Before the football season, I took a crack at predicting the outcome of every SEC game. I figure now's as good time as any to take a look back and see how I did. Tossing out predictions without any recourse is for chumps.
I didn't do any predictions on bowl games (for obvious reasons), so they're omitted from all records below.
First, here's just an overall look at how the standings and records turned out without looking at the individual game predictions.
|Predicted Finish||Actual Finish|
|Florida (13-0, 9-0)||Florida (12-1, 8-1)|
|Georgia (8-4, 5-3)||Tennessee (7-5, 4-4)|
|South Carolina (7-5, 4-4)||Georgia (7-5, 4-4)|
|Tennessee (7-5, 3-5)||South Carolina (7-5, 3-5)|
|Vanderbilt (5-7, 2-6)||Kentucky (7-5, 3-5)|
|Kentucky (4-8, 1-7)||Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8)|
Total Positions Off: 6
Total Overall Games Off: 7
Total SEC Games Off: 8
I think I did a fairly good job at coming up with the teams' final records, though I whiffed on how big the logjam in the middle would end up being. The order didn't end up that great though. I was too down on Kentucky, and too bullish on Vanderbilt. However, I nailed the gap between Florida and the rest and I was appropriately down on Georgia (as compared to the surprisingly large number of people picking the 'Dawgs to win ten games).
|Predicted Finish||Actual Finish|
|Alabama (11-2, 7-2)||Alabama (13-0, 9-0)|
|LSU (10-2, 6-2)||LSU (9-3, 5-3)|
|Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2)||Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4)|
|Arkansas (8-4, 4-4)||Arkansas (7-5, 3-5)|
|Auburn (5-7, 2-6)||Auburn (7-5, 3-5)|
|Mississippi St. (2-10, 0-8)||Mississippi St. (5-7, 3-5)|
Total Positions Off: 0
Total Overall Games Off: 11
Total SEC Games Off: 10
Even though I did slightly worse in picking the games that everyone would win and lose, I got the order of finish exactly right. I completely bought into the theory that Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss were all neck-and-neck (so much for that), but I did eventually come around to having the Crimson Tide ahead of the other two. Ultimately, picking three 10-game winners in the same division was a bit foolish. I was also too down on Auburn, and bit early on Arkansas, and totally wrong about Mississippi State. I was right about there being a hapless team in the conference, I just got that team incorrect.
Okay, on to the individual game picks.
Overall: 77-19 (.802)
Non-Conference Games: 44-4 (.917)
SEC Games: 33-15 (.688)
Somehow, I was far better at the non-conference games than SEC play, though all the I-AA and Sun Belt opponents help. Even so I was 11-4 (.733) in picks of SEC versus BCS opponents, slightly better than the in-conference picks. By comparison, I was 136-122 (.527) in our in-season Yahoo! picks contest, so I'm not sure what that says about me. I guess the lesson is to stick to what you know.
Now for each individual team. To my credit I was never worse than 6-6, so I was never worse than a coin flip. Not that being no better than a coin flip is much to crow about, but I did better than I was expecting to.
The records below reflect my picks, not the teams' performance.
ALABAMA: 11-2 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-2 in conference
Missed games: Ole Miss (won the game in reality), Florida (W)
I thought Bama would need some more time before threatening to go undefeated on the way to a championship thanks to losing some important seniors and breaking in a new quarterback. I did get the two SEC title game participants correct, though.
ARKANSAS: 11-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-1 in conference
Missed game: Ole Miss (L)
My thought process for Arkansas was that it'd be a good team but a really tough schedule would do it in. In reality, it was a fairly good team fraught with inconsistency. Perhaps I was a year too early on predicting a real jump in quality for this team. Sure, it was better than the 2008 outfit, but it wasn't ever a threat to contend in the division.
AUBURN: 8-4 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in conference
Missed games: West Virginia (W), Tennessee (W), Kentucky (L), Ole Miss (W)
I was pretty down on Auburn after the underwhelming hire of Gene Chizik. What I didn't really take into account was the fact that it took a series of unmitigated disasters to get Auburn below bowl eligibility in 2008. This team had the players to be at least at .500, even if I didn't think so highly of the head coach. With that in mind, I'd have likely picked the win over West Virginia but left the other three unchanged, but I'm okay with that. I defy anyone to find someone who thought before the season that the Tigers would beat Ole Miss but lose to Kentucky.
FLORIDA: 12-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 8-1 in conference
Missed game: Alabama (L)
I picked Florida to run the table and repeat, and in no way was I alone in that. I knew the offense would fall off some, but I had no idea how far it would fall. Take out the non-conference bloodbaths and this was not a team exactly lighting it up. I based the pick almost entirely on what I thought would be a historically great defense, and it was just that through the end of November.
GEORGIA: 9-3 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 5-3 in conference
Missed games: South Carolina (W), Tennessee (L), Kentucky (L)
If I had a higher opinion of Tennessee, I probably would have gotten that one right (since the game was at Neyland), and as with Auburn, I'd like to know if anyone saw a loss to Kentucky coming. I made a point about saying how I wasn't as high on this team as a lot of other people were, saying things like I thought it was "charitable" to pick an 8-4 record and that something worse "could easily happen." Well, one game worse did happen.
KENTUCKY: 8-4 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 4-4 in conference
Missed games: Auburn (W), Mississippi St. (L), Vanderbilt (W), Georgia (W)
I guess I should apologize for doubting Rich Brooks' ability to get this team into bowl season. Regardless, I don't know what I would have done differently other than go for a win over Vandy to get the team in bowl season at 6-6. I didn't think the team would be all that good, and that was true. At the time, picking a win over Auburn (even with my relatively low opinion of the team) or Georgia would have taken guts.
LSU: 11-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-1 in conference
Missed game: Ole Miss (L)
This is a case of being more lucky than good. LSU's defense did improve under John Chavis, but it didn't result in this becoming "a very, very good team." That's because the offense took a big step back, something I didn't see coming. Fortunately, LSU was able to out-talent most everyone on the schedule. With a little better clock management in Oxford, I could have been right on.
OLE MISS: 6-6 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 2-6 in conference
Missed games: South Carolina (L), Alabama (L), Arkansas (W), Auburn (L)
"If Ole Miss fails to win the division, it won't solely be due to the head coach." I think I can agree with the August edition of me on that one, given that Jevan Snead's startling regression can't all be on Houston Nutt's head. Had the current edition of me warned the August edition to temper the expectations a bit, about all I would have changed is not picking the win over Alabama. That would have messed something up elsewhere though since I was convinced at the time that picking Bama to go 8-0 in the SEC two years in a row was foolish.
MISSISSIPPI ST.: 9-3 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 5-3 in conference
Missed games: Vanderbilt (W), Kentucky, (W), Ole Miss (W)
I'm not completely sure now what it was that caused me to be so down on Dan Mullen in his first year. I think it was the fact that conversions to the spread option are usually pretty messy in the first year. Plus, it's a very quarterback-reliant offense and I didn't like what I saw at the position in Starkville. I think the problem was that I underestimated how much of the 2008 problems were the fault of coaching. I never would have picked the Egg Bowl win though.
SOUTH CAROLINA: 8-4 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in conference
Missed games: NC State (W), Georgia (L), Ole Miss (W), Tennessee (L)
This was the team I was least rational on. I basically had a feeling that it was about time for Steve Spurrier to make another good run in the division like in 2005, and with Tennessee and Georgia not looking so hot, I talked myself into it. As it turned out, it was just another standard year for South Carolina football. If I thought it was going to be another standard year, I probably wouldn't have picked the wins over UGA and UT. Then, seeing that it would have put the Gamecocks out of bowl contention, I'd likely have switched the NC State outcome. I was never picking the win over Ole Miss though.
TENNESSEE: 8-4 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in conference
Missed games: UCLA (L), Auburn (L), Georgia (W), South Carolina (W)
What I did with Tennessee is not really think things through all that well. I figured the team would be improved but not by a huge margin, and that's mostly right. However, I didn't really go through the normal storyline of an improving team under a new coach and new system: early struggles with later improvement. That could have improved things here.
VANDERBILT: 9-3 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 6-2 in conference
Missed games: Mississippi St. (L), Army (L), Kentucky (L)
I thought the bowl meant that Vandy had turned a corner of sorts. Not that the Commodores would become a consistent bowl team like Kentucky, but more that they would not be having any more "obvious doormat" kind of years. So much for that.