The Decade in Review

By Posted on: February 18th, 2010 in Football Comments Off

War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for a look back at the past decade and a review of what the Auburn Tiger football team has accomplished in the SEC in the past ten years. I’ll start with a brief side note: Yes, I know that technically “the decade” isn’t over till the end of 2010. There was no “year zero” in the AD/CE system. Be that as it may, sportswriters have been counting decades from zero to nine for quite some time.

 

     Ten years ago, few would have predicted the level of success the Auburn Tigers, or the SEC were poised to achieve. Auburn was coming off back to back losing seasons, and lost all four defensive line starters to graduation. The Tigers had no running game to speak of, and there were a lot of questions going into 2000. The SEC had hit a speed bump at this time, also. The league’s top three teams (Alabama, Florida and Tennessee) had all lost their 1999 bowl games. Florida’s Steve Spurrier had started to lose his mojo, with no league titles in three years and a 9-4 record to show for 1999. It would be three more long years till an SEC team was playing for a post season national title. The swoon at the turn of the Millenium was a temporary thing for the SEC, though. The league has closed out the decade with 4 consecutive national titles. The SEC remains unbeaten in BCS title game play. The table below shows the won-loss records of the league for the past ten seasons.

 

Eastern Division

Team

SEC Record

Winning %

Overall Record

Winning %

Florida

64-20

76.1

100-30

76.9

Georgia

57-26

68.6

98-31

76.0

Tennessee

51-32

61.4

83-44

65.4

South Carolina

37-43

46.3

68-54

55.7

Kentucky

21-59

26.3

50-70

41.7

Vanderbilt

13-67

16.3

34-83

29.1

 

Western Division

Team

SEC Record

Winning %

Overall Record

Winning %

LSU

58-26

69.0

99-31

76.2

Auburn

53-29

64.6

88-39

69.3

Arkansas

38-44

46.3

71-54

56.8

Alabama*

36-35

50.7

58-48

54.7

Mississippi

32-48

40.0

63-58

52.1

Miss. St.

20-60

25.0

42-76

35.6

 

(* The NCAA forced Alabama to vacate 21 wins from 2005-2007, 11 of which were SEC wins. If those wins were counted, Alabama would move ahead of Arkansas and South Carolina in the standings.)

 

     The more things change in the SEC, the more they stay the same. The upper half of the league was Florida, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, and Alabama. None of the bottom half of the league has won an SEC title since Kentucky did it in 1976. One must go back to 1963 for the last Ole Miss SEC title. Mississippi State won the league in 1941. Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and South Carolina have never won the SEC title.

 

Team Capsules after the jump!

 

 

 

Vanderbilt: After 5 years of failed Woody Widenhofer bowl game promises, Vandy hired Bobby Johnson as head coach in 2002. Progress was slow, but Vandy had near misses on bowl games in 2005 and 2007. Commodore patience was rewarded in 2008 with a Music City Bowl victory. The wheels came off in 2009, and Vandy faces another uphill climb.

 

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs rode a wave of JUCO-fueled success in the late 1990s under Jackie Sherrill, but then crashed and burned in the early 2000s. Sherrill resigned/retired, and Mississippi State made history by hiring Sylvester Croom. Croom managed an 8-win season in his 4th year in 2007, but a 4-8 season followed. The Bulldogs and Croom parted ways, and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen closed out the decade with a 5-7 record. The Bulldogs moved the ball pretty well last season, and hope to build on that success.

 

Kentucky: The Wildcats came into the decade on a two year bowl streak under Hal Mumme, but then Mumme made the bizarre decision to bench All-SEC quarterback Dusty Bonner, in favor of freshman behemoth Jared Lorenzen. An 0-8, 2-9 season followed. Then, a canceled check from the Kentucky Athletic Department to a Memphis high school coach surfaced, and Mumme fell on his sword. Guy Morris guided the Wildcat program into probation, but bolted to Baylor after a 7-5 season. Rich Brooks was brought out of retirement, and made slow progress at first. Brooks retired at the end of the 2009 season having taken Kentucky to 4 straight bowls, winning 3 of them. Joker Phillips takes over going forward.

 

Ole Miss: The Rebels entered the decade powered by a team loaded from the Tuberville-era recruiting, and the promise of incoming freshman quarterback Eli Manning. Coach David Cutcliffe’s squads were dangerous on offense, but had trouble stopping folks. The Rebels won a share of the Western Division crown in 2003, in Manning’s senior season. A 4-7 quarterback roulette season followed, and Cutcliffe was let go for insufficient recruiting. Ed Orgeron was brought in to stock the Rebel cupboard, and did. But Orgeron had problems translating it to wins on the field, and was fired after 3 seasons. The Rebels grabbed Houston Nutt, and have posted back to back 9-win seasons. Nutt faces a tall order in 2010, having to replace nearly all of his offensive playmakers and defensive line.

 

Alabama: The Crimson entered the decade as SEC Champions, and exited it the same. In between were a lot of valleys and hills. Alabama crashed to a 3-8 record in 2000, then ran into multiple problems with the NCAA. Alabama went through 4 head coaches in the decade, plus one interim coach, before luring Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins. After a shaky first year, Saban has dominated the SEC West for the past two seasons. The Tide won both the SEC title and the consensus national championship in 2009. The Tide returns a loaded team for 2010.

 

South Carolina: The Gamecocks entered the decade as the laughingstock of the league after an 0-11 1999 season. Coach Lou Holtz quickly silenced the critics by winning 8 games in 2000, and 9 games in 2001. Holtz couldn’t sustain it, though. His teams became turnover-prone, and sank back into mediocrity. After a season-ending brawl against Clemson, and a pending NCAA investigation, Holtz resigned at the end of the 2004 season. The Gamecocks managed the apparent coup of the century in 2005, signing coach Steve Spurrier. Thus far, the Gamecocks are winning, but only just barely. In five seasons, Spurrier has yet to crack the 9-win barrier. The Gamecocks return a good amount of talent, and veteran senior quarterback Stephen Garcia for 2010. If the Ole Ball Coach can’t do it with this squad, his days at Carolina may be over.

 

Arkansas: The Razorbacks entered the decade with promise, but never delivered an SEC title. Houston Nutt’s Arkansas squads bruised and bullied many a team, reaching the SEC title game twice. A lack of a consistent passing attack derailed Nutt’s teams at critical times, a problem that followed Nutt to Ole Miss. As Razorback fortunes dipped at mid-decade to 5-6 and 4-7, Nutt put together a desperation package deal. Nutt hired Arkansas high school offensive wizard Gus Malzhan, and brought in three of Malzhan’s players. The new offense, coupled with young star running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones produced another Western Division title for Nutt, but Nutt couldn’t resist dismantling the passing element. Malzhan left for Tulsa, and the package disintegrated. Nutt lasted for one more scandal-plagued year, then wrangled a $3 million dollar buyout. Less than a day later, Nutt was announced as the Ole Miss coach. The Rebels hired Bobby Petrino away from the Atlanta Falcons, and Petrino inherited a depleted squad. The Razorbacks have had trouble stopping folks in two years of Petrino, but are dangerous in the passing game. That trend should continue in 2010, but Petrino has senior rocket-arm Ryan Mallett returning for a second year as a starter, and the Razorbacks will move the ball again.

 

Tennessee: The Volunteers entered the decade having gone to back-to-back BCS bowls, but there was a problem. Ace recruiter Rodney Garner had defected to Georgia. Vol coach Phillip Fulmer still continued to win more than he lost, but the BCS was out of reach. The Vols appeared in the SEC title game in 2001, 2004 and 2007, but lost each time. Losing seasons in 2005 and 2008 doomed Fulmer, who was let go at the end of 2008. In a bizarre move, the Vol leadership hired young Lane Kiffin as head coach. Kiffin managed a 7-6 season for the Vols, and managed to irk rivals right and left. Kiffin’s exit was as strange as his hiring. The mouthy one landed the head coaching job at Southern Cal, and was gone. After a year with an outlaw coach, the Vols have swung to the other extreme, hiring Coach Derek Dooley, a model of stability.

 

Auburn: The Tigers entered the decade depleted, and showed the league just how important one player can be. Running back Rudi Johnson lifted the 2000 team on his shoulders, and led the Tigers to a western division title. Success came early for coach Tommy Tuberville, and he had trouble sustaining it. This led to administration and trustee meddling. Tuberville survived, and posted a 13-0 season in 2004. The poisonous relationship with the administration took its toll, and hampered recruiting. Tuberville’s record declined bit by bit each year thereafter. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Tuberville tried to jump-start his program by switching to the spread offense, and hiring coordinator Tony Franklin late in 2007. Without a capable passing quarterback on the roster, the move failed. Tuberville resigned after a losing campaign in 2008. Auburn caused nation-wide head scratching with the hire of Gene Chizik a year ago. Chizik has been one of coaching’s biggest surprises, this year. A great staff managed to put together an 8-win season, and a dynamite recruiting class. Auburn looks to re-join the SEC’s upper echelon in 2010.

 

Georgia: The Bulldogs came into the year 2000 regarded as one of the most talented teams in the league. Coach Jim Donnan’s failures to beat Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech doomed him at the end of the season. Georgia hired Mark Richt away from Florida State, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a mid-decade run as one of the best in the league. Georgia won the league title in 2002 and 2005, as well as shares of the division title in 2003 and 2007. The Bulldogs finished 3rd in the nation in 2002 and 2007. In the past four years, Georgia has begun to suffer defensively. These lapses resulted in a 4 loss season in 2006, and a 5-loss 2009. Georgia has not been to the SEC title game since 2005, and Bulldog fans are getting restless. Richt fired much of his defensive staff after this past season, and has put that side of the ball in the hands of veteran NFL assistant Todd Grantham. Georgia has a good bit of talent returning for 2010, but must break in a new starting quarterback.

 

LSU: The Tigers were down coming into 2000, having suffered through a 3-8 season. LSU had just hired Nick Saban away from Michigan State. Saban had a few false starts (a loss to Alabama-Birmingham in 2000, an 0-3 SEC start in 2001), but set LSU on a good path. The Tigers rebounded to win the SEC title in 2001, then won both the SEC and the BCS titles in 2003. After a 9-3 season in 2004, Saban left to coach the Miami Dolphins. The Bengal Tigers tapped Oklahoma State’s Les Miles to step in, and LSU hardly missed a beat for 3 years. LSU finished 5th in the nation in 2005, 3rd in 2006, and won the consensus national title in 2007. The last two seasons, Miles has posted 8-5 and 9-4 seasons, including an 8-8 SEC mark. There were defensive woes in 2008, which led to the hiring of John Chavis. Offensive woes hurt in 2009, as well as clock-management issues. Some say that Miles’ issues coincide with the departure of Nick Saban’s players. 2010 will be a pivotal year for Miles. If LSU can’t return to the upper echelon with a veteran starting quarterback and a second year Chavis defense, Miles’ days may be numbered.

 

Florida: Florida has remained an upper echelon team throughout the decade, but the trip has had its turbulence. Steve Spurrier’s Gators claimed the 2000 SEC title, but were unable to compete with national leaders Florida State and Miami. Spurrier had arguably his most talented team returning in 2001, but the Gators lost to Auburn on the road and to Tennessee at home, and didn’t win the division. Spurrier left for an ill-fated stint as the Washington Redskins’ head coach. The Gators hired Ron Zook, and continued their tradition of attracting top-5 recruiting classes. Zook was unable to translate that into division championships, and was let go mid-way through the 2004 season. Taking over for Zook was the driven coach Urban Meyer, who produced a 9-3 Outback Bowl winner his first season, and a BCS title in 2006. Defensive struggles held the 2007 team down to a 9-4 record in 2007, but the Gators rebounded for another SEC/BCS title in 2008. The 2009 Gator team seemed destined for a repeat, but suffered an absolute beat-down in the SEC title game. A Sugar Bowl blow-out of unbeaten Cincinnati saved a 13-1 record, but currently the status of Meyer is up in the air. After the SEC title game, Meyer announced a leave of absence for health reasons, and many Florida assistants have left for new jobs. Interim coach Steve Addazio has held together another great recruiting class, but who will coach this talent is currently up in the air. Florida may be vulnerable next season, but will any of the east teams be able to make that big of a move?

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