Confession is good for the soul, they say. In a surprising 2013 Southeastern Conference season, I was as wrong as most experts – more wrong, maybe -- when it came to my preseason predictions. The primary misses were the same among experts and casual fans. Who would have guessed that teams which had won a total of one SEC game between them in 2012 would play for the SEC Championship a year later?
Like most who made pre-season predictions, I thought that Alabama – winner of the national championships in 2011 and 2012 – was worthy of selection as the pre-season choice to win the league championship. That was not horribly wrong. The Crimson Tide, which I predicted to have an 8-0 league record, went 7-1.
Because of a loss to Auburn, though, which also had a 7-1 record, Bama didn’t play in the SEC Championship Game. The third team with a 7-1 league record, Missouri, played Auburn in the title game.
The year before, Auburn had been 0-8 in the SEC and Missouri had been 1-7. My pres-season prediction was that Auburn would have another winless SEC season, and with about a minute to go in Auburn’s season-opening game, I though I might be on track since the Tigers were trailing lowly Mississippi State. But Auburn pulled that game out and pulled out a few more and had a turn-around season that may never be equaled. Missouri had a less dramatic turn-around, but certainly out-did my 3-5 prediction.
Those 11 conference wins by the two 2012 flops caused many of my other predictions to be off.
Believe it or not, I spend a lot of time studying before I make my predictions, but in great part they are based on how a team did the year before. There is also schedule luck -- when and where opponents fall on a schedule, open dates -- and having returning players at key positions. I also put a lot of stock in coaching.
And other than Auburn and Missouri, I was within two correct wins on every other team.
In the West, behind Alabama, I had LSU at 7-1 and the Tigers went 5-3 and finished third. Texas A&M was predicted 6-2 and third, but went 4-4 and finished fourth. I had Ole Miss going 4-4, but the Rebels went 3-5 and were tied for fifth with Mississippi State, which I had predicted 2-6 and tied for fifth with Arkansas. Instead, the Razorbacks were 0-8 and seventh.
In the East, I had Georgia and South Carolina at 7-1 and tied for first, Florida third at 5-3, Missouri and Vanderbilt tied for fourth at 3-5, Tennessee sixth at 2-6, and Kentucky seventh at 0-8.
I nailed Kentucky.
Otherwise in the East, it was South Carolina second at 6-2, Georgia third at 5-3, Vandy fourth at 4-4, Florida fifth at 3-5, and Tennessee (also right on the money) at 2-6 and sixth.
I may have learned something from these picks, but I suspect next year I won’t pick either Auburn or Missouri to win their divisions. I do think Auburn may be very good again, but Alabama will be my selection to win the West.
As for the rest, I’ll let you know sometime next summer. I’m sure you can’t wait.
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