming up with one of his best games of the year. The Arkansas defense didn’t improve as much as it needed to over the second half of the season.

Looking Ahead: If Petrino could go 5-7 in his first year with so many obstacles and so many issues, now that he has so many more pieces into place, the team should be far better. The defense is loaded with veterans, the offense gets enough players back to be more effective and consistent, and things should be even more interesting in the passing game with Ryan Mallett, the transfer of Michigan, ready to be in the hunt for the starting quarterback job.

Auburn
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 9-3   Final Record: 5-7

Recap
: The Tigers were supposed to be in the hunt for the SEC title, but instead turned out to be one of the nation’s bigger disappointments thanks to an offense that was bad at best, a total liability at worst. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was canned midway through the season, after the Tiger offense had managed a 3-2 win over Mississippi State and had scored more 14 points just once in its first six games. The Tigers lost six of their final seven games, with the one win coming against UT Martin, leading to the firing of head coach Tommy Tuberville.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ben Tate
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Antonio Coleman

Biggest Surprise: The offense didn’t work. Really didn’t work. No one was expecting the spread attack to be Texas Tech throwing the ball, or Florida running it, but it was an utter disaster from early on. It wasn’t just that the passing game didn’t work, it’s that the running game was ineffective and wasn’t able to carry the offense when times got tight. This was supposed to be a dangerous offense, at least in spurts, and it wasn’t.

Biggest Disappointment: The inability to come up with a win over an FBS team over the second half of the season. The Tigers didn’t beat an FBS team after September 27th, and that was a 14-12 win over Tennessee. Even with all the problems, all the team had to do was come up with one more win, other than the layup against UT Martin, to go bowling, and it couldn’t do it. The 14-13 loss to Vanderbilt and the 25-22 home loss to Arkansas all but ended the season in early October.

Looking Ahead: Gene Chizik? It might have been one of the most bizarre and controversial hirings of the off-season, but he put together a whale of a coaching staff and now Auburn should be good enough to be two wins better and it should be able to get back to a bowl game. There are way too many holes to fill to have any pie-in-the-sky dream of winning the SEC, but there’s a whole bunch of athleticism returning and just enough talent to come up with an upset or three over the big boys.


Florida
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 10-2  Final Record: 13-1

Recap
: Ole Miss came up with a big pass play, a blocked extra point, and a fourth down stop to beat Florida 31-30. Tim Tebow finished third in the Heisman voting behind Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy. Everything else went right as the Gators won their second national title in three years with, outside of the loss to the Rebels, one of the most dominant seasons in college football history. Every win was by double-digits and out of the 13 victories, ten were against bowl teams with the other three coming against Tennessee, Arkansas, and Citadel. To get to the national title game, Tebow and the Gators came up with a big fourth quarter to beat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game. The offense led the SEC, and the defense was fourth in the nation in points allowed and ninth in yards closing out by holding the seemingly unstoppable, record-setting Oklahoma offense to 14 points in the BCS Championship.
 
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Tim Tebow
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Brandon Spikes

Biggest Surprise: The defensive line held together. It was supposed to be too young, too banged up, and too soft up the middle, but the Florida defensive front held up through a variety of injuries. It was a group of all sophomores and junior Jermaine Cunningham in a rotation, yet the Gators ended up allowing just 105 rushing yards per game and were solid at getting to the quarterback.

Biggest Disappointment: Tim Tebow finishing third in the Heisman voting. The Ole Miss loss might have been seen as the one down moment, but that defeat turned out to be the spark for the rest of the season as Tebow made his now-epic post-game speech about how the team was going to come out more focused the rest of the way. Had the Heisman voting been done after the bowl games, Tebow would’ve won, Colt McCoy would’ve been second, and Sam Bradford third.


Georgia
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 10-2  Final Record: 10-3

Recap
: By almost any reasonable measure, Georgia had a successful season. 10-3, a New Year’s Day bowl win over Michigan State, and a two of the three losses came against BCS teams including the eventual national champion, Florida (the other two losses were to Alabama and Georgia Tech). But considering the Dawgs had the preseason No. 1 team in the land and were supposed to be playing for the national title, the year was a bit of a disappointment. There was a nice 52-38 win over a mediocre LSU team, but there wasn’t much else of note as Georgia failed in its three biggest tests, getting blown out in the first half by Alabama at home, getting ripped up 49-10 by Florida, and getting run over by Georgia Tech in a 45-42 classic.      
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Knowshon Moreno
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Rennie Curran

Biggest Surprise: The offensive line. Considering the injury problems, most notably the knee injury to star tackle, Trinton Sturdivant, the line came through with a strong season. It was more than fine in pass protection, and while it sputtered a bit at times to get the running game going, it did a good job overall. Was this the SEC’s most dominant line? Not by a long shot, but there was enough production to lead the way for the SEC’s No. 2 offense.

Biggest Disappointment: The defense that went bye-bye. Alabama and Florida blew the doors off the Georgia defense, and Georgia Tech tore off 409 rushing yards and five scores. Oh sure, the D came up big against average offenses like Arizona State’s and South Carolina’s, but over the second half of the season, it gave up 38 points to LSU, 49 to Florida, 38 to Kentucky, and 45 to Georgia Tech (along with the 17-13 win over Auburn).

Looking Ahead: The window of national title opportunity might have closed. Georgia will still be excellent, as always, but it’ll have to replace RB Knowshon Moreno and QB Matthew Stafford, while Florida, and the rest of the SEC, will be better. However, the defense should be excellent if the tackles can come through big, while the offense should be fine with a veteran offensive line giving all the skill players time to work.


Kentucky
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 5-7  Final Record: 7-6

Recap
: Considering the Wildcats were supposed to be in a major rebuilding phase, especially on offense, it was a strong season with a winning record closed out with a nice Liberty Bowl win over Conference USA champion, East Carolina. A four-game winning streak to start out the season, even though three of the wins came against Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky, was nice, but the Cats only won two of the final eight games with the victories each coming by a point (Arkansas and Mississippi State). Injuries were the biggest problem as the defense tried to patch things together throughout the year with a rotation of banged up players.
 
Offensive Player of the Year: OT Garry Williams
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Trevard Lindley

Biggest Surprise: Randall Cobb. The Wildcat offense was dead in the water, and then came Cobb, a freshman, who stepped up when the team needed over the second half of the season by running for 401 yards and doing just enough throwing the ball to get by. He also served as a key receiver highlighted by a five-catch, 73-yard, two touchdown day in the win over Arkansas.

Biggest Disappointment: The quarterbacks. It was supposed to be the time for one-time superstar recruit, Curtis Pulley, to shine. It didn’t happen as he got into trouble and was booted off the team. Mike Hartline wasn’t horrible as a fill-in, but he struggled, got banged up, and Cobb had to save the day in the second half of the year. The coaching staff signed a few good prospects, and next year the battle for the starting job will be interesting.

Looking Ahead: This won’t be an SEC champion, but it’ll be a good team that should be back in the bowl mix. The offense gets almost everyone back, losing just two starters, while the defense got a big break with the return of CB Trevard Lindley to lead a solid back seven. Watch out for the Wildcats to be one of 2009’s bigger spoilers.


LSU
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 9-3  Final Record: 8-5

Recap
: It was an odd year that would’ve been seen as a total disaster, considering the team was coming off a national championship, had there not been a 38-3 annihilation of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. After starting out with a shaky 4-0 record, reality set in as Florida rolled up 51 points in a blowout win. The defense also struggled in a 52-38 loss to Georgia, but it came up with a nice performance in a 27-21 overtime loss to Alabama. The season appeared to be slipping into the abyss after Troy got up 31-10, but the Tigers scored 30 fourth quarter points for a comeback win. Losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas ended a run of four straight losses to SEC teams, but the time off and the win over the Yellow Jackets ended up giving the team hope going into next year.    
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Charles Scott
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Darry Beckwith

Biggest Surprise: The Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Georgia Tech. The athleticism was always there, and the NFL talent was all across the line, but the defense was a disaster when the light came on. With time to prepare, the defense shut down the Yellow Jacket running attack, keeping it to 164 yards, in the dominant win.

Biggest Disappointment: Jarrett Lee. The quarterback combination of Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee was supposed to be just good enough to get by. Hatch wasn’t awful, but he suffered a severe concussion against Georgia in late October and was effectively out for the year, and his career, as he transferred to Harvard, where he started his career. Lee was a disaster. He was unfairly blamed for the team’s problems considering he was only a redshirt freshman, but he was hidden by the coaching staff after he threw 14 interceptions with too many going for touchdowns. In the end, it turned out to be a positive as Jordan Jefferson got a baptism by fire and should be ready for the 2009 season.

Looking Ahead: The excitement is there, mainly because of the way the team played against Georgia Tech, but there’s work to be done. The recruiting classes of the past few years have stocked the shelves, but the lines need to do some patching, more consistency is needed from the skill players, and the defensive back seven has to play up to its talent and athleticism.


Ole Miss
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 9-4

Recap
: The start might have appeared a bit rocky, losing four of the first seven games, but one of the wins was over a Florida team, in Gainesville, that beat everyone else by double-digits, and the four losses were all by a touchdown or less. And then came a tough 23-21 win over Arkansas, and the run was on, winning the final six games of the year closing out with a stunning 47-34 Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech. Along the way, the Rebels throttled LSU in Baton Rouge, 31-13, and blew away arch-rival Mississippi State 45-0.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: OT Michael Oher
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Peria Jerry

Biggest Surprise: The win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. With all due respect to Ole Miss and its nine wins, this was a down year for the SEC. If a team was ever going to beat Auburn and LSU in the same year, it was this one. So while Ole Miss came up with a great first season under Houston Nutt and was on a roll going into the bowl game, being able to rip up a Texas Tech team that had only lost to Oklahoma before the regular season was one of the eye-openers of the bowl season.

Biggest Disappointment: The pass defense. Considering no one outside of Georgia and Florida could throw in the SEC, and the Rebels didn’t play the Dawgs, finishing last in the league in pass defense is almost inexcusable. Making it even more appalling was the help the secondary got from one of the nation’s best pass rushes. Ole Miss led the nation in tackles for loss and was fourth in sacks.

Looking Ahead: Former head coach Ed Orgeron struggled on the field, but he was a whale of a recruiter. He had stocked the shelves for Nutt with a phenomenal defensive line and an offensive line that was among the best in the SEC. Now the expectations are jacked through the roof with an outstanding recruiting class, a strong returning team, and pre-preseason top ten rankings from several outlets.


Mississippi State
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 4-8

Recap
: MSU never got the offense going, the defense wasn’t its normal, killer self, and the season was a fight the whole way. There was the win over Vanderbilt to end its unbeaten run, but there were only three wins over FCS teams with all three coming in tight games. The offensive woes bottomed out early on with a 3-2 home loss to Auburn, and there five games with seven points or fewer. The season ended with a 45-0 loss to Ole Miss, and the firing of head coach Sylvester Croom.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Anthon Dixon
Defensive Player of the Year: S Derek Pegues

Biggest Surprise: WR Brandon McRae. The Bulldogs lacked a true No. 1 target coming into the season, and while McRae was hardly a big-time playmaker, he was steady as the one receiver who consistently produced. He came up with a ten-catch, 102-yard day in the loss to Georgia Tech, and ended up leading the team with 51 grabs on the year for 518 yards with three scores.

Biggest Disappointment: The offense never got going. Everyone knew the passing game was going to struggle, everyone knew the offense was going to sputter, and still, nothing was able to be done about it. RB Anthony Dixon did what he was able to, but he didn’t get much room behind a mediocre offensive line. JUCO transfer Tyson Lee tried to provide a spark for the passing game, but he failed to generate much through the air. Even so, MSU finished seventh in the SEC in passing.

Looking Ahead: New head coach Dan Mullen was brought in to kickstart an offense that has been woeful for years. The Bulldogs have a long road to climb to be any sort of a player in the SEC race, but Mullen will be looking to start using the current players in positions of strength. The offense will revolve around Dixon, but the call will go out to the quarterbacks to see if one can run the spread like Mullen would like.


South Carolina
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 8-4    Final Record: 7-6

Recap
: The Gamecocks overcame tight early losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia to start the year 5-2. A third seven-point loss of the season, coming to LSU, was the one blip on a good run of wins and a 7-2 record. And then came the 56-6 loss to Florida, followed up by a 31-14 loss to Clemson, and the season’s ugly turn continued to slide. Even with the time off, USC didn’t heal up and didn’t do much of anything in a lifeless 31-10 Outback Bowl loss to Iowa. There was a good win over Ole Miss in the middle of the season, and in any other year, a 27-6 win over Tennessee would be impressive, but the inability to improve as the year wore on will be the lasting legacy of 2008.
 
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Kenny McKinley
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Eric Norwood

Biggest Surprise: The offensive line never came through. It was supposed to be a case of experience turning into production, but it didn’t happen. South Carolina allowed 39 sacks on the year and didn’t do anything to help out the SEC’s worst running game. Yes, the quarterbacks threw a ton of interceptions, but it’s not like they had a lot of time. Three starters return to next year’s offensive line, and the spotlight will be on.

Biggest Disappointment: Steve Spurrier’s handling of the quarterback situation. One moment is was Chris Smelley, the next it was Tommy Beecher, then Stephen Garcia took over the reins, then it was a coin flip, then there were interceptions, Then there were more interceptions. Then there was another quarterback change. Spurrier is known for having a quick trigger with his quarterbacks, but that seemed to backfire in 2008 as no one was ever able to settle into the job.

Looking Ahead: South Carolina was one of the SEC’s hot teams going into the last two seasons, and it turned out to be a disappointment in each. Once again, the expectations will relatively high as a few good recruiting classes are supposed to combine with the returning base of veterans to finally make the program relevant in the SEC East race. We’ve all heard it before, but the potential is there for Spurrier to finally crank out the type of team that long-suffering Gamecock fans have been waiting for … potentially.


Tennessee
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 9-3    Final Record: 5-7

Recap
: In a tremendously disappointing season, Tennessee’s offense sputtered from the start, with an ominous overtime loss to a lousy UCLA team, and nothing positive happened from then on. The Vols struggled to beat Northern Illinois and whacked Mississippi State, but they couldn’t stay on the field with Alabama or South Carolina, scoring nine and six points, respectively, and then came the 13-7 home loss to Wyoming to end any bowl hopes, and the Tennessee head coaching career of Phil Fulmer. The team showed heart with wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky to close things out, but it was too little, too late. In the end, the defense came up with a great year that went for naught, and now it’ll be up to Lane Kiffin to try to restore the glory.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: OG Anthony Parker
Defensive Player of the Year: S Eric Berry

Biggest Surprise: The defense was really, really good. It was supposed to be strong, but it finished third in the nation overall, and tenth in scoring D, despite getting little to no help from the offense. The pass rush was fine, but nothing special, even with Robert Ayers coming off the edge, but it was the secondary, led by the nation’s best safety tandem of Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley. The defense all but shut down Florida in the 30-6 loss, with the big Gator points coming on special teams, and that was the only time the Vols allowed 30 or more points.

Biggest Disappointment: The offense. This is Tennessee. The school of Peyton Manning, Jamal Lewis, and more outstanding receiver talent than any one program should be able to boast, yet it finished 115th in the nation in offense, averaging 269 yards per game, scored 14 points or fewer in seven games. The woeful offense got Phil Fulmer fired … and offensive Dave Clawson the Bowling Green head coaching job.

Looking Ahead: It’s Tennessee, so there are athletes to burn on both sides of the ball. Lane Kiffin has assembled an interesting, talented coaching staff that should provide enough of a boost to get to a bowl game right away, but it’s going to take a few years of strong recruiting classes to get back to the national title level Vol fans expect their program to be at.


Vanderbilt
CFN 2008 Preseason Prediction: 3-9   Final Record: 7-6

Recap
: A bowl game! A bowl game! Finally, finally, Vanderbilt got over the hump and played in its first bowl game since 1982, but it had to sweat it out. The Commodores were one of the biggest stories of the first half of the 2008 season with a 5-0 start including wins over Ole Miss, South Carolina and Auburn. But the lack of an offense ended up being too much to overcome in tight losses to Mississippi State, Georgia, and Duke as part of a run of six losses in the final seven games of the regular season. However, the one win was against Kentucky, and it was enough to get to the Music City Bowl where the Commodores beat Boston College 16-14 for the fifth win out of the seven by a touchdown or less.       
 
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Chris Nickson
Defensive Player of the Year: CB D.J. Moore

Biggest Surprise: The win over Boston College. Yeah, Vanderbilt was a nice story, getting to play in the post-season, but this was a dying team that finished with the nation’s third-worst offense going against a Boston College team that lost the ACC title game and was close to playing in the Orange Bowl. The Vandy defense came through, the kicking game was clutch, and the win was one of the brightest surprises of the SEC’s solid bowl season.

Biggest Disappointment: Nothing worked on offense. Nothing. The running game had its moments thanks to the mobility at quarterback, but the passing game was the worst in the SEC, was among the nation’s most inefficient, and overall, the attack was a liability scoring 14 points or fewer in seven of the final eight games.

Looking Ahead: 2008 was fun, but it’s going to require a major boost of luck to get back to a bowl game. The SEC was down last year and Vandy was able to take advantage. With six road games overall and improvement up and down the board, it’ll take a few upsets, and a major boost from the offense, to get a 13th game.