SEC Predictions: Week 4

Last Saturday saw College Gameday once again decide to visit SEC Country, where the gang hit up Knoxville, TN for the Tennessee-Florida Game. Tons more exicitement than there had been in years for fans of Big Orange….same old result against those Gators.

Anyway, this week, Gameday’s off to travel to the University of Florida’s little brother in Tallahassee, where the mighty ‘Noles will stick their flaming spear in the University of South Carolina’s little brother and make them enjoy it. Anyway, this one should be exciting.

While in the SEC, we’ve got the ‘Tiger War’ between LSU and Auburn at Jordan-Hare which should have an atmosphere which is off the hook, an East game between Georgia and Vanderbilt that ended up like this last season (and secretly, we’re hoping for the 2012 edition to end similarly), and the battle of the Columbias when Missouri and South Carolina get together (Columbian Marching Powder not invited).

Anyway, let’s get on with it.

THE TIGER WAR (LSU at Auburn)

Auburn managed to avoid going 0-3 by beating the mighty ULM in overtime on a field goal, while LSU only got out of second gear when they realised that Idaho was giving them a game (they ended up vandalizing the Vandals). When the powers-that-be learn that LSU isn’t good playing in purple?? Anyway, this battle at night at Jordan-Hare should ben an incredible atmosphere…. but will the scoreline match? Well, if the Tigers can get Kiehl Frazier into some kind of form and the offensive line can keep him from getting killed, and the ‘D’ disrupts Zach Mettenberger from getting into rhythm – especially as RB/FB Alfred Blue is done for a few games – then possibly.

BOTTOM LINE: The Tigers from Looisiana roll. By 18.

THE COLUMBIAN CUP (Missouri at South Carolina)

Missouri managed to hold of Arizona State to go 2-1 this year, but they’ll be trying to keep themselves from going 0-2 in the SEC East when they visit an oiled-up Williams-Brice Stadium to play the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks fanbase, enjoying themselves by drinking in a parking lot for the last few hours, can’t wait to see Marcus Lattimore against a soft Missouri running defense, while if Jarvis Jones is anything to go by, Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina’s defensive front is going to cause awesomely-named Tigers QB Corbin Berkstresser hellish problems.

BOTTOM LINE: South Carolina wins!!! South Carolina wins!!! By 21!! Back to the parking lot to celebrate!!!

THE TODD GRANTHAM CUP (Vanderbilt at Georgia)

We learned one thing in 2011: Don’t screw with Todd Grantham. He’ll just plain spew bullets at you. And when he’s finished with you, he’ll go after your boss, and possibly your first born. And if we’ve learned one thing about the Bulldogs in 2012, is that they really, really miss Jarvis Jones when he’s not playing. The Dawgs were just terrible against Florida Atlantic in an atmosphere that was more St John Passion than Sanford Passion in the first half of the game against the Owls, but Aaron Murray settled any Georgia worries and put the game away. This week, they’ll be dependent on Murray – and RB sensation Todd Gurley – to do the job against Vandy, for whom Jordan Rodgers is playing inconsistently.

BOTTOM LINE: If they can play for 60 minutes, Georgia wins by 21. If they don’t, Dawgs by 10. The game’s in a better atmosphere, though. Thankfully.

THE ‘IT COULD ONLY GET WORSE BY LOSING TO A BIG EAST TEAM’ CUP (Rutgers at Arkansas)

If you’d watched the truly awful game between Rutgers and South Florida and Alabama’s destruction of Arkansas, we don’t want to say it but we will: It’s going to be a damned close game in Fayetteville this weekend. Tyler Wilson STILL isn’t cleared to play (this is a good thing, folks), and there’s been nothing good to say about The Biggest Letdown Of The Season so far, apart from that John L. Smith is a good guy and we wish him all the best as an assistant somewhere outside of the SEC in 2012. For this one, we advise bringing the smelling salts. Having said that, if Wilson does play – as John L. Smith said in Thursday’s press conference – then Arkansas will win.

BOTTOM LINE: It gets worse. So much worse for Arkansas. Rutgers wins. By 3. /// If Wilson plays, Arkansas by 14. The boy’s a game changer. The defense still sucks though.

THE ‘BAD GAME, HUGE PRE-LUNCH PARTY’ CUP (Ole Miss at Tulane)

God’s honest truth – the party at Ole Miss for the Texas game was absolutely immense. Having said that, the game wasn’t, as the Longhorns bent Ole Reb over their knee and gave him a 30-point spanking. But if you want good parties for two games in a row, Ole Miss’ visit to Tulane should be a good one. Our cousin was a frat boy at Tulane, and the boys knew how to party. Get prepared for some well-dressed guys, some bourbon, and some genteel behavior. And all before 11am. Oh? And what’s Tulane like? They are 0-2, and bad.

BOTTOM LINE: Ole Miss becomes ROLL MISS, and goes 3-1, winning by 21.

THE ‘HOSSES VS TEETH’ CUP (Kentucky at Florida)

To mis-quote the great Drive By Truckers song “3 Alabama Icons”, if there’s two things that are loved in Kentucky, it’s horses and basketball. And maybe bourbon. Anyway, the Kentucky football hasn’t been one of them in years, and won’t be after their disastrous loss to Western Kentucky last week. As we said in an earlier article, we’ll be shocked if Joker Phillips isn’t booted out of town by season-end. Anyway, Will Muschamp is back to being God again in the view of the lovably loyal Florida faithful, and the Gators are playing with confidence. Big Blue, this is going to be BLU-TAL.

BOTTOM LINE: Florida chomps all over UK, winning by 28. And the offense clicks too, with Jeff Driskel throwing for 1,000 yards…. (well, that might be overestimating things a tad….)

THE ‘WE PLAYED WELL IN GEORGIA UNTL HALF-TIME, BUT WE’LL GET WIPED OUT IN TUSCALOOSA BY HALF-TIME’ CUP (Florida Atlantic at Alabama)

See the name of the Cup. Quite honestly not worth writing these words because this game’s going to be soooooooo done with by half-time.

BOTTOM LINE: Hey Owls! The Tide are going to beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer, 50 points for Alabama. And none for Florida Atlantic.

 THE ‘WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED AGAINST FLORIDA BETTER NOT HAPPEN TWO WEEKS IN A ROW’ (Akron at Tennessee)

Tennessee was great for the first half of its game against Florida, completely outplaying the Gators en route to a 10-point lead. But in the second half, they completely wilted, hurt by stunning drops by excellent wide receivers, poor line play, and poor defense (TWO big plays? Isn’t that OLD Tennessee). Tennessee won’t need to bring its running game against the Mighty Zips, but it had better show it had one, or the Vols are going to suffer further losses this season and finish fourth (or worse) in the East. Which won’t make any fans in Knoxville happy – or people called Dooley.

BOTTOM LINE: Tennessee rebounds, winning by 35.

THE ‘IF THIS WAS ALABAMA VS MISSISSIPPI STATE, THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD GAME’ CUP (SOUTH Alabama at Mississippi State)

But this isn’t. Safe to say that Mississippi State successfully negotiated an away trip to Troy (winning by six), and South Alabama should provide some relief before what will be a nasty SEC West schedule.

BOTTOM LINE: Dan Mullen rules. Again. The kings of the Cowbell ring to 4-0.

THE ‘WE WISH THIS WAS SOUTH CAROLINA VS TEXAS A&M’ CUP (South Carolina STATE vs Texas A&M)

The atmosphere at Kyle Field is normally off-the-hook, and we were glad to see that that hasn’t changed now the Aggies are the SEC. Having said that, only the most psycho Aggies fan (or is that all of ’em?) will be jumping out of their skin or  for SCSU, who are 1-2 after getting shut up by South Carolina last week.

BOTTOM LINE: Aggies win! Aggies win! Aggies win! Texas A&M by 40.

SEC Presason preview: Can Hugh Freeze turn around Ole Miss?

In the days of Eli Manning it might have been a truism to talk about the Rebels and say: “Ole Miss by damn!”, but last season, there was only one ‘damn’ to describe this team: Damn awful.

But can they improve and at least break their SEC losing streak – and give hope to Rebels fans who haven’t had a decent team since 2009?

LAST SEASON

Ole Miss went 2-10 last year under Houston Nutt, who was summarily given his marching orders a month before the season ended – a move that sparked some outrage. And it was no bad thing. The Rebels didn’t lose many close heartbreakers – they were generally laughers (bar BYU (loss by 1) and Arkansas, by five). In fact, the biggest highlight of Ole Miss’ season was being part of an opposition running back’s Heisman reel (Trent Richardson). That, and losing by 20 to Louisiana Tech.

And in the losing streak, they took their losing streak in the SEC to 15. But they can still throw a party, as friends of this blog who hit up the Georgia game happily maintain.

NFL-wise, offensive lineman Bobby Massie was drafted.

So who’s going to be the new quarterback?

As fans of the University of Texas will tell you, quarterbacks sharing position doesn’t really work, but Coach Freeze seriously wants to give playing time to both his QBs – Barry Brunnetti (who went 19-35 for 144 yards last season) or Bo Wallace, who played for Freeze at Arkansas State, where St Hugh ruled the roost before he was asked to coach in Oxford, where had success as a high school coach.

Coach Freeze better start choosing quickly, or it’ll be a long hard season.

And what weapons will the new QB have to rely on?

Now that four starters have left, Wallace/Brunnetti is not going to get a whole of lot of support at offensive line, so he’d better be quick on his heels. Brunnetti ran for 100 yards last year, which was quite tidy for a QB.

Anyway, running backs Jeff Scott, Nicholas Parker, and Devin Thomas are going to provide some threat from the backfield, while the Rebs are really deep at wide receiver/tight end, bringing back almost anyone who had a receiving yard last year – including Donte Moncrief (454 yds),and Ja-Mes Logan (274). Randall Mackey also comes over from QB to play RB AND WR (so he’ll be busy then!!) which should be more fun. But the loss of  Nickolas Brassell (336) to academic ineligibility is going to be a huge loss to Freeze’s men. Brassell will transfer.

Whoever is at quarterback, there’s a big question: Can the offensive line deal with the speed of their SEC counterparts? Sadly, we think not.

And on the other side of the ball?

Defensively, linebacker Mike Marry and free safety Charles Sawyer return, which is good bearing in mind they had over 150 tackles between them. Cornerback Wesley Pendleton has been getting some rave reviews this Spring, too.

But they’ll need to be helped by Des Channing Ward and C.J. Johnson, who –as remarked by Lindy’s – should benefit from the new blitz-happy schemes of new co-defensive co-ordinator Dave Wommack.

But this was a defense that gave up nearly 420 yards per game this year. Will it be able to improve so much that Ole Miss can actually win a SEC game?

The 2012 schedule

September 1 CENTRAL ARKANSAS

September 8 UTEP

September 15 TEXAS

September 22 at Tulane

September 29 at Alabama

October 6 TEXAS A&M

October 13 AUBURN

October 27 at Arkansas

November 3 at Georgia

November 10 VANDERBILT

November 17 at LSU

November 24 MISSISSIPPI STATE

THE BOTTOM LINE: There is no getting past the fact that the Rebels have one of the toughest schedules in the land. They play Texas, Texas A&M, Auburn, Vandy and Mississippi State at home, but by gosh their away schedule is difficult. Anyone else want to go on the road to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU? The only saving grace of Freeze’s first season in charge in Oxford is that the team should start the season well and be 3-1 before they play Alabama. Thereafter, it’s hard to see where a win’s going to come from. Sorry, Hugh. We predict a 3-9 season….and still no SEC victory.


SEC Prediction: Will Arkansas ‘Hog’ The SEC West?

Between Bobby Petrino and Houston Nutt, the Arkansas Razorbacks have put together winning seasons for seven years out of the last 10, including a pretty wonderful 11-2 run in 2011.

This year, many people are expecting nothing to change except the fact that Bobby Petrino’s out (penalized for his philandering ways), and beloved John L. Smith’s in with a 10-month contract. If Arkansas is half as a good as Smith is as a soundbite, they might make a run for the title!

In fact, the AP and USA Today like the Hogs so much that they have a Top 10 ranking to start the 2012 season. But can they be better than that, or will the John L. Smith roadshow fall by the wayside?

LAST SEASON

The Razorbacks were great last year. Tyler Wilson took over where Ryan Mallett left off, spraying the ball in all directions on an offense that continually torched the opposition for an average of nearly 37 points per game. Of course, the LSU and Alabama losses – as well as an injury to Knile Davis – hurt a run for a SEC West title – but it didn’t hurt a run to the Cotton Bowl, where they stomped Kansas State 29-16 in a battle of the unequals.

Then, in the off-season, Bobby Petrino had a motorbike crash and afterwards it emerged that he’d been cheating on his wife with Jessica Dorrell, an Arkansas member of staff, and he was kicked out of a job. He has since bowed his head and begged for forgiveness publically – we’ll see if anything comes of that in 2013. The SEC Football Blog has already made a point that Petrino should return in 2012, but right now, it’s the John L. Smith show, although Smith did hire Bobby Petrino’s brother, Paul, as offensive co-ordinator. The Hogs have realised that they might not like their ex-coach, but they sure as hell love his offensive mind.

NFL-wise, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Jake Bequette were all drafted, and don’t be surprised if each of them has an impact this or next season in the big leagues.

SO WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN OFFENSIVELY?

We’ll go as far as saying that Paul Petrino’s offense – and he knows his brother’s system inside-out – will be rich on both pass (QB Wilson, who threw for over 3,600 yards and 24 TDs in an incredible year comes back, as do WRs Cobi Hamilton and Marquel Wade and TE Chris Gragg) and run – Knile Davis is back after injury. Be afraid, defenses. We feel that by December, we’ll be using another two words to talk about Wilson: Heisman Candidate. Yep, he’s that good.

BUT IS KNILE DAVIS GOING TO BE OK?

Knile Davis suffered a broken ankle in August that wiped out his 2011 year, but he’s back and bigger, faster and angrier than ever. This guy could well be the next Darren McFadden or Felix Jones in Fayetteville, and we anticipate he’ll rack up the receiving yards, too, which gives Wilson another pair of hands. And if Davis is slow to start the season, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo put together over 1,000 yards rushing between them. In short, the Hogs are going to be OK in the backfield.

SPEAKING OF BACK, HOW’S THE DEFENSE LOOKING? 

The loss of defensive end Jake Bequette to the NFL – he had 10 sacks last year – is going to hurt Arkansas. No two ways about it. Also, top tackler Jerry Franklin, who had 101 tackles last year, has gone, too, meaning that there are going to be a few holes in Paul Haynes’ ‘D’. A Spring injury to Alonzo Highsmith – who contributed 12 ½ tackles for loss last year – won’t have helped Haynes’ humour much, although Highsmith will probably be back by the opener against the mighty Jacksonville State.

AND AT DEFENSIVE BACK?

Free safety Tremain Thomas, who had 91 tackles of his own last year, is gone, as is Elton Ford. Haynes will be hoping that Darius Winston and Tevin Mitchel can pick up the slack that’s going to be left – and look out for Ross Rasner, a linebacker who can play at free safety too. This could be interesting…. Or distastrous.

THE 2012 SCHEDULE

September 1 JACKSONVILLE STATE

September 8 LOUISIANA-MONROE

September 15 ALABAMA

September 22 RUTGERS

September 29 at Texas A&M

October 6 at Auburn

October 13 KENTUCKY

October 27 OLE MISS

November 3 TULSA

November 10 at South Carolina

November 17 at Mississippi State

November 24 LSU

BOTTOM LINE: Arkansas has a decent start to the season, with its first four games at home – including a monster one against Alabama, which gives the Razorbacks to a) Get some revenge for 2011 and b) Show the pollsters that they are a viable National Championship Option. Realistically, we think that they will go all the way to November 10th with just one loss (to Alabama), before a monster clash at South Carolina starts off a nasty final three games of the schedule, with a road trip to Mississippi State and a home game against LSU providing all the fun of the fair. Realistically, we think Arkansas ends the season with a 9-3 record, with Alabama, LSU and South Carolina providing the losses on an otherwise strong deal.

Who’s the best QB in the SEC?

As y’all know by this website, we spend our time being very, very nice about the SEC. But September rolls closer, we’re going to say a few things that you probably won’t like and certainly won’t agree with.

But, as my uncle Hank said to me: “Opinions are like mouthholes. Everyone’s got one” (He may have substituted the word ‘mouth’ for something else, but not on this family website!)”.

So if you really think Quarterback 2 is a better QB than QB 1, then make sure you comment to tell us where we went wrong. You never know, we might listen….

So without further ado…

1) Aaron Murray (Georgia)

It’s a toss-up between Murray and Tyler Wilson of Georgia, but the reason why Murray’s No.1 is quite simply we think he’s going to have a better year. Yes, we realise that Murray, who threw for 3,000 yards and 35 TDs last season is losing Orson Charles, his tremendous tight end, but he keeps Malcolm Mitchell, Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett at receiver – which will give him a huge amount of depth. Oh, and his running back Isaiah Crowell‘s going to be pretty good (if he stays out of trouble), too. And he’s keeping his staff offensively – which is more than can be said for Wilson and his motorbike-riding ex-coach, too.

2) Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)

Wilson is a brilliant quarterback, and is definitely going to go to the NFL. He’ll have great tailbacks in Knile Davis, Ronnie Wingo, Dennis Johnson to do some damage (expect John L. Smith’s offense to be pretty balanced), and with his arm, he’ll overcome the losses of Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams to turn Cobi Hamilton into a 1,000 yard receiver. Razorbacks fans hope.

3) AJ McCarron (Alabama)

AJ McCarron completes a pretty simple first 1-2-3 after an excellent National Championship Game vaulted him into big-time quarterback reckoning. No, we’re not a big fan of all the trash-talking he’s done with Tyrann Mathieu this off-season (would you guys shut up? Please?), but we ARE big fans of his on-the-field actions. With Trent Richardson gone, there’s going to be more focus on McCarron to perform (although Eddie Lacy is going to be special), and up his stats of 2,634 yards and 16 TDs that he put together in 2011. Kenny Bell (WR) and Michael Williams (TE) are going to be your receivers to watch out for, although with Alabama, anything can happen.

4) Connor Shaw (South Carolina)

Shaw replaced one of the jokes of 2011 in Stephen Garcia (sorry Gamecocks fans, but Garcia was a joke in his time at Williams-Brice) and was fantastic for the ‘Cocks – even though the loss of brilliant RB Marcus Lattimore could have crippled their season. We’ve ranked Shaw pretty highly because we think there’s a ton of good stuff to come – and with Lattimore back to carry some of the offense (and do some blocking) . Not only that, but after Garcia was booted, he went 7-1. And his coach is some guy called Steve Spurrier, who knows a bit about coaching quarterbacks. Ace Sanders and Justice Cunningham are going to have to pick up the load left by Alshon Jeffrey, though.

5)  James Franklin (Missouri)

WARNING: This ranking comes with a massive ‘Asterisk’, bearing in mind that he had shoulder surgery in the off-season.  Without surgery, the ‘Texan Tiger’ (our nickname, no-one elses) had a brilliant Big XII season, throwing for 2,686 yards and 21 touchdowns. Gary Pinkel’s going to give him even more chances to hit his spots in 2012 – particularly with the monster receiving target of Dorial Green-Beckham, who was the country’s No.1 prospect. If Beckham and Franklin both perform – and Columbia’s at its noisy best, SEC defenses should be on their toes.

6) Tyler Bray (Tennessee)

Tyler Bray could well be the man to turn around the Vols’ fortunes after the carnage left by Lane Satan Kiffin (2011 was a recovery year where it was somewhat of a miracle that the Vols finished 6-6 in the regular season). He’s got a great arm, he’s hungry, and he’s mobile -all the things that should have the Vol Navy cheering. A broken thumb put him out for almost half of the season (5 games). If the injury hadn’t happened – and Justin Hunter hadn’t succumbed to season-ending injury against Florida – then the Vols could well have been a real threat in the East. Now, the Vols could well frighten a few people in 2012 – definitely through the air.

7) Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt)

Rodgers is the last of the SEC’s proven starters this year, after going the whole season under the huddle (he finished 6-7, with 1,524 yards passing and 9 TDs). We saw a lot of grit from him against Georgia, when his legs – not necessarily his arm – seemed to scare the Dawgs defense and generate nearly 80 yards worth of rushing. His offensive line’s going to have to help more if Rodgers is going to keep down the interceptions mind – he threw more of them than he did touchdowns this year. But if you watch this clip roll against Florida, you’ll realise that he’s going to worry opponents. Can we mention he’s the  younger brother of future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers now?

8) Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

People are wondering why we’ve got Rodgers ahead of  Mettenberger and we’ll say this: Rodgers is more of a known quantity. Although Mettenberger clearly got a cannon, he wasn’t too bright in his decisions at Georgia (including a misdemeanor sexual battery charge) and managed to get himself booted out of Athens. One can only hope he’s grown up. But Les Miles needs a quarterback and needs one badly – even with one who’s going to need a lot of reps before the first game of the season- especially if you believe this review. But the 272 yard, 2 TD performance is a good start for the QB who reminds us an awful lot of Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler (that’s a compliment, by the way), and Les Miles will make sure he’s in shape for the big-time.

9) Tyler Russell (Mississippi State)

Russell’s season as a back-up wasn’t particularly quiet – he threw for over 1,084 yards and 8 yards in MSU’s 7-6 season in 2011, and he had 635 yards passing and 5 TDs in 2010, too. Now that Chris Relf has left, Dan Mullen can concentrate his efforts on Russell – and the junior quarterback can sparkle under him. Expect at least 2,000 from Russell this year – particularly as he’s now going to be the go-to man.

10) Jacoby Brissett/ Jeff Driskel (Florida)

Both Brissett and Driskel are going to be chomping at the bit to be the starting quarterback at The Swamp, and both had some experience at QB level – especially with the injury to John Brantley – but not enough to have everybody screaming tears of joy. Some fans feel Brissett should get the nod, citing arm, feet and ‘gunslinger mentality’, while some feel Driskel should get the nod. The ultimate judge will Coach Will Muschamp.

11) Jameill Showers (Texas A&M)

There was a lot of love for Showers after the Maroon & White Game in Aggieland, when he went 20-31 for over 200 yards and two ‘crisply thrown’ touchdowns, according to reports. Showers ran for a touchdown in 2010 against Kansas State, but what’s really going to prove if he’s got it will be in A&M’s first big-time game against the University of Florida, who come and visit Kyle Field on 8th September. Great name, too!

12) Kiehl Frazier/ Clint Moseley (Auburn)

Some people think Frazier will get the job, and others think Moseley will. New Tigers OC Scott Loeffler will let us all know pretty soon now. We think Moseley’s going to provide the arm, but watch out for Frazier on running and trick plays to give a bit of rest for Onterio McCalebb, who’s going to take a hell of a lot of the ball this year – particularly now Michael Dyer’s transferred to Arkansas State.

13) Maxwell Smith (Kentucky)

Smith started Kentucky’s Spring Game had 353 yards passing and two touchdowns, but also gave up two interceptions. Sorry, but he’s going to have to buck up his ideas to get people thinking about Kentucky about something else other than basketball and horse racing. 3-1 Joker Phillips’ is even in a job by the end of the season, by the way.

14) Barry Brunetti/ Bo Wallace (Ole Miss)

Brunetti was brutal last season for the awful Rebels, and unless he’s markedly improved over the last few months, would it be a shock if Wallace – a juco transfer – gets the starting nod? After all, he had the better Spring Game, and he looks more about a future. Heck, even Freeze admitted it, saying: “Just off the top of my head, I thought Bo had the best day. He functioned very well and kept us on schedule for the most part.” Rebels fans can only pray for better than last year.

Looking back, it was another glorious year for the SEC. Another National Championship was won, with Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide taking home the bacon.

The Crimson Tide beat LSU 21-0 in a re-match in which did both of the things they went out to do: Dominate AND win. In the first game against the Tigers in front over 92,000 in Tuscaloosa, they’d done a lot of dominating, but not a lot of winning.

The sad thing is is that both games didn’t make the Top Five games of the 2011 season. Here are your top 10 involving SEC teams – and yes, we’ve involved some non-conference ones too. And sorry Texas A&M and Missouri fans, your teams aren’t included (otherwise A&M would have made about half a dozen of them due to their heartbreaking knack of not being able to hold onto a lead).

1. South Carolina 45, Georgia 42

This game had everything. Played in front of a sell-out crowd, this SEC East grudge match saw South Carolina score with misdirection, big guy touchdowns (Alshon Jeffrey) and even bigger guy touchdowns (Melvin Ingram). There were coming out parties for Georgia‘s Isaiah Crowell and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, but this was also yet another one for the SEC. After all, this was how you do games in SEC Country.

2. Auburn 42, Utah St 38

For Auburn, it was a chance to show they’d moved on (a bit) after Cam Newton. For Utah State, it was a chance to prove that they weren’t just at Jordan-Hare to make up numbers. Well, they weren’t. In fact, the Aggies took a 21-7 lead and then a 38-28 one with just over three minutes to go, and everyone was taking a breath. But when Auburn closed the gap to 38-35 and then grabbed an onside kick, we were ready for one of the greatest finishes in football. And in Cam style, Auburn one.

3. Georgia 33, Vanderbilt 28

The Commodores gave Georgia all they could handle on a Saturday night in Nashville. With the score 33-28 early-on in the fourth quarter and both sides merrily swapped field position. Georgia then managed to choke a special teams play to give Vanderbilt a shot at the end-zone with seven seconds left. Vanderbilt couldn’t score the touchdown that would have won them the game, but they fought the ‘Dawgs tooth and nail in a game you simply couldn’t take your eyes off – or afterwards, when Todd Grantham and James Franklin went at it!

4. Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 28

Another Saturday, another heart-breaking loss for James Franklin & Co. This time, it was their own doing, as they missed a 27-yard field goal to tie the game. They’d blown a 21-7 lead earlier. Arkansas’ inane knack of getting through games (there are more of their games on this list) earned them the moniker the ‘Cardiac Hogs’. If only Bobby Petrino had controlled his own ticker during the season, too…

5. Auburn 41, Mississippi State 34

Crazy games seem to have generally involved team with the letter ‘A’ this year in the SEC, and Auburn’s 41-34 upset of the No.16 Cowbell-ringers was just one of them. But before all that, the game started crazily enough when Auburn’s mascot ‘Spirit’ flew into a luxury box window. But the eagle survived, and so did Auburn, despite doing their best to blow a 41-27 fourth-quarter lead. The hero? Backup safety Ryan Smith, who stopped Chris Relf going in for the score on the goal-line.

6. LSU 9, Alabama 6

For atmosphere alone, the ‘Game Of The Century’ deserves to be in the Top 10. Tuscaloosa was as noisy as they come that Saturday night for the battle between the No.1 and No.2 teams in the Nation. Both sides – try as they might – couldn’t find a way past each other (LSU because it didn’t have a great quarterback and managed to tie down Trent Richardson, Alabama because it didn’t have a great kicker), until LSU managed to find the cajones to finally kick one through the uprights in overtime to seal a 9-6 victory. It was a forgettable game, but an unforgettable atmosphere. And to show that passion, here’s a nice video of a fan crying. That’s how much losing to your most hated rival means to you! And we can bet he was happier in January in New Orleans, too!

7. Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38

If Texas A&M‘s defence is the same as it was in 2011, then the SEC West schools are going to make hay against the Aggies, they really are. We’ve forgotten how many times A&M went in with a half-time lead and came out and lost it. And this game in JerryWorld against Arkansas was no exception. At half-time, Razorbacks were headed for the exits after the Aggies took a 35-17 lead, but for reasons only known to them, the defense completely imploded to let Arkansas tie it at 35-35. The Aggies then picked themselves up and made it 38-35, before Broderick Green ran the ball in for three yards and Tyler Wilson threw a 2-point conversion. After that game, we all needed some sleep.

8. Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21

These two Tennesseerivals haven’t had a lot of cheer about in recent years, but when they get together, it always seems to serve up a classic. Anyway, locked into overtime, Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers threw a pass that fell into the arms of a grateful Eric Gordon, who returned the ball 90 yards to the House. If you don’t think it meant a lot to the Tennessee crowd, check out the reactions. They’ve needed something to smile about.

9. LSU 40, Oregon 27

There are some games which we talk about as being ‘Coming Out Parties’. This one was one – for LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu. Oregon was playing LSU very close indeed in a match-up that was as good as advertised, until Tyrann Mathieu stripped the ball away from a punter and returned it for a touchdown. After this game, everybody started talking about how special this kid was. After the West Virginia and Kentucky games, the Heisman noise simply got louder and louder.

10. South Carolina 24, Navy 21

Some games are going to be predestined as great. Some games become great. Some games are under-the-radar and are simply fantastic from start to finish. This game was one of them. With both sides giving up leads, you couldn’t help but wonder what was going to win – the triple-option, no fear approach or the one with the great running back. In the end, Marcus Lattimore’s 246 yards (and three touchdowns) were the difference, but the Midshipmen won a lot of plaudits. Steve Spurrier won’t be wanting to play these guys in a hurry.

TOP FIVE BEST ATMOSPHERES OF 2011

1.  LSU at Alabama: If the game had matched the atmosphere, the ‘Game Of The Century’ would have been just that.

2 Alabama at Florida: The explosion of noise when Florida went 7-0 on the second offensive play of the game was simply incredible. The TV coverage doesn’t do the noise justice.

3. LSU at West Virginia: College Gameday and Partying for about a week before the Tigers came to town. Sounds like, er, Baton Rouge-en-Morgantown. What a game (until LSU outwrestled control from the Mountaineers). And more importantly, what a party.

4. Florida vs Georgia: Because The Cocktail Party always should be on your Top 5. Whatever The Year.

5. South Carolina at Georgia: We were at this game, and the atmosphere throughout was incredible. So was our hangover the day afterwards.

TOP FIVE PLAYERS OF 2011

1. Trent Richardson (Alabama): He rolled through who he wanted. Unless of course, he was quadruple-teamed (see LSU (Game 1) for details).

2. Tyrann Mathieu (LSU): So brilliant defensively and on special teams all you can wonder is if the ‘Honey Badger’ will actually get thrown anywhere near to in 2012. We think not. But, someone said to us: “Was Deion Sanders at Florida State?” Ah – so that’s why Mathieu got himself a ‘King’ tattoo in the off-season.

3. Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina): Brought the Gamecocks on his shoulders. It was when he got injured the Gamecocks hurt, and now he’s fit and healthy in 2012, the Gamecocks are a legit National Championship Contender.

4. Alabama’s defense: Yes, we know it’s a cheat because we really should pick one standout, but this unit was simply frightening all season long. Name us one school that enjoyed playing them this year.

5. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas): This was a close-run thing with Aaron Murray of Georgia, Wilson’s Razorbacks teammate Knile Davis, and South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney, but Wilson’s 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns just make us think that this guy is a legitimate 2012 Heisman Contender – whatever Matt Barkley may say.