SEC Football: Regular-Season Summary and Awards for Each Team

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor INovember 29, 2011

SEC Football: Regular-Season Summary and Awards for Each Team

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    It is hard to believe that we are at the end of the 2011 SEC football regular season.

    It has been one of the craziest seasons I can remember—with plenty of surprises, disappointments, blow outs and close battles along the way.

    For each team, there have been stars that emerged on offense and defense, and ups and downs through the schedule.

    This slideshow is a summary of each Southeastern Conference team at the end of the regular season and an offensive and defensive MVP for each program.

    They are listed in order of my final regular-season power rankings for the conference...


12. Ole Miss Rebels

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: It has been a train wreck of a season for the Ole Miss Rebels. With just two wins on the season, against soft competition in Fresno State and Southern Illinois, and zero conference wins, the Rebels fired head coach Houston Nutt.

    My Preseason Projection: 4-8

    Actual Record: 2-10 (I had light expectations for Ole Miss in the preseason and they managed to miss even my lowly projections)

    Best Game: Ole Miss 38 Fresno State 28

    Worst Game: Vanderbilt 30 Ole Miss 7

    Bowl Projection: No Bowl

    Offensive MVP: RB Jeff Scott (the sophomore had 529 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the season and was often a bright spot in the struggling Rebels offense)

    Defensive MVP: LB Mike Marry (the Rebel linebacker racked up a team-leading 81 tackles on the season)

11. Tennessee Volunteers

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: Even with a season-ending injury to their best player, star wide out Justin Hunter, and a midseason injury to starting quarterback Tyler Bray, injuries cannot explain all of the disappointment for a five-win season.

    Missing a bowl game, after an ugly loss to Kentucky, is a painful ending to a long season for the Volunteers.

    My Preseason Projection: 6-6

    Actual Record: 5-6 (In August, I thought Tennessee was a dark-horse to challenge for the SEC East title. However, the much anticipated run game, lead by Tauren Poole, was a failure and injuries decimated the pass game. Even with a capable defense, the Vols missed my six-win expectation)

    Best Game: Tennessee 45 Cincinnati 23

    Worst Game: Kentucky 10 Tennessee 7

    Bowl Projection: No Bowl

    Offensive MVP: WR Da'Rick Rogers (Rogers hauled in 67 passes for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns and solidified himself as one of the very best receivers in the SEC)

    Defensive MVP: LB Austin Johnson (the senior defender made 81 tackles on the season and added four interceptions, a sack and five tackles for a loss)

10. Kentucky Wildcats

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: Overall, it was a down year for the Wildcats program. While a big victory over Tennessee gave them a nice end to the season, winning just five games and missing a bowl game aren't what Wildcats players, fans and coaches were hoping for.

    My Preseason Projection: 6-6

    Actual Record: 5-7 (the seven-point loss to rival Louisville early in the season ended up keeping Kentucky from a fifth consecutive bowl invite and had them miss my preseason projections by just one game)

    Best Game: Kentucky 10 Tennessee 7

    Worst Game: Vanderbilt 38 Kentucky 8

    Bowl Projection: No Bowl

    Offensive MVP: WR LaRod Smith (the talented junior receiver grabbed 40 receptions for 600 yards and seven touchdowns this season, even with poor quarterback play for most of the 2011 campaign)

    Defensive MVP: LB Danny Trevathan (the dynamic and big-play linebacker lead the SEC, for the second straight season, with 143 tackles on the year)

9. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: The pleasant surprise of the 2011 SEC football season was the upswing in the Vanderbilt program. Qualifying for a bowl game with six wins was not expected, not to mention the Commodores took top teams like Georgia, Arkansas and Florida to the wire.

    New head coach James Franklin has changed the attitude of the program and should be mentioned in every SEC coach-of-the-year conversation.

    My Preseason Projection: 3-9

    Actual Record: 6-6 (Vanderbilt greatly outperformed expectations with a solid defense, smart coaching and a consistent running game. This record could have even been better, outside of a few late-game misses)

    Best Game: Vanderbilt 41 Wake Forest 7

    Worst Game: Alabama 34 Vanderbilt 0

    Bowl Projection: Music City Bowl (Vanderbilt vs. N.C. State)

    Offensive MVP: RB Zac Stacey (the junior back had a huge breakout season with over 1,100 rushing yards, third best in the conference, and a big 13 rushing touchdowns)

    Defensive MVP: LB Chris Marve (the senior linebacker is the leader of the Commodores defense and tallied 84 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss and a sack, an interception and a forced fumble on the season)

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: It has been a disappointment of a season in Starkville. The Bulldogs were ranked 16th in the nation, after a Week 1 win over Memphis, and then plummeted out of the rankings as they struggled to a six-win season.

    My Preseason Projection: 7-5

    Actual Record: 6-6 (compared with some prognosticators out there, I was pretty tame in my preseason projections for State in 2011. Even still, they failed to reach the seven wins I forecasted, as they did just enough to earn a bowl bid)

    Best Game: Mississippi State 31 Ole Miss 3

    Worst Game: Mississippi State 26 La Tech 20 OT

    Bowl Projection: Liberty Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss)

    Offensive MVP: RB Vick Ballard (the big back rumbled for over 1,000 yards on the season and scored nine rushing touchdowns)

    Defensive MVP: LB Cameron Lewis (the junior linebacker racked up 114 tackles, including six tackles for a loss and two sacks, and had two interceptions and a forced fumble on the year)

7. Florida Gators

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: The debut of new Florida coach Will Muschamp fell a little flat, as the Gators limped to a six-win season. The play was sloppy and the depth chart needs more bulk.

    My Preseason Projection: 8-4

    Actual Record: 6-6 (a midseason loss to Auburn, while starting QB John Brantley was injured, and a poor game against Florida State this past Saturday pushed the Gators back to six wins, from the eight I had projected)

    Best Game: Florida 33 Tennessee 23

    Worst Game: Florida State 21 Florida 7

    Bowl Projection: Gator Bowl (Florida vs. Ohio State)

    Offensive MVP: RB Chris Rainey (the speedy back raced for over 1,000 total yards and scored four offensive touchdowns)

    Defensive MVP: S Matt Elam (the sophomore defensive back was in on 74 tackles, including 9 tackles for a loss and a sack, racked up two sacks and grabbed two interceptions and forced two fumbles. Elam was the biggest playmaker on defense for the Gators)

6. Auburn Tigers

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    2011 Regular Season Summary:It was an up-and-down seven-win season for the defending national champions. A win over 10-win South Carolina on the road was a highlight, but bad losses to rivals Georgia and Alabama ended things on a bit of a downswing.

    My Preseason Projection: 7-5

    Actual Record: 7-5 (Auburn did about what I expected in the win column, with seven victories, but struggled on defense, especially against its rivals, more than I expected)

    Best Game: Auburn 16 South Carolina 13

    Worst Game: Georgia 45 Auburn 7

    Bowl Projection: Chick-fil-A Bowl (Auburn vs. Florida State)

    Offensive MVP: RB Michael Dyer (the star sophomore ran for an impressive 1,214 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns on the season)

    Defensive MVP: DL Corey Lemonier (the big and quick lineman pulled down 9.5 sacks, second best in the SEC, and racked up 13.5 tackles for a loss, fourth in the conference)

5. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: The Gamecocks stumbled against Auburn, and lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to an injury in the middle of the season, but were still able to bounce back and finish with a solid 10-win season.

    My Preseason Projection: 11-1

    Actual Record: 10-2 (I expected South Carolina to win the SEC East, but a loss to underdog Auburn ultimately kept them from Atlanta)

    Best Game: South Carolina 34 Clemson 13

    Worst Game: South Carolina 24 Navy 21

    Bowl Projection: Cotton Bowl (South Carolina vs. Kansas State)

    Offensive MVP: RB Marcus Lattimore (even missing games with injury, Lattimore still ran for over 800 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns in just seven games this season)

    Defensive MVP: DL Melvin Ingram (the athletic lineman made plays all over the field this season and ended the season with a solid 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss)

4. Georgia Bulldogs

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: After losing the first two games of the season and head coach Mark Richt being on a very hot seat, Georgia has reeled off 10 straight wins and won the SEC East title.

    My Preseason Projection: 9-3

    Actual Record: 10-2 (with freshmen stepping up at running back and receiver, and a defense that got better as the season progressed, Georgia managed to surpass my preseason outlook)

    Best Game: Georgia 45 Auburn 7

    Worst Game: Boise State 35 Georgia 21

    Bowl Projection: Outback Bowl (Georgia vs. Nebraska)

    Offensive MVP: QB Aaron Murray (the best quarterback in the SEC, Murray ended the season with the highest QB rating in the conference, with a solid 155. He also lead the league with 32 passing touchdowns)

    Defensive MVP: LB Jarvis Jones (one of the best overall defensive players in the conference, Jones had a ridiculous 19.5 tackles for a loss and easily leads the SEC with 13.5 sacks)

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: Arkansas, especially on defense, couldn't surpass the strengths of top-ranked LSU and Alabama, but still had a solid 10-win regular season behind a dangerous passing attack.

    My Preseason Projection: 9-3

    Actual Record: 10-2 (Arkansas had the big season I thought they may have, and even surpassed my expectations with a win over Top 10-ranked South Carolina late in the season)

    Best Game: Arkansas 44 South Carolina 28

    Worst Game: Arkansas 38 Troy 28

    Bowl Projection: Capital One Bowl (Arkansas vs. Michigan State)

    Offensive MVP: QB Tyler Wilson (the prolific quarterback leads the SEC in passing yards with a huge 3,422 passing yards in the regular season)

    Defensive MVP: LB Jerry Franklin (the hard-hitting linebacker is a leader on the field and has 93 tackles, including 10 for a loss, so far this season)

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: One of the top teams in the nation, Alabama's only loss came against No. 1-ranked LSU.

    The Tide have the best defense in the country and a solid running game and should be in the national title game this January.

    My Preseason Projection: 10-2

    Actual Record: 11-1 (Alabama exceeded my expectations with a better-than-expected turnover ratio, including solid play from first-year QB A.J. McCarron and consistently dominant play on defense)

    Best Game: Alabama 38 Arkansas 14

    Worst Game: Alabama 24 Mississippi State 7

    Bowl Projection: BCS National Championship Game (Alabama vs. LSU)

    Offensive MVP: RB Trent Richardson (the star back is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy after running for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, plus 327 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns on the season)

    Defensive MVP: LB Courtney Upshaw (the big outside linebacker racked up 16 tackles for a loss, good for second in the SEC, and 7.5 sacks in the regular season)

1. LSU Tigers

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    2011 Regular Season Summary: LSU is the best team in the nation and ranked No. 1 in every major poll.

    The Tigers are unbeaten and will be playing for the SEC Championship this Saturday and a national title in January.

    My Preseason Projection: 10-2

    Actual Record: 12-0 (LSU has exceeded most people's expectations this season by going unbeaten through a brutal schedule)

    Best Game: LSU 41 Arkansas 17

    Worst Game: LSU 19 Mississippi State 6

    Bowl Projection: BCS National Championship Game (LSU vs. Alabama)

    Offensive MVP: WR Rueben Randle (the talented wide out gave LSU a home-run threat and reeled in 48 catches for 889 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season)

    Defensive MVP: DB Tyrann Mathieu (the dynamic defensive back is a big playmaker for the Tigers, causing six fumbles and recovering four, making two interceptions, and racking up 5.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks on the year)