Now that we're a couple weeks removed from the end of the 2015 college football season, it's time to look back.
How'd every SEC team perform this past season?
Which teams lived up to expectations? Which failed to? Which surprised and which disappointed?
We've decided to grade every SEC team's performance during the 2015 season. We're basing these grades on what the teams accomplished and what they were expected to accomplish heading into the season. Alabama and Vanderbilt are not viewed equally and are not graded on the same scale; Florida in Year 1 of the Jim McElwain era was expected to perform differently than LSU in Year 11 of the Les Miles era; etc.
Here are the grades (A+ to F was available).
SEC East >>>
Florida (10-4, 7-1): A-
The Gators surprised most of the SEC in Year 1 of the Jim McElwain era, taking home the SEC East Division title over heavily-favored Georgia. The offense struggled, but the defense was one of the best in college football. This is a program that seems to be on the rise. Gators' fans have a lot to be excited about.
Georgia (10-3, 5-3): C
It feels a little weird giving a team that won 10 games a "C," but consider this: the Bulldogs' season led to their long-time coach, Mark Richt, getting fired. Georgia entered the season with SEC championship hopes and College Football Playoff aspirations. The Athens, Ga. program went on to lose three conference games, including blowout losses to Alabama and Florida. Georgia failed, mightily, to live up to the preseason hype.
Kentucky (5-7, 2-6): C
The Wildcats had some hopeful expectations this past season, but it was always going to be an uphill climb for Kentucky in the nation's premiere conference. UK won four of its first five games of the season, with a narrow loss to Florida sandwiched in between wins, but then came an ugly five-loss stretch that really put a damper on an exciting start. If the Wildcats want to compete in the SEC, they'll have to close as strong as they open. So, with a nice start and ugly finish, Kentucky makes par.
Missouri (5-7, 1-7): D
After finishing at the top of the SEC East in each of the previous two seasons, Missouri wasn't able to walk through the wide-open door that was the division in 2015 to make it a three-peat. That was disappointing. Yes, the Tigers lost some talent to graduation and the NFL, but anybody could have won the division this past season - I mean, did anybody see Florida's offense? - but they lacked the grit. They had distractions, but that doesn't change what happened on the field. Losing every SEC game besides one against a pitiful South Carolina team is sad.
South Carolina (3-9, 1-7): D
The Gamecocks were terrible in 2015, winning just one SEC game against Vanderbilt. They were so bad that head coach Steve Spurrier decided it was time to step down - in the middle of the season. Ouch. That kind of transition cannot be easy on the players, so we're determined to cut them the some amount of slack, but it doesn't change they way they played. An ugly win over a UNC team that somehow turned out to be pretty good should have told us all we needed to know about the Gamecocks. It was going to take a miracle to save this team in 2015.
Tennessee (9-4, 5-3): B
This upcoming season looks like it could be a championship contending one for the Volunteers, but 2015 was pretty solid, too. It didn't result in any titles for Butch Jones' program, but there was some promise. Tennessee lost its three SEC games (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida) by a combined 10 points and ended the year with a thrashing of No. 13 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. We might look back on the Volunteers' 2015 campaign as the one that set everything up.
Vanderbilt (4-8, 2-6): C
Expectations weren't very high for the Commodores heading into the 2015 college football season, and that really didn't change after they lost the first two games of the season - one of those to a Western Kentucky team. However, with those limited expectations, finishing in the middle of the SEC East creates some positive vibes. Oh, and they were shockingly close to beating the Gators, which would have boosted this grade. But they break even for 2015.
SEC West >>>
Alabama (14-1, 7-1): A+
The Crimson Tide didn't win every game it played in 2015-2016, but it still finished as the national champion, which is all you can really ask for. Alabama, under Nick Saban's guidance, has now won four of the last seven national titles.
Alabama's early season loss to Ole Miss, which saw five Crimson Tide turnovers, had many claiming that Saban's dynasty was over. Not so much. Instead, the program used the defeat as motivation en route to its 16th national title. Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy, Jake Coker threw for over 3,000 yards and the team's offensive line took home numerous awards. And oddly enough, it was special teams that wound up being the difference against Clemson.
Auburn (7-6, 2-6): D
Yikes. Auburn entered the season as a trendy College Football Playoff pick, and finished barely making a bowl. Jeremy Johnson had Heisman hype in August and lost his starting job in September. Barely anything went well for Auburn in 2015, and while clawing out a bowl win over a good Memphis team is nice, this program had far loftier expectations entering the year. Worst of all: Alabama won No. 16. That doesn't affect the grade Auburn gets here, but it definitely lends insult to injury.
Arkansas (8-5, 5-3): B
Arkansas, after consecutive losses to Toledo, Texas Tech and Texas A&M, got off to a terrible start in 2015. But the Razorbacks, behind over 2,500 yards on the ground, finished strong. Arkansas ended the season on a 7-2 run, which featured wins over LSU, Ole Miss and Kansas State. Arkansas may not have competed for an SEC title this past year, but eight wins is certainly a step in the right direction for Bret Bielema & Co.
LSU (9-3, 5-3): B
Considering the fact that head coach Les Miles almost got fired at the end of the season, you'd think that 2015 had been a disaster for the Tigers. Not really. LSU opened the season with seven consecutive wins before getting handled by Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The loss started a three-game slide, but the program recovered. Wins over Texas A&M and Texas Tech helped to end the season on a positive note. Miles won't keep his job much longer with "B" campaigns, but he survived this one.
Mississippi State (9-4, 4-4): B
They're going to miss Dak Prescott in Stark Vegas. The dynamic quarterback was one of the best in the SEC over the last two years, and led the Bulldogs to 19 wins over that span. Other portions of MSU's team took a step back from the 10-win 2014 team, but the Bulldogs won the games they were supposed to in the SEC, and struggled with the upper echelon of the West division. Add in a blowout win over N.C. State in the Belk Bowl, and it was a solid season for Mississippi State.
Ole Miss (10-3, 6-2): A-
Ole Miss put together a nice 10-win campaign, but the Rebels and their fans likely feel like they could have accomplished more. After a surprising week three upset of Alabama, the Rebels were in control of their own fate in the loaded SEC West. The loss to Florida hurt. The loss to Memphis confused everyone. But the last-second defeat to Arkansas, which featured a ridiculous 4th-and-25 conversion, stung the most. Ole Miss finished the year with wins over LSU, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State. Chad Kelly is back in 2016, so expect another competitive squad.
Texas A&M (8-5, 4-4): C+
The Aggies began the year with two former five-star recruit quarterbacks and finished with none on the roster. In between was a season that was a bit of a mess. Texas A&M looked good to start the season, running out to a 5-0 record, but was blown out against Alabama, Ole Miss, lowly Auburn, LSU, and lost its bowl to Louisville. Kevin Sumlin will need to take a major step forward with Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight, or the Aggies may be looking for a new coach.
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