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Many readers respond via e-mail and Twitter to columns and blogs with the same lines. I get the same phrases peppering my inbox all the time. “If you're wrong, I expect an immediate apology,” “How can you think that Team A will lose to Team B? It's just not possible,” and my personal favorite, “you're just showing your bias,” appear in my inbox every week. Well if you were one of those people who sent an e-mail like that this year (or just thought about it), this column is for you. It's time to step up to the plate and examine the good, the bad and the ugly predictions and prognostications I made during 2009.
Les Miles Ranked No. 7
In May, LSU fans showed their disapproval for my ranking of SEC coaches by littering my inbox with about every insult possible. It was simply incomprehensible that anyone could rank Les Miles seventh in the SEC. After all, the Mad Hatter has a National Championship. Makes sense, right? Nope. I said it then and I'll repeat it now, the Tigers win in spite of Miles, not because of him. Never was this more apparent than in the final drive vs. Ole Miss. That drive saw Les Miles waste 17 seconds in the final minute before calling a timeout, call for a spike with one second left and then deny that he called for that spike, even though it's clear that he did, throwing his quarterback under the bus.
Rich Brooks Ranked No. 5
While many LSU fans hated that I ranked Miles seventh, Kentucky fans were pleased to see that their head Coach Rich Brooks was ranked fifth in the same column. Anyone outside of Lexington probably thought I was crazy for writing that, and many probably still do. But that's only because Kentucky goes through every season in the shadow of SEC East giants Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Brooks led his team to a 7-5 record and their fourth straight bowl game. The Wildcats won at Auburn, which was their first win over Auburn since 1966. True freshman quarterback Morgan Newton started in place of injured quarterback Mike Hartline, and led the Wildcats to a penalty and turnover-free win. Kentucky went on the road for another milestone win late in November, up-ending the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens for the first time in 32 years.
McCalebb Makes An Impact
In Part Two of our SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, I said that Auburn running back Onterrio McCalebb would be the early enrollee with the biggest impact on his team. Anyone that saw McCalebb when he was healthy would have to agree. When healthy, he makes that Gus Malzahn offense kick into overdrive. McCalebb finished the season with 547 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and the majority of the time he was running on a balky ankle. Unfortunately for Auburn fans, after the Tigers win at Tennessee, which was their fifth straight win to start the season, McCalebb wasn't really healthy for the rest of the season. But Auburn found their version of Percy Harvin early in 2009, and they've got three more years to enjoy his talents.
Mallett Steps Up
In Part One of our SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, I listed Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett as a sleeper pick to contend for SEC Offensive Player of The Year. Golf clap? Golf clap. A legitimate case could be made for Mallett being first-team All-SEC quarterback over Tim Tebow (please, nobody freak out). Mallett finished the year with leading the SEC with 3,425 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns. If he's smart, Mallett would be one and done in Fayetteville and offer his services to the NFL, because his one year at Arkansas was impressive enough to prove that he's ready for the next level.
Ole Miss Tanks
The Ole Miss hype-machine went a little crazy during the 2009 preseason, and apparently I was part of that machine. In my 2009 SEC Predictions column, I predicted that Ole Miss would win the SEC West for the first time since the divisional split in 1992. That wasn't too outlandish at the time, considering everyone and their mother had an opinion on the Rebels. But four losses and a disastrous season from Jevan Snead later, the Rebels find themselves right back to a place where they've spend the last 17 years – SEC anonymity. Note to self: don't by into unsubstantiated preseason hype next year.
Alabama Will Disappoint?
Yep, that's what I said back in mid-June. This is a direct quote from Part 3 of our SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion.
"I am going to go with Alabama as the team that is most likely to disappoint. Alabama fans have dreams of National Championships, after posting an unblemished regular season last season. But, I don't see the Crimson Tide at that level quite yet."
Yeah, about that. Bama went into the SEC Championship Game undefeated, took down No. 1 Florida, and is a favorite over the Texas Longhorns in the Citi BCS National Championship Game. Crimson Tide season = success. My answer to the “what team will disappoint” question = fail.
One of the questions asked in Part Four of our SEC Roundtable Discussion, was which true freshman would have the biggest impact this season. My answer was Georgia wide receiver Marlon Brown. Brown was the No. 2 receiver recruit in the country last season, according to Scout.com. Logic says that he would step right in and be a nice compliment to stud receiver A.J. Green. Brown's final line for the 2009 season – two catches for 15 yards and one wasted year of eligibility. Whoops.
What Conference Is Second-Best?
In our first installment of the Roundtable, I claimed that the second-best conference in the nation is the Pac-10. Granted, I was a bit reluctant in making that claim, saying that the Pac-10 was essentially the Pac One. Well, that one (USC) was an epic failure thanks to what looked like defense that looked like they were playing two-hand-touch. The rest of the conference isn't doing itself any favors by routinely getting dominated by the Mountain West for the last two years. If I had to answer that question now, I probably still wouldn't know the answer, but I do know that the second-best conference isn't the Pac-10. It's not even the No. 2 in the Pacific time zone.
Houston Nutt at No. 3
In my ranking of SEC coaches that I wrote in May, I ranked Houston Nutt as the third-best coach in the SEC. He might not even be No. 3 in his division. Nutt seemingly fell in love with Jevan Snead for the first half of the season, which caused Dexter McCluster to go virtually unused for the first-half of the season. You know, Dexter McCluster – the best player on the Rebels roster? The inexplicable omission of McCluster from the Rebels game plan falls squarely on coaching. Nutt will be a bit farther down on the rankings next spring.
Do you disagree with any of this article or want to point out anything else that I missed? Feel free to E-mail me.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Off-Season Column Archive:
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2009 Regular Season Three & Out archive