Before last season, I picked the outcome of every SEC regular season game. It was the second time doing it, after first attempting it in 2009. I evaluated my 2009 picks, and I was right on basically four out of five games.
Before the 2011 round of picks comes, I should take a look back at 2010's. The unexamined life is not worth living, after all, and you deserve to know my track record if I'm going to keep throwing predictions out there. I hate it when people act like they're experts without the full disclosure of how good they actually are (or aren't).
I felt like I had a much better handle on the SEC prior to 2009 than I did prior to 2010. Let's find out if I was right on that much.
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 (10-2, 6-2)||South Carolina (9-3, 5-3)|
|Georgia (9-3, 5-3)||Florida (7-5, 4-4)|
|South Carolina (8-4, 4-4)||Georgia (6-6, 3-5)|
|Kentucky (7-5, 3-5)||Tennessee (6-6, 3-5)|
|Tennessee (5-7, 2-6)||Kentucky (6-6, 2-6)|
|Vanderbilt (3-9, 1-7)||Vanderbilt (2-10, 1-7)|
Total Positions Off: 6
Total Overall Games Off: 10
Total SEC Games Off: 7
I did what most everyone else did: underestimate South Carolina and overrate Florida and Georgia. I also underestimated how down this side of the conference was going to be. It was a historically weak year for the East, with just two teams at or above .500 in conference play. My biggest mistake with Tennessee was deciding I thought they'd miss a bowl due to depth and inexperience and working backwards from there. Had I just picked the Vols to beat Vandy (no, I'm not sure what I was thinking there), I would have hit UT spot on.
|Predicted Finish||Actual Finish|
|Alabama (11-1, 7-1)||Auburn (12-0, 8-0)|
|LSU (10-2, 6-2)||Arkansas (10-2, 6-2)|
|Arkansas (10-2, 6-2)||LSU (10-2, 6-2)|
|Auburn (8-4, 4-4)||Alabama (9-3, 5-3)|
|Mississippi St. (5-7, 2-6)||Mississippi St. (8-4, 4-4)|
|Ole Miss (6-6, 2-6)||Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7)|
Total Positions Off: 8
Total Overall Games Off: 11
Total SEC Games Off: 9
After perfectly nailing the order of West teams last year, I messed it all up. Primarily it had to do with underestimating Cam Newton. If I thought he was going to be what he was, then I would have picked Auburn to win more games. I don't know if I'd have gone with 12-0, but certainly not 8-4. I did get it right that there would be three 10-win teams in the division, though I didn't quite get which three correct. Another team I got very wrong was Mississippi State. I was right that the offense was going to take a step backwards, but I didn't properly value how good Manny Diaz was going to be. I was a bit off on Ole Miss, but had the Rebels defeated Jacksonville State and Vandy, I would have had them right on.
Okay, on to the individual game picks.
Overall: 78-18 (.813)
Non-Conference Games: 43-5 (.896)
SEC Games: 35-13 (.729)
Despite having a worse feeling about my 2010 picks, they were actually one game better than 2009's picks. I was a game worse on non-conference match ups (did I mention Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State?), but I was two games better in conference play. The secret to being right on non-conference games largely is just to pick the SEC teams to win nearly all of them.
For the following team sections, the records listed are those of my picks versus reality. They do no reflect what each team actually did.
ALABAMA: 10-2 overall, 6-2 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: LSU (lost the game in reality), Auburn (L)
I do feel some element of pride that I correctly picked South Carolina to end Alabama's winning streak. Not many other people did. I was not quite so canny with my picking the Tide to repeat as West winners with just that one loss, though. I have a feeling Bama fans are more upset about that part than I am.
ARKANSAS: 10-2 overall, 6-2 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Auburn (L), LSU (W)
I thought Arkansas and LSU would play to a tie for second in the West, but I just got the tiebreaker part incorrect. Well, that and who would be above and below them. Regardless, Arkansas took the big step forward I thought they would, and 2010 was a great season for them.
AUBURN: 8-4 overall, 4-4 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Arkansas (W), LSU (W), Georgia (W), Alabama (W)
The reason I picked Auburn to finish 8-4 (4-4) was because I wasn't sure about Cam Newton. I thought there was a good chance he'd end up being just another quarterback. Ask any expert, and they'll tell you that Auburn likely goes 8-4 last year with just another quarterback. That much was solid. I just didn't see that he'd be one of the most unstoppable forces the game has seen in the last couple decades. That's all.
FLORIDA: 9-3 overall, 6-2 SEC, 3-1 non-conference
Missed games: Mississippi State (L), South Carolina (L), Florida State (L)
My biggest problem with projecting the Gators was taking the coaches at their word. They said they had built the offense around John Brantley. They said he was playing well in practice. As it turned out, they had a package of plays for Brantley but not a full offense. That was poor planning, and the results of poor planning speak for themselves.
GEORGIA: 9-3 overall, 6-2 SEC, 3-1 non-conference
Missed games: Mississippi State (L), Colorado (L), Auburn (L)
On the one hand, I didn't know about A.J. Green's suspension when I made these picks. On the other, I don't know if that would have changed anything as I was pretty down on MSU. I might have switched the Colorado pick, but that's it. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what UGA's affliction was last year.
KENTUCKY: 11-1 overall, 7-1 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Mississippi State (L)
I gave up on trying to call the end of UK's bowl streak, and that was a good decision. I said that Kentucky would just need to get two conference wins to make the post season, and that's exactly what they got. My problem was just picking them to get three conference wins.
LSU: 8-4 overall, 4-4 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Mississippi State (W), Auburn (L), Alabama (W), Arkansas (L)
While I got LSU's 10-2 record exactly right, I was pretty off base with who some of those wins would come against. The MSU loss was based on a crackpot theory about Les Miles being a rich man's Ron Zook; that has been scrapped going forward. The rest of the games I missed are defensible picks, but that doesn't make them any less wrong.
OLE MISS: 10-2 overall, 7-1 SEC, 3-1 non-conference
Missed games: Jacksonville State (L), Vanderbilt (L)
Last year I was right on just two of Ole Miss's eight conference games. This time I missed only the Vandy loss. I don't know anyone who would have picked the Rebels to lose their first game, so I don't feel too bad about whiffing on that one. The same goes for the Vanderbilt loss. That's why they play the games.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: 7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC, 3-1 non-conference
Missed games: LSU (L), Georgia (W), Houston (W), Florida (W), Kentucky (W)
This was the team I was the most wrong about last year. As I said earlier, it's because I underestimated how good Manny Diaz's defense was going to be. Note that I picked Houston to beat MSU almost entirely based on the talent of Case Keenum, who was out for the season when that contest rolled around. I definitely would have picked the Bulldogs to beat a Keenum-less Houston team.
SOUTH CAROLINA: 11-1 overall, 7-1 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Florida (W)
As proud as I am for calling South Carolina's win over Alabama, I am equally so about picking the Gamecocks to lose to Kentucky the next week. Those were both trap games for the teams that lost, and I identified them as such. While I got all but one of this team's games picked correctly, I still feel like I messed it up by putting it third in the division.
TENNESSEE: 11-1 overall, 7-1 SEC, 4-0 non-conference
Missed games: Vanderbilt (W)
This is how I wrapped up my Tennessee picks: " I don't think this is a bowl team. Either Kentucky or Vanderbilt is ending its losing streak to Tennessee this year. I took a guess as to who." Not only was that wrong, I made a bad guess as UK was a better team and lost by fewer points.
VANDERBILT: 9-3 overall, 6-2 SEC, 3-1 non-conference
Missed games: Ole Miss (W), Tennessee (L), Wake Forest (L)
I thought Vandy would be bad, but I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was. The team just couldn't find a way to rally around interim coach Robbie Caldwell, and the bad loss to Wake Forest at the end showed they were just ready for the season to be over. Wake was roughly Vandy's equal in the ACC, so there's no real reason why the Commodores should have lost that game so badly.
TWO YEARS RUNNING
Overall: 155-37 (.807)
SEC: 68-28 (.708)
Non-conference: 87-9 (.906)