I know several other conferences still have games to play next week and we have the SEC Championship game this weekend, but the SEC as a whole finished up regular season play on Saturday night. Ten teams finished the regular season bowl eligible. Alabama or Florida will play in Pasadena for the national title with the loser going to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Since the SEC will put two teams in the BCS and the conference has eight non-BCS bowl tie-ins, every bowl eligible team will go bowling this year. Let's take a brief look at what the various teams accomplished (or didn't accomplish) at the regular season's end:
Alabama: For the 2nd year in a row, we've finished at a perfect 12-0. We had some close scrapes with our bitter rivals, but anytime you finish the season 12-0, you can't really complain. We have two more games left, the SECCG game against Florida and then a BCS bowl trip to either Pasadena or New Orleans.
Auburn: Year one of the Chizik experiment went much better than many people expected. Much of their success can be attributed to Gus Malzahn's high powered offense. Many of their failures can be attributed to a pretty porous defense (and yes, for the Tiger fans lurking...we realize you held us to below 100 yards rushing.) The Tigers will go bowling, but the announcement as to where won't come until next week.
Arkansas: Who really knows what to make out of 7-5 Arkansas this year? They scored a lot of points (40+ in seven games and 30+ in nine games), however, they gave up a ton of points too though (only giving up less than 20 twice against FBS opponents.) Despite losing five games, they only got blown out once (at the hands of Alabama of course.) Petrino appears to have them pointed in the right direction and I'm sure they'll play the spoiler's role some in the future. They're going bowling.
Florida: The Gators finished the regular season 12-0. They had a close scrape with Arkansas and made a ton of mistakes against Mississippi State...those two games featuring prominently in the vast SEC officiating conspiracy of '09. That being said, even though they weren't the offensive juggernaut of 2008, they still went undefeated and will still be a heck of a challenge next weekend. Oddly enough, Alabama will only be the second ranked team Florida has played all year. Florida is BCS bound and will go to either New Orleans or Pasadena.
Georgia: The Bulldogs finished the season at 7-5 and turned in the worst performance of the Mark Richt era. They got humiliated by two of their three main rivals (Florida and Tennessee) and narrowly won against Auburn. A home loss to Kentucky late in the season had UGA fans cursing the football gods (not to mention Willy Martinez.) Thanks to GT crapping the bed, Georgia has likely escaped a fate of going to the Papajohns.com Bowl. Giving the pecking order of bowls, UGA could likely end up in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. Both parties would likely be quite happy to have the Bulldogs essentially have a post-season home game.
Kentucky: Though it probably doesn't feel like it to them, Kentucky is in a bit of a golden age for them. They're 30-21 from 2006 to the present and will be going to their fourth bowl game in a row. Not even Coach Bryant got them to six wins four years in a row. Yes, I know more games are played now than back then and I'm not even remotely trying to insinuate that Rich Brooks is even vaguely in the neighborhood of Coach Bryant, but hey, you've got to give the man his due. He's taken them to a bowl game four times now and has the Wildcats' program playing at a respectable level.
LSU: LSU finished the season at 9-3 with losses to Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss. There's certainly no shame in losing to the #1 and #2 teams in the country, but they could've/should've won the Ole Miss game. Miles' monumental clock management error against Col. Reb has LSU fans up in arms despite finishing the year with the third best record in the conference and a likely trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. LSU's late win over Arkansas shows that this clock management issure has perhaps been corrected.
Mississippi State: Though they finished the year at 5-7 and have the second worst record in the conference, things are looking up in Starkville. If it weren't for some tough out of conference scheduling, they'd likely be going to a bowl somewhere (they had non-conference losses to Georgia Tech and Houston.) Compared to recent history, only getting blown out three times is a bit of a victory for MSU. Though their season is over, they ended things on a high note by hanging 41 points in a victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
Ole Miss: In the preseason, the Rebels were picked as a BCS sleeper, but that all came crashing down with an ugly/incompetent loss to South Carolina in their third game. They finished with an 8-4 record record (though they had two FCS teams on their schedule) and ended up third in the division behind Alabama and LSU. It's not where they want to be as a program, but it's light years ahead of where they were with the Orgeron behind the wheel.
South Carolina: Carolina had some ugly wins this year (NC State) and some ugly losses (Tennessee). Most people expected them to be sitting at 6-6 after their rivalry game with Clemson. The Gamecocks reached way down though and smacked the Tigers around to the tune of 34-17 and go into bowl season at 7-5 with some momentum on their side. It's clear Spurrier is never going to take this team to greatness, but they're still good enough to ruin your season...just ask Ole Miss.
Tennessee: The Mouth of the South managed to get his first Volunteer squad to 7-5 and gave us one of our biggest scares of the season. Hopefully some low rent Big 10 or ACC team will beat them senseless in their bowl game.
Vanderbilt: Welcome back to reality smart kids. Hope you enjoyed 2008. If their future is anything like what it was between their last two bowl games, the Commies won't be in the post-season until 2034.
So, there's 11 more games featuring SEC teams left in the 2009 season, the championship game and ten bowl games. One team will be playing for the national title and the other nine playing for pride.