It can be hard to escape the rather large shadow left by the mighty Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide, who will meet in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.
There are plenty of feel-good moments coming out of the SEC that do not include either Georgia or Alabama. Below is a look at some of the teams that had better seasons than anticipated based on the preseason scores and odds led by the Ole Miss Rebels’ 10-win campaign.
Ole Miss Rebels
There were positive signs a season ago when the Ole Miss Rebels won four of their last five games and scored more than 40 points three times during that span. Still, five teams had better college football odds to win the SEC title than the Rebels’ +2000. Ole Miss (+1100) was tied with Auburn for the fourth-best odds to win the SEC West Division title, but the Rebels finished in second place, a game behind Alabama.
Ole Miss finished 10-2 in the regular season after having an expected win total of 7½.
The Rebels led the SEC in rushing for the second consecutive season and were one of three SEC teams to record 40 sacks, showing plenty of physicality and toughness during an impressive 2021 regular season.
South Carolina Gamecocks
A 6-6 record and a 3-5 mark in conference play might not seem like the most noteworthy achievement, but with an expected win total of only 3½ (the second-lowest in the SEC), there were some positive signs for the Gamecocks. With a six-point loss to Kentucky and three-point loss to Missouri, the win total could have been even higher.
South Carolina was listed with +4000 odds to win the SEC West Division and finished ahead of Florida (+300) and tied with Missouri (+800) in the division standings.
It was a tale of two seasons for the Kentucky Wildcats, who started with six consecutive wins only to stumble to a 3-3 finish over the final six games. Still, with an expected win total of seven, a 9-3 regular-season record was a sign of progress.
Kentucky (+1400) had the fourth-best odds to win the SEC East and finished alone in the second place.
The Georgia Bulldogs were heavy favorites to win the SEC East at -275 and certainly took care of business. The Bulldogs (+250) trailed only Alabama in the SEC championship odds and, sure enough, the two heavyweights will meet on Saturday with the conference title on the line. Georgia is listed by the college football spreads as a 6½-point favorite.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis is one of the defensive players picking up steam in the Heisman Trophy race.
Alabama’s Will Anderson and Georgia’s Jordan Davis could well be the best players on the field in the Southeastern Conference championship game when No. 1 Georgia faces No. 4 Alabama.
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) November 30, 2021
Georgia had an expected win total of 10½ and topped that by joining Cincinnati as the only FBS teams to go 12-0 during the regular season. The best bargain with Georgia and its defense that leads the nation in the fewest yards and points allowed is the Bulldogs listed at +1000 to win the national title before the season. The odds are now -250.
The Arkansas Razorbacks (+3300) were tied with Mississippi State for the worst odds to win the SEC West Division and finished tied for third with a 4-4 record. The 8-4 Razorbacks also exceeded the expected win total of six.
Sophomore quarterback K.J. Jefferson thrived in his first season as a starter and three freshmen were among the top 10 tacklers for Arkansas so the future does look bright.
It is hard to believe that the three Florida teams from Power-5 Conferences (Florida, Florida State and Miami) were a combined 18-18 considering that they get to recruit in a state overflowing with major college talent. The Gators were especially disappointing. Florida had an expected win total of nine and only defeated one FBS team with a winning record en route to a 6-6 regular-season mark, including a 2-6 record in the SEC.
Florida had the second-best college football odds (+300) to win the SEC East Division and only the presence of Vanderbilt kept the Gators out of last place. Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M were the only teams with better odds that Florida’s +1200 to win the SEC title. The Gators were even given +2800 odds for the national championship.
It was just two years ago that the Louisiana State Tigers went undefeated and won the national title. Perhaps that is why LSU (+700) had the third-best odds to win the SEC West and had odds ot +2800 to win the national title. The 6-6 Tigers didn’t come close to their 8½ expected win total.
Texas A&M Aggies
When the Texas A&M Aggies upset Alabama when listed by the Las Vegas odds as 18½-point underdogs, the 9½ expected win total looked pretty good. The Aggies had the second-best odds at +500 to win the SEC West and the third-best odds (+900) to capture the SEC title. Texas A&M even had +2500 odds to win the national title
An 8-4 mark is a pretty good regular-season record, but the Aggies finished three games behind Alabama in the division standings and fell short of what was expected of them.