Note: This article was printed in Bob Epling's "SEC Report" in Game Day Weekly on November 26th, 2007.
SEC END OF YEAR REPORT
With the conclusion of the regular season, it’s time for our annual Game Day Weekly awards and state of the SEC. Let us know what you think.
Player of the Year
1. Tim Tebow (Florida): Call him Mr. Touchdown. The sophomore sensation became college football’s first 20-20 man (scoring at least 20 TDs rushing and passing). Tebow will make more history if he is the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.
2. Darren McFadden (Arkansas): The great D-Mac finished the season strong, leading the Hogs to an upset of top-ranked LSU and earlier in November rushing for 321 yards against South Carolina.
3. Erik Ainge (Tennessee): The senior QB saved his best for last, throwing 7 TD passes to lead the resilient Vols to a win over Kentucky and a trip to the SEC title game in Atlanta.
Coach of the Year
1. Sylvester Croom (Miss State): With wins over Alabama, Auburn, and arch-rival Ole Miss, the Bullies are positioned for a nice bowl trip.
2. Phil Fulmer (Tennessee): Fulmer takes a beating from Vol fans like Dusty Rhodes used to take a beating against the ring ropes, but he rallied the Big Orange to win the East.
3. Mark Richt (Georgia): The normally laid back lead-Dawg unleashed his team by demanding a celebration penalty at Florida, and the Bulldogs kept on dancing to a probable BCS bowl game.
Freshman of the Year
1. Knowshon Moreno (Georgia): The exciting tailback sparked the Dawgs by providing a rushing attack to complement Matthew Stafford’s arm.
2. Eric Berry (Tennessee): An All-America defensive back in the making.
3. Chad Jones (LSU): This safety has size, speed, and skills … he’ll play on Sundays.
Game of the Year (LSU Only ... The Tigers played so many close ones they get their own category)
1. LSU 30 Auburn 24: Bengal Tigers throw a touchdown pass with one second left (when a field goal would have sufficed) and escaped with another thrilling win.
2. LSU 28 Florida 24: Two national powerhouses did not disappoint on the Bayou. Tigers converted on about 100 4th downs (or so it seemed).
3. Kentucky 43 LSU 37 (3 OT): The Wildcats rallied late to knock off the nation’s top team.
Game of the Year (No LSU)
1. Tennessee 52 Kentucky 50 (4 OT): Volunteers extend win streak to 23 over Wildcats, and also win the East.
2. Miss State 17 Ole Miss 14: Leading 14-0, Rebels coach Ed Orgeron gambles on 4th and 1 early in the fourth quarter, loses momentum, the game, and his job.
3. Alabama 41 Arkansas 38: The Hogs rallied from a 21 point deficit, but Tide won on a last second TD pass.
Auburn: Will he stay or will he go? This is an annual rite of late autumn for Auburn fans and Tommy Tuberville. Tub complains, but I get the feeling he enjoys (if not encourages) the speculation. This year, Texas A&M is the suitor. 60-40 he stays and gets new perks (salary bump for self and staff, facilities upgrade, etc)
Arkansas: Razorback nation is divided on Houston Nutt. He may have saved himself again when the Hogs upset #1 LSU, but you can skate on thin ice only so long before getting wet.
LSU: If Michigan offers, Les Miles goes. Not sure a majority of Tiger fans would be upset either.
Ole Miss: Coach O is out after three seasons. Among the rumored candidates: former Colorado and Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, Houston’s Art Briles, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley, and Auburn assistant Will Muschamp. Also, keep an eye on Houston Nutt.
SEC Program Rankings
These ratings reflect the state of the program, not the rankings for this season.
1. Florida … the conference gold standard, Gators could be pre-season #1 in 2008.
2. Georgia … Dogs are young, talented, and confident. A force next season and beyond.
3. Alabama … Take heart Tide fans, the coach, the resources, and (soon) the players are in place.
4. LSU … All that talent, but coaching is becoming tumultuous. Tigers will have to decide between a proven winner or someone who plans to stay a while if Miles leaves.
5. Auburn … I don’t think Tuberville will leave, but feel less sure than a week ago. If he’d quit flirting like a schoolboy seeking a date, the Tigers would rate higher.
6. Tennessee … Volunteers have the resources to always be top-flight, but the constant complaining about Fulmer hurts a bit.
7. Mississippi State … Sylvester Croom has brought toughness and discipline to the program, and now is getting some wins.
8. South Carolina … the old ball coach is not getting any younger, and his patience could be wearing thin.
9. Kentucky … Rich Brooks has done a nice job in the Bluegrass, but loses a lot of talent.
10. Vanderbilt … Bobby Johnson has the conference’s toughest job, and Vandy is lucky to have him.
11. Arkansas … Houston Nutt is a divisive figure and may be gone by the time you read this. Ole Miss would love to hire him.
12. Ole Miss … David Cutcliffe doesn’t look so bad now. Rebels seem intent on hiring an experienced head coach, but I’d look for somebody young who would stay a while … try Derek Dooley for instance.
Early Bowl Projections
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Hawaii
Orange Bowl: Georgia vs. Boston College
Capital One: Florida vs. Illinois
Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Michigan
Chick-fil-A: Auburn vs. Clemson
Cotton: Arkansas vs. Missouri
Music City: Kentucky vs. Wake Forest
Liberty: Mississippi State vs. Central Florida
Independence: Alabama vs. Colorado
Pigskin Picks (2007 Final Record: 73-21; 4-3 last week)
Last season, Pigskin Picks went 78-17, so my record dropped a bit this season. Still, not too bad in a topsy-turvy year. Watch for our Bowl Pigskin Picks in next issue!