Now that the regular season is complete, the fun can really begin
The SEC is the nation's strongest -- or at least most top-heavy -- conference. With the regular season coming to an end, five of its schools find themselves ranked amongst the top 10 nationally.
Those fans, of course, had a lot of fun over the course of the 2012 season.
The fans of the bottom-feeders?
Yeah, not so much.
However, now it is time for their fun to begin as the best teams in the nation's best conference gear up for the booming times of bowl season.
With the firing of four coaches already, new hope thus springs eternal, but for this week at least, those schools still rank at the bottom of the conference Power Rankings ... sorry War Eagle Nation, but you're up first.
14. Auburn Tigers (Last Week: 13)
Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik looks a bit confused in this photo and with good reason.
"How did my team go from the 2010 BCS National Championship to 0-8 in the SEC?" Chizik may find himself wondering.
"How was I holding the crystal ball only two years ago and now I'm holding onto my spot in the unemployment line?" Might be one more thing going through the man's head.
OK, only one more: "How did I possibly just score 7.5 million bones from Auburn for being fired? Did I just play a joke on the world or what?"
The Tigers may have finished with one more win than Kentucky, but their fall from grace was so dramatic that it only seems fair to slot them last.
Guaranteed their fans feel like a group of last-place losers at the moment. Heck, at least Kentucky has a head coach (more on that in a jiffy).
13. Kentucky Wildcats (LW: 14)
The Wildcats have been pathetic for the better part of their existence (the success under The Bear was very short lived). However, after making a few bowl games in a row, the program totally flamed out under Joker Phillips, an alum who was allowed to finish out the year as the squad's head coach.
Remember that whole, 'hope springs eternal' thing? Well, only days following the culmination of Phillips' third and final year heading up the program, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart has brought in former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to be the football team's next head coach.
Stoops helped to recruit, coach and finally let loose on the field one of the nation's most ferocious defensive units, led by all-universe defensive end Bjoern Werner.
Most of what can be considered talent within the program currently resides on the offensive side of the ball, but every SEC fan knows how championships are won, and that is with a strong defense and a bulldozing rushing attack.
For now, hope springs eternal with Stoops, the brother of Oklahoma coach and national champion Bob.
12. Tennessee Volunteers (LW: 13)
This one-spot jump does not by any means deserve any sort of pat on the back -- Vols fans understand exactly how dreadful their season was in 2012.
However, Tennessee did beat Kentucky, although former coach Derek Dooley was not even kept around long enough to see the program win its first and only SEC game of the season.
The Wildcats have a new head coach in place, but whomever takes over the reins in Knoxville (Jon Gruden? Al Golden of Miami?) will have far more talent and weaponry at his disposal. Whereas Mark Stoops over in Lexington is taking over a dumpster-fire of a program, the Volunteers still have the uber-talented Tyler Bray under center.
If the next head coach can figure out a way to keep Bray from choking in the second half of games, Vols fans might just enjoy a bump in the Rankings next season.
11. Arkansas Razorbacks (LW: 11)
The Razorbacks lost a heartbreaker at home to LSU last Saturday to finish out their season at a dreadful 4-8. After opening the year with national championship aspirations, Hogs players and fans must now watch from their couches as Alabama takes on Georgia.
The athletic department, however, will be spending their weekend looking out for a new coach to replace one-and-done interim man John L. Smith.
10. Missouri Tigers (LW: 10)
The fireworks look pretty tacky after Mizzou first lost to Syracuse in its home finale and then Texas A&M to finish 5-7 overall, becoming the fifth SEC school to miss out on bowl eligibility in the process.
After entering the SEC with relatively high expectations, the Tigers embarrassed themselves. With quarterback James "They call me Mr. Glass" Franklin missing time, well, all the time, the team beat only Tennessee and Kentucky in going 2-6 in the conference.
Rumors abound that coach Gary Pinkel was contemplating resigning. There might be one or two Tigers fans out there who are alright with that notion.
9. Mississippi State Bulldogs (LW: 8)
Throw the records out on this squad. After its 41-24 blowout loss at the hands of fierce in-state rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, Mississippi State was exposed for what it truly is.
Not even their own mascot, Bully, had words to describe what happened during his postgame press conference.
Yes, this squad started the year 7-0, and will finish with a very respectable 4-4 in-conference record. However, its four wins came against Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas -- each of the four teams who fired their head coaches this year.
In going 1-4 to finish 8-4 overall, coach Dan Mullen's squad was shellacked by Bama, LSU, A&M and then the straw that broke the camel's back, Ole Miss.
These guys will get a bowl game, but nothing will be proven until this program at least finds a way to keep the score close against their strongest rivals.
8. Ole Miss Rebels (LW: 9)
See that right there, Mississippi State fans?
That's the trophy that Ole Miss was awarded in winning the Egg Bowl.
Talk about a team on the upswing: After giving LSU a nasty scare in Baton Rouge, first year head coach Hugh Freeze got his guys ready to play big in their biggest game of the season.
Gunslinging transfer Bo Wallace threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns, helping his team reach six wins to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009.
From two wins in 2011 to a postseason birth powered by a dominating win in the Egg Bowl?
That deserves a bit of a bump in the Rankings.
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