A Look Back at 2011 Preseason Picks

LSU is a team I misjudged last year.

I've really procrastinated on my look back at my picks from last year, but I need to get this out there before I make year's picks. The reason I do this is because I think if someone is going to throw predictions out there, everyone should know if they're decent at it or just terrible.

I'm pleased to report on that front that each year I've picked the outcome of every SEC game, my percentage of correct predictions has risen. If you want to see how I did in the past, here at the evaluations for my 2009 and 2010 picks.

STANDINGS

First, here's just an overall look at how the standings and records turned out without looking at the individual game predictions.

SEC EAST

Predicted Finish Actual Finish
South Carolina (10-2, 6-2)
Georgia (10-2, 7-1)
Georgia (10-2, 6-2) South Carolina (10-2, 6-2)
Florida (7-5, 4-4) Florida (6-6, 3-5)
Tennessee (6-6, 2-6) Vanderbilt (6-6, 2-6)
Kentucky (5-7, 1-7) Kentucky (5-7, 2-6)
Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8) Tennessee (5-7, 1-7)

Total Positions Off: 6

Total Overall Games Off: 5

Total SEC Games Off: 6

The East division had two bunches, really. It had Georgia and South Carolina at the top, and everyone else was below. The only team I was seriously wrong about was Vanderbilt, which I'll discus below.

SEC WEST

Predicted Finish Actual Finish
Alabama (11-1, 7-1) LSU (12-0, 8-0)
Arkansas (11-1, 7-1) Alabama (11-1, 7-1)
LSU (9-3, 7-1) Arkansas (10-2, 6-2)
Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) Auburn (7-5, 4-4)
Auburn (5-7, 2-6) Mississippi St. (6-6, 2-6)
Ole Miss (6-6, 2-6) Ole Miss (2-10, 0-8)

Total Positions Off: 6

Total Overall Games Off: 12

Total SEC Games Off: 8

My streak of picking the East better than the West continued. Even though the top three are not that far off numbers-wise, I was quite wrong about them. I thought they'd all be roughly the same with LSU a bit behind; LSU and Alabama ended up being the top two teams in the country with Arkansas a bit behind. I also had Auburn and Mississippi State backwards as to which would have an inexplicable hold over East opponents. Plus, I essentially had Vandy and Ole Miss backwards as to which would be hopeless and which would be a marginal bowl team.

Okay, on to the individual game picks.

Overall: 79-17 (.823)

Non-Conference Games: 41-7 (.854)

SEC Games: 38-10 (.792)

This is the worst I've done on non-conference games, though it can largely be explained by me being wrong about LSU (had them losing to Oregon and WVU) and Ole Miss (had them beating BYU and LA Tech). I made up for it by being my most accurate on conference games yet by a healthy margin. Altogether, I beat last year's picks by one game.

Now, onto individual game picks for each school. I missed no more than four games for any team, another personal best.

The records below reflect my picks, not the teams' actual records.

ALABAMA: 10-2 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed games: Arkansas (won the game in reality), LSU (L)

I made a mistake with my approach last year. I decided that the West would have a three-way tie at the top at 7-1 and then made picks that would line up that way. That's how I eventually wound up with the Tide losing to Arkansas while beating LSU. The result I was most sure of was LSU losing in Tuscaloosa, so if you follow that out, you have to have Bama falling to Arkansas to get the tie. Choosing how you want the standings to work out and then molding predictions on individual games to match it is not a recommended method for picking games.

ARKANSAS: 11-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-1 in conference

Missed game: Alabama (L)

With the offensive line losses and the iffy defense, I shouldn't have picked Arkansas to beat Alabama. Other than that, it was pretty straightforward: this was a team better than almost anyone nationally but LSU and Bama. No one should have been too far off with this team's schedule.

AUBURN: 10-2 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed games: South Carolina (W), Florida (W)

I actually had Auburn missing out on a bowl, but it didn't because it was able to win two of three against the East. I still don't understand how they beat South Carolina, and I have a feeling that Florida wins that godawful game last year if John Brantley wasn't out hurt. I don't think I was too far off. This was a thin and deeply flawed team last year.

FLORIDA: 11-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-1 in conference

Missed game: Auburn (L)

I also think Florida was an easy team to predict. It had a defense but a shaky offense, and everything was in transition. Given that UF still had more athletes than almost everyone on the schedule, the outcome was clear. Florida would beat all the bad teams and lose to anyone who had their stuff together. That's pretty much what happened, except again for the Auburn game.

GEORGIA: 10-2 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 7-1 in conference

Missed games: Boise State (L), Mississippi State (W)

I had a variety of reasons why I picked UGA to win the opener, but I'm ashamed to admit the the main one was that I didn't feel like getting yelled at and being called names for picking Georgia to lose it. Anyway, I thought Mississippi State and not Auburn would be the team to inexplicably be able to beat some East teams, so that's where that comes from.

KENTUCKY: 8-4 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in conference

Missed games: Louisville (L), Ole Miss (W), Vanderbilt (L), Tennessee (W)

So I was way wrong about Ole Miss, but I wasn't that wrong about much else here. It's true that the four missed games on Kentucky are tied for the most about anyone, but lining up a mediocre team against other mediocre teams will get some results heavily influenced by randomness. I missed a few coin flips.

LSU: 9-3 overall, 2-2 non-conference, 7-1 in conference

Missed games: Oregon (W), West Virginia (W), Alabama (W)

LSU was and wasn't my biggest miss of the year. Picking a team that goes undefeated to lose three games is a big miss. However LSU was outgained in all three of those games, and the national title game showed that picking Bama to beat LSU wasn't some kind of big stretch. One place I did have a big misjudgment was how big a distraction the bar brawl would be. The team didn't miss a beat, and given his amazing track record in this regard, I'm never going to expect "distractions" to affect a Les Miles team. Other than losing the first game after Hurricane Katrina hit, nothing ever has.

Ole Miss: 8-4 overall, 2-2 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed games: BYU (L), Vanderbilt (L), Kentucky (L), Louisiana Tech (L)

I thought Houston Nutt would muddle through another year, be a marginal bowl team, and set himself up for a better 2012. That would follow the two-up-two-down pattern that has existed his entire career. Instead, the wheels came off and the team quit on him. That'll do wonders to mess up your preseason predictions.

Mississippi State: 10-2 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed games: Georgia (L), South Carolina (L)

Like I said in the Auburn bit, I got that team and this one backwards as to which middle of the road West team would pick up a seemingly too large number of wins against the East.

South Carolina: 10-2 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed game: Auburn(L), Mississippi State (W)

See above sections on Auburn and Mississippi State.

Tennessee: 11-1 overall, 4-0 non-conference, 7-1 in conference

Missed game: Kentucky (L)

I could just copy and paste the Florida section here. The difference is that UT wasn't quite as talented or as deep, relatively speaking, so I picked the Gators to win at home. The loss to Kentucky, one where the Wildcats played a receiver at quarterback, was and is an aberration.

Vanderbilt: 9-3 overall, 3-1 non-conference, 6-2 in conference

Missed games: UConn (W), Ole Miss (W), Kentucky (W)

Forget LSU; Vanderbilt was really the team I missed on the most. I thought after two truly dreadful years that Vandy had sunk to the place it was prior to Bobby Johnson's arrival, and I wasn't real high on James Franklin after his rather underwhelming record as Maryland OC. Instead, he energized the place and had them up to where they should have been in 2009.

THREE YEARS RUNNING

Overall: 234-54 (.813)

SEC: 106-38 (.736)

Non-conference: 128-16 (.889)

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