When the 2012 season got underway, everybody and their cousins had a firm idea of what to expect from the SEC and the amazing collection of talent across the conference.
Now that we've made our way through 12 weeks of college football ups and downs, we've seen some amazing performances deserving of recognition, both from within the conference and nationally.
But there have also been some utterly disappointing players, too.
With just one regular season game left before “championship Saturday,” we thought we'd take a look back at 2012 and name the 10 most surprisingly disappointing players in the SEC.
We're going to start with a disappointment of a different sort. Our disappointment here is not in Marcus Lattimore, it's for Marcus Lattimore.
There are few players in college football who garner as much universal respect than Lattimore. There are also few players who deserve what happened to him less.
After suffering a devastating knee injury early last season, Lattimore poured his heart and soul into his rehab, ensuring he'd be ready for the Gamecocks season in 2012.
Halfway through this year, another gruesome knee injury cut short his season—and maybe his career.
As if to symbolize exactly what this young man means to college football, not just in Columbia, but around the entire conference, both his team and the opposing Tennessee Volunteers gathered around him as he lie on the field, took a knee, and silently prayed for Lattimore's future.
There may not have been a more touching moment in 2012, and we can't help but be utterly disappointed for Lattimore. We can only hope he comes back stronger than ever in 2013.
Okay, so Corey Lemonier isn't the most disappointing thing about Auburn's 2012 season.
But as a clear-cut defensive leader, we're heaping some blame on him for not quite living up to his preseason first-team All-SEC selection.
He does have 5.5 sacks this season, but in the defensive nightmare for quarterbacks that is the SEC, Auburn will need more than that to turn things around next season.
While the Tigers 3-8 (0-7) record can't be blamed on Lemonier, he's just one of several pieces to the mind-boggling puzzle that is Auburn's collapse in 2012.
What a difference a few months—and a head coach—can make.
Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas program went from being the new up-and-comer in the SEC with legitimate national championship dreams to a shocking and tragic laughingstock of the conference.
A preseason Top 10, Arkansas is now 4-7 and won't even make a bowl this season.
While we won't heap all of the Razorbacks woes on the shoulders of the 2012 preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback, Wilson was the undisputed leader of this team. And right when his team needed leadership the most, there was a stark vacuum.
It takes a lot for us to get excited about the Vanderbilt Commodores.
But preseason second-team All-SEC running back Zac Stacy had us thinking there might be something to that perennial optimism in Nashville.
Vandy has never been very good or won an SEC title. We can't harp too much on the Commodores this season, though. After all, Vandy will be bowling, which is more than we can say for Arkansas, Auburn or Tennessee.
Sure, we weren't expecting any miracles this season, and Vanderbilt is a long, long way from competing with Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Florida for its first conference title since the 1923 season (in the Southern Conference).
But if there was one guy who could spur the Commodores to the next level, it had to be Zac Stacy—arguably the best football athlete we've seen at Vanderbilt in some time.
So why is Stacy on our list?
It all boils down to utter inconsistency this season.
Flashes of brilliance and jaw-dropping athleticism against Presbyterian (174 yards against an admittedly bad FCS program, having just made the jump from Division II in 2007) made us sit up and take notice.
Another 169 yards against Auburn was impressive, despite Auburn's lack of defense this season.
But what about those 36 yards on 13 carries at Northwestern?
Or what about averaging just 2.5 yards per carry at Missouri?
The wild swings in performance from Stacy land him on this list, and we'll need to see something pretty special down the stretch and into bowl season to erase the last vestiges of disappointment.
When South Carolina announced that they had secured the commitment of yet another South Carolina Mr. Football, it could have very easily been interpreted as another sign of overall growth of the program into a true SEC contender.
Sure, Roland is just a freshman, but there was justified anticipation that he'd make a significant impact during his first year on the field for the Head Ball Coach.
That hope went completely unfulfilled.
In 11 games this season, Roland has hauled in just five receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown.
Not exactly the gaudy numbers we had expected to see in a conference absolutely bursting at the seams with explosive freshman talent.
It doesn't take much imagination to place Tyrann Mathieu on this list.
Mathieu, a 2011 Heisman finalist, has missed the entire 2012 season after being dismissed from the LSU football team.
Since his dismissal, he has since been arrested on drug charges, destroying any realistic chance of returning to the good graces of Les Miles.
From Heisman finalist to LSU pariah, Mathieu is a complete disappointment, not only to us and LSU fans, but to NFL scouts, too.
Emory Blake has been fairly solid as a receiver for Auburn this season, about as solid as anything is with the Tigers these days.
So why are we including him on our disappointment list?
Because he's caught 47 passes for 733 yards...and just three touchdowns in 11 played games.
Defense sure does win championships, but points win games, and Blake—like the rest of his Auburn teammates—can't seem to put points on the board.
It may be a little tiresome to continually harp on expectations, but we really expected to see scoring numbers at least on par with his decent yardage numbers from this preseason second-team All-SEC wide out.
Yes, we'll even pick on kickers, given the right circumstances.
Coming into 2012, one of the strengths for LSU was supposed to be the kicking game.
After all of the preseason press surrounding Mo Isom and her awesome—and nearly successful—bid to become LSU's first female football player, she was finally cut (on the final day, we might add) because LSU supposedly already had a crop of very talented kickers.
Maybe coach Miles has second thoughts about cutting Isom now.
Drew Alleman, the starting senior place kicker for the Tigers (and preseason second-team All-SEC selection), is just 18-of-26 on field goal attempts this season, including 1-of-3 against Alabama.
How big are those six points against the Tide looking right now?
Knile Davis has had to battle lingering injury problems this season, so it might not be completely fair to judge him on an overall numbers basis this season. But like teammate Tyler Wilson on this list, we're disappointed in more than his on-field performance.
Davis missed all of 2011 due to injury and came back this year with high hopes.
SEC coaches had high hopes, too, expecting Davis to pick right back up where he left off, naming him to the preseason All-SEC first team alongside Marcus Lattimore.
Unfortunately, Davis' best performance of the season came all the way back in Week 1 against FCS Jacksonville State where he carried the ball 18 times for just 70 yards and one touchdown.
After missing games against Tulsa and South Carolina, Davis returned to the lineup against Mississippi State on November 17—and promptly accounted for just six rushing yards.
On the season, Davis has a paltry 346 rushing yards and two touchdowns (nine games played).
His contributions to the passing game are similarly negligible (105 yards, 1 TD).
Many expected Davis to take his talents to the NFL after 2012, but with the way things have gone both for him and his team this season, he might very well need his senior season in Fayetteville.
A lot was expected from Tennessee this season, and junior wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was supposed to be a big part of that impending success.
Remember the good old days when “failed drug test” was an almost unheard of rarity in college football?
That's two preseason All-SEC'ers who have been axed this season because of drugs.
This is disappointing beyond what appears on stat sheets or in box scores. Say what you will about Dooley, suspending Rogers showed backbone, and it was the right thing to do.
And Rogers response of taking his ball and going home (or to Tennessee Tech) only serves to reinforce our disappointment in him as a football player and as a person.