When the preseason rankings come out each year it’s usually littered with SEC teams. Expectations are high throughout the league, but in 2022 six SEC teams were in the preseason top 25: Alabama (1), Georgia (3), Texas A&M (6), Arkansas (19), Kentucky (20), and Ole Miss (21). Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Florida and South Carolina all received votes. That’s 12 of 14 teams who were at least considered for preseason top 25 rankings.
Left out were Vanderbilt and Missouri.
Last Tuesday the College Football Playoff rankings were released and five SEC teams saw their names called in the top 25. The CFP poll has largely supplanted the AP poll of late, but the AP Poll had the same five teams (Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss) in their list.
I basically look at outside expectations and inside expectations in different baskets. Internally, expectations for Mizzou were meager, but not quite as dire as the expectations from the outside. Some had Missouri being worse than Vanderbilt, but most Mizzou fans seemed to think 6-6 or 7-5 was a reasonable place to land this season. 8-4, maybe, if things went their way. But from the voting, it appears as though 12 teams had ideas of being a top 25 team, and just five met those expectations.
Georgia and Alabama were the teams most expected to compete for a National Championship, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ole Miss were vying for a New Years Day Bowl game. Georgia is College Football Playoff bound, Alabama is on the outside looking in but should get a great bowl berth. But the others... woof.
Texas A&M had quarterback issues and never put it together. They beat LSU last night to close 5-7. Kentucky beat rival Louisville yesterday to finish the season a disappointing 7-5. Ole Miss fell to 8-4, which is good, but lost four of their last 5 games with the only win coming against A&M. And Arkansas, well... Arkansas finished 6-6. In late September, the Razorbacks were ranked 10th in the country and sitting at 3-0 before they dropped their first game of the season to Texas A&M. All of this sets the table for what happened at Missouri.
The Tigers, a young team and a rebuilding program, started out 2-4. They fumbled away a few close losses, one quite literally. But they closed the season 4-2 with wins over South Carolina — a team who just beat Tennessee and Clemson in back to back weeks to finish 8-4, Arkansas — a former top 10 team, and Vanderbilt. The Commodores, expected to be the worst SEC team did end up in the basement but not before beating Kentucky and Florida.
This feels like a lot of words to say this: the margins in this league are very small, especially in the middle. The difference between a successful season and having your fanbase excited comes down to a few plays here and there. For Mizzou fans we’re all feeling like things are good right now. You just beat your rival to secure your bowl eligibility. And you have to feel like you were a few plays away from being 8-4. But part of this is the advantage of having lower expectations. Mizzou finished 6-6, the same as Arkansas and Florida. At one point this season Arkansas was ranked 10th and Florida was ranked 12th.
Mizzou finished with a better record than Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. One of those teams had a top 10 preseason ranking and another was receiving top 25 votes.
All year long I’ve been saying that Mizzou is almost a good football team. It feels like the last 6 games have shown the Tigers are capable of turning a corner, if they haven’t already. The benefit of making the bowl game is you’re allowed to keep the momentum rolling. And for a young team, with so much young talent eligible to return next year, keeping the growth going could help you in other ways, too. Having more games to play might keep some of those younger and more talented players out of the transfer portal.
Watching the team celebrate the win over Arkansas was fun, and it feels like it shows how much many of the team is still bought in. That’s a good sign if you can carry that over through the portal season, through the bowl season, and into next year.
It’s time to raise the expectations.
Other SEC Score:
- Georgia (1) 37, Georgia Tech 14
- Texas A&M 38, LSU (5) 23
- Alabama (7) 49, Auburn 27
- South Carolina 31, Clemson (8) 30
- Tennessee (10) 56, Vanderbilt 0
- Florida State (16) 45, Florida 38
- Mississippi State 24, Ole Miss (20) 22
- Kentucky 26, Louisville (25) 13