SEC: team wraps 011514

Season wrap: Alabama

January, 15, 2014
It wasn't the way the season was supposed to go. Alabama, with the best coach in college football and so many stars returning, was supposed to be the team to do the unthinkable, the team to win three straight national championships.

But that dream was crushed in the final second of the Iron Bowl, when Auburn cornerback Chris Davis took a missed field goal 109 yards for the game-winning score to vault the Tigers into the SEC championship game and then on to the VIZIO BCS National Championship in Pasadena, Calif.

Alabama was only further humiliated in the Allstate Sugar Bowl by Oklahoma as the Tide lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2008.

Tide coach Nick Saban then went out to the West Coast as a guest TV analyst to watch Florida State beat Auburn for the final BCS crown, and in that time he surely had a chance to reflect on the season that was.

There were plenty of highs and lows in Alabama's 11-2 campaign, and the hope around Tuscaloosa is that with time, the pain of losing will subside and what will remain are the lessons to draw upon for next season and the seasons to come.

Offensive MVP: AJ McCarron was exposed by Oklahoma, no doubt. The line failed, McCarron couldn't escape and he threw two of the most uncharacteristic interceptions of his career. But like McCarron's legacy as a whole, his senior season shouldn't be defined by its ending. McCarron was the heartbeat of the offense, throwing for 3,063 yards with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. His 82.7 adjusted QBR was good enough for 11th nationally, ahead of Braxton Miller, Tajh Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater.

Defensive MVP: Simply put, C.J. Mosley was AJ McCarron, only on defense. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense and its most consistent performer. Mosley returned for his senior season and became the first player in the Saban era at Alabama to post back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. He led Alabama with 108 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries. The next-closest tackler on the team was Landon Collins, who was 38 stops behind Mosley.

Best moment: Was that Saban smiling? And jumping? And celebrating? No, it couldn't be. But it was. When the clock struck zero and Alabama beat LSU 38-17 at home, Saban showed a rare bit of joy when he leaped into the arms of his quarterback to celebrate the win. At the time, it looked like Saban was relieved. Alabama, then the No. 1 team in the country, had survived what looked to be its most difficult test of the season in LSU. Winning a championship, it seemed, was the only thing left to do.

Worst moment: One second. That's all it took for Alabama's season to circle the drain. Adam Griffith kicks, the ball is short and Davis does the unthinkable. Auburn fans flooded the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium and Alabama's players were stunned. If the Tide were to "Never Forget" Auburn's come-from-behind win in 2010, there's no way they will let go of what happened in the 2013 Iron Bowl.

Season wrap: Arkansas

January, 15, 2014
Talk about a harsh introduction to the SEC. Nothing dampens enthusiasm quite like a nine-game losing streak, but it was head coach Bret Bielema's first go-round, so growing pains were to be expected. The Razorbacks went winless in conference for the first time since joining the league in 1992. The nine losses set a school record, as did the nine-game losing streak that ended the season. But enough about the bad stuff; there were some silver linings in the Hogs' season of frustration. Bielema believes he has laid a foundation with a handful of exciting players on both sides of the ball.

Offensive MVP: The brightest spot for Arkansas was the emergence of true freshman running back Alex Collins, a speedster who became the second freshman in school history to run for 1,000 yards. He finished with 1,026 yards and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Defensive MVP: Junior safety Alan Turner made huge strides and improved throughout the course of the season. He ended up leading the Razorbacks with 97 tackles, which speaks to the trouble Arkansas had with its linebackers. Turner also chipped in two interceptions and five pass breakups.

Best moment: It's not easy to find one of these in such a bleak season, but the final game of the year showed plenty of promise for a team that could easily have mailed it in. Arkansas came within 1:15 of upsetting LSU on the road but instead fell 31-27. It was a valiant but heartbreaking effort for the Hogs.

Worst moment: There was only one game in which Bielema felt truly overmatched, and that was a 52-0 loss on the road to then No. 1 Alabama. Coming off a 52-7 loss to South Carolina, Arkansas gave up 532 yards to the Crimson Tide. The game was never a contest, as Alabama pulled nearly all of its starters in the second half.

Season wrap: Auburn

January, 15, 2014
It wasn't the Hollywood ending Auburn was hoping for, but first-year coach Gus Malzahn and his team enjoyed a season that screenwriters couldn't have scripted better if they tried. The Tigers' season was full of comebacks, miracles and moments that will live on forever.

The Tigers, who were 3-9 a season ago, nearly pulled off the greatest turnaround in college football history. They finished 12-2, upset No. 1 Alabama, won the SEC championship and earned a trip to Pasadena, Calif., for the Vizio BCS National Championship.

The magical run came to an end in the title game as Florida State scored a late touchdown to upend the Tigers, but it was quite a debut for Malzahn and his staff. What could the Auburn coach possibly have in store for Year 2?

Offensive MVP: Auburn led the nation in rushing (328 yards per game), and though the emergence of quarterback Nick Marshall played a key role, it never would have happened without running back Tre Mason. The junior ran for a league-best 1,816 yards, topping Bo Jackson’s single-season school record, and played his best in the biggest games. He rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown in the BCS National Championship.

Defensive MVP: After missing the first two games due to injury, Dee Ford returned with a chip on his shoulder. The senior defensive end recorded seven sacks in his first seven games back and finished second in the SEC with 10.5 sacks on the season. He sacked Johnny Manziel twice in the final minute to preserve a win over Texas A&M and wreaked havoc on the likes of Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Jameis Winston in crucial games down the stretch.

Best moment: Auburn provided two of the most memorable moments in college football this season. First, it was the 73-yard Hail Mary caught by Ricardo Louis to stun Georgia in the final minute. Then, just two weeks later, Chris Davis returned a field goal 109 yards on the game’s final play to knock off No. 1 Alabama. Because of the rivalry and the stakes at the time, the edge goes to the field goal return, but both plays will go down in Auburn lore and will be talked about for years to come.

Worst moment: Davis went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. His field goal return against Alabama propelled Auburn to the national championship game, but he was also the one responsible for a missed tackle and critical pass interference penalty on Florida State’s game-winning drive in the BCS title game. The Seminoles went 80 yards in seven plays, and Kelvin Benjamin caught the go-ahead touchdown over Davis with just 13 seconds left.

Season wrap: Florida

January, 15, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- By the end of a dismal 4-8 season, Florida's first losing season since 1979, few could recall the Gators actually opened with plenty of promise and a No. 10 ranking. It was the first time in 22 seasons that Florida didn't play in a bowl game, snapping the nation's longest active streak.

Injuries spoiled UF's season, which started 4-1 before spiraling with seven straight losses. The Gators lost 15 players, including 10 starters, to season-ending injuries. An inept offense that scored an SEC-low 226 points (18.8 PPG) was the biggest weakness and resulted in the firing of offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis.

Offensive MVP: Solomon Patton made the most of his senior season, exploding as a playmaking wide receiver. He led Florida with 44 catches for 556 yards and six touchdowns, all team highs among receivers. He also set a school record on kickoff returns, averaging 29.2 yards, which ranked first in the SEC and seventh in the nation.

Defensive MVP: True freshman Vernon Hargreaves III was a revelation. In a loaded backfield, he made 10 starts at cornerback and led the Gators with 11 pass breakups and three interceptions. He garnered first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team honors.

Best moment: It's not saying much when your best win came at home against a Tennessee team that went 5-7. So, let's face it, 2013 was just miserable. The best moment probably came as the clock struck zero against Florida State to signal a merciful ending to a very bad season.

Worst moment: There were many to choose from, but the easy answer is the worst loss in school history: a 26-20 head-scratcher to Georgia Southern at home. It was Florida's first loss to an FCS program. UF gave up 429 yards rushing to a team that didn't complete a single pass. The Gators watched the Eagles celebrate on their field.

Season wrap: Georgia

January, 15, 2014
What started with a bang ended with a whimper for Georgia, with a season full of promise derailed by injuries to key players and defensive lapses at key junctures.

The Bulldogs were in great shape after a grueling first month -- including wins against top-10 teams South Carolina and LSU -- but injuries devastated the roster starting around midseason and Georgia tumbled from a top-five preseason ranking to an 8-5 finish capped by a loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. Now the program is in the midst of a rebuilding effort on defense following the departures of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos.

Offensive MVP: The most gifted player on the roster is tailback Todd Gurley, but it was senior quarterback Aaron Murray who carried the team for much of the season, particularly while Gurley was sidelined by an ankle injury. Murray finished as the SEC's career leader in multiple passing categories.

Defensive MVP: Inside linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera barely came off the field, so they should share this honor. Wilson led the SEC with 133 tackles and was second on the team with 11 tackles for a loss en route to first-team All-SEC honors. Herrera was third in the league with 112 stops.

Best moment: It's tempting to pick Georgia's 44-41 win over LSU, clinched by Murray's touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 to play, but let's go with Georgia's rally from a 20-0 deficit to beat rival Georgia Tech 41-34 in double overtime. That represented Hutson Mason's first career start at quarterback in place of an injured Murray.

Worst moment: Vanderbilt scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 31-27 win over the injury-depleted Bulldogs. Georgia mustered only 221 yards in the game but still might have won were it not for a fourth-quarter targeting call on fourth down against Wilson that was overturned upon review. The 15-yard penalty remained, however, and kept alive a key Commodores touchdown drive.

Season wrap: Kentucky

January, 15, 2014
It was a rough first season for new head coach Mark Stoops & Co. in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats' only two victories came against winless Miami (Ohio) and FCS foe Alabama State. Kentucky did not win a conference game, either.

The good news is that Stoops is faring well on the recruiting trail and more talent is on the way, as the Wildcats have the 19th-ranked 2014 class. Also, a $110 million redesign of Commonwealth Stadium is in the works. There's really nowhere else to go but up.

Offensive MVP: The Wildcats didn't have skill position players who produced eye-popping numbers, but redshirt freshman center Jon Toth started 11 games and graded out well. He had 41 knockdown blocks and missed only three assignments for the season. He earned a spot on the coaches' SEC All-Freshman team.

Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Avery Williamson led the Wildcats with 102 tackles and had four tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries. Williamson earned second-team All-SEC honors from the league's coaches. Junior defensive end Alvin Dupree also had a strong season, leading the team in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (9.5).

Best moment: In a two-win season, there typically aren't many great moments. There were some positive moments in losses, particularly the fight the Wildcats showed to keep their game against South Carolina close on Oct. 5. The Wildcats trailed 21-0 at one point and 27-7 going into the fourth quarter, but pulled to within a score in the final quarter and ultimately lost 35-28.

Worst moment: The late-season blowout loss to Georgia wasn't pretty. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray threw four first-half touchdown passes before leaving with a knee injury, and his backup, Hutson Mason, came in and threw for 189 more yards, running and throwing for touchdowns. Georgia ran away with a 59-17 victory.

Season wrap: LSU

January, 15, 2014
With new coordinator Cam Cameron leading a revitalized offense and senior Zach Mettenberger making major strides at quarterback, LSU finished with double-digit wins for a school-record fourth straight season.

The Tigers (10-3) fell out of the national championship hunt with a midseason loss to Ole Miss and suffered a lopsided defeat at Alabama but rallied to win their final three games -- including impressive defensive outings against Texas A&M and in the Outback Bowl against Iowa -- and finish with a No. 14 national ranking.

Offensive MVP: Mettenberger combined with wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham and running back Jeremy Hill to make LSU the first SEC team ever to have a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher. They would all make good choices, but Mettenberger's emergence helped turn LSU into a much more effective offensive club.

Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Lamin Barrow was one of the few veterans on a defense that lost seven underclassmen to the draft a year ago. He served as a steadying force for coordinator John Chavis, leading the team with 91 tackles -- tied for ninth in the SEC -- and finishing as a second-team All-SEC selection.

Best moment: Freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings came off the bench when Mettenberger suffered a torn ACL against Arkansas and led the Tigers on a 99-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Jennings hit Travin Dural with a 49-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 to play to help LSU win 31-27.

Worst moment: The sloppy outing at Ole Miss was LSU's worst loss of the season, but the most painful was the 38-17 loss against heated rival Alabama, where the top-ranked Crimson Tide scored the game's final 21 points. The Tigers blew early chances to take control of the game and got dominated late.

Season wrap: Mississippi State

January, 15, 2014
As the 2013 regular season entered its final two weeks, Mississippi State appeared to be teetering, at least from afar. The Bulldogs were battling injuries at quarterback, mired in a three-game losing streak and licking their wounds from a brutal schedule. Needing to win their last two just to get into a bowl game, that’s exactly what they did -- both in overtime.

True freshman quarterback Damian Williams finished the 24-17 road win at Arkansas and provided the winning points with a 25-yard touchdown run in overtime. The 17-10 overtime victory over Ole Miss was equally thrilling, this time with an ailing Dak Prescott coming off the bench to score the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run. The Bulldogs then exploded in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl with a 44-7 rout of Rice.

Just like that, they went from nearly missing a bowl game to a three-game winning streak to close the season and their fourth consecutive winning season under Dan Mullen, the first time that has happened in Starkville since the Jackie Sherrill-led Bulldogs did it from 1997-2000.

Offensive MVP: Senior offensive guard Gabe Jackson was the best interior offensive lineman in the league and a rock for the Bulldogs. But without Prescott, the Bulldogs would have been in huge trouble this season. The sophomore quarterback led Mississippi State in rushing (829 yards) and passing (1,940 yards), and his 13 rushing touchdowns topped all SEC quarterbacks. He also displayed remarkable courage, playing through injuries and his mother’s death during the season after she lost her battle with cancer.

Defensive MVP: Senior safety Nickoe Whitley was a catalyst for a Mississippi State defense that played lights out down the stretch and allowed just three touchdowns in its final three games. Whitley was fourth on the team with 44 total tackles. He was also among the league leaders with five interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Best moment: Easy call here. Prescott’s 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 in overtime brought the Egg Bowl trophy back to Starkville. It was Mississippi State’s third win in the last four years against rival Ole Miss.

Worst moment: All six of the Bulldogs’ losses came to teams that finished in the Top 25 in the final polls. The only one of those that was ugly was the 59-26 home loss to LSU. The Bulldogs were outscored 31-3 in the second half on their way to giving up the most points of the Mullen era.

Season wrap: Missouri

January, 15, 2014
Missouri doesn’t belong in the SEC. The Tigers can’t hang with the upper echelon teams in college football’s premier conference. That’s all Gary Pinkel’s team heard last offseason after they finished 5-7 with just two league wins.

But the Tigers can hang. They proved that and more this season. They finished 12-1, 7-1 in conference, and earned a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game after winning the East. It was only their second year in the league, but they proved they’re a legitimate contender.

Despite a 59-42 loss to Auburn in the SEC title game, Missouri responded to knock off Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and finish No. 5 in the final AP poll.

Offensive MVP: If you’re looking for the comeback player of the year, look no further than Columbia, Mo., and running back Henry Josey. The Mizzou star suffered a devastating knee injury two years ago, forcing him to miss all of last year, but he returned this season to post 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now he’s on his way to the NFL after declaring for the draft a year early.

Defensive MVP: The obvious choice is defensive end Michael Sam, who led the SEC with 11.5 sacks, but fellow end Kony Ealy, who played better down the stretch, and cornerback E.J. Gaines are worthy candidates, too. Still, it has to be Sam. He went from being a three-star prospect nobody had heard of to one of the league’s most dominant players on defense. He had three sacks in three different games. The SEC quarterbacks will be glad he’s graduating.

Best moment: As special as Josey’s first touchdown run was, his first since the injury, it was his touchdown run against Texas A&M in the regular season finale that was the most memorable for Missouri fans. The Tigers and Aggies were tied with less than five minutes left. A win clinched the SEC East. A loss and there was no trip to Atlanta. Josey broke free and took it 57 yards to the house, scoring the game-winning touchdown. Chaos ensued after the game as fans rushed the field to celebrate the win and the division title.

Worst moment: The stakes wouldn’t have been as high for that Texas A&M game if not for an epic collapse against South Carolina earlier in the season. Missouri was at home, playing in prime time and surrendered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing in double overtime to the Gamecocks. Whether it was the fourth-and-goal South Carolina converted in the first overtime or the missed field goal in the second overtime, it’s a game the Tigers would like to forget.

Season wrap: Ole Miss

January, 15, 2014
The Rebels enjoyed Year 2 of the Hugh Freeze era with their second straight winning season, postseason appearance and bowl win. The year started with a thrilling 39-35 win at Vanderbilt before the Rebels thumped Texas 44-23 in Austin two weeks later.

Ole Miss hit a bit of a lull after that, losing three straight, but behind a high-powered offense, a group of stellar freshmen and an ever-improving defense, the Rebels closed out the regular season by winning four of their last six. Back-to-back losses to Missouri and archrival Mississippi State to end the regular season temporarily put a damper on the year before Ole Miss outlasted Georgia Tech 25-17 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Donte Moncrief might not have led the Rebels in receptions this season but he was still quarterback Bo Wallace's top receiving option. The extremely physical Moncrief led Ole Miss with 938 yards and six touchdowns. He finished the season with five 100-yard games, including 113 in the Rebels' bowl win.

Defensive MVP: Cody Prewitt wasn't just the Rebels' best defensive player this year, he was named an AP All-American. Prewitt was second on the team with 71 tackles, but led the SEC with six interceptions. He'll probably tell you that he should have had a lot more. Prewitt played all over the field, as both a ball hawk and someone who wasn't afraid to get physical in the running game.

Best moment: The win at Vandy was great and that blowout of Texas was big, but the best moment came when Ole Miss ended a tough three-game losing streak with a 27-24 win over rival LSU at home. Ole Miss gained a ton of momentum for the final two months and forced three interceptions while registering 525 yards of offense.

Worst moment: After losing an ugly one to Missouri, the Rebels turned around and lost an even uglier 17-10 game in Starkville to push Mississippi State into the postseason. Ole Miss turned it over four times, including the game-sealing fumble into the end zone from just outside the goal line by Wallace in overtime.

Season wrap: South Carolina

January, 15, 2014
A few weeks after South Carolina beat Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, Steve Spurrier asked reporters if they could name how many teams won 11 or more games in each of the past two years.

"I've got a bonus for you if you know the answer," he said, looking around.

"Alabama is one of them," someone said.

"Can you name all that have done it?" Spurrier asked again.

"South Carolina, Alabama, Oregon ... Stanford?" the crowd answered.

"Aww, you got em! There are four," Spurrier said with a grin, his point now proven. "For South Carolina to be in the same neighborhood with Oregon, Stanford, Alabama ... is sort of neat."

Spurrier has gotten South Carolina where very few thought he could. The 2013 season was a near-miss on reaching the SEC championship game, but ultimately it was a successful campaign that culminated in 11 wins, two losses and the title Spurrier bestowed of "bowl national champs."

Offensive MVP: Connor Shaw wasn't the most talented guy on the field. He wasn't even the most gifted quarterback at all times. But he was the heart and soul of the Gamecocks' offense. He gritted out an 11-win season and wound up with good numbers to go along with it: 63.4 percent passing, 30 total touchdowns and 3,005 total yards of offense.

Defensive MVP: It was The Year that Wasn't for Jadeveon Clowney, but we're not going into that here. You've heard enough about his up-and-down season. Clowney didn't show out like many predicted, but South Carolina's defense wasn't without a star. Defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles picked up the slack, and then some. The 298-pound junior tackle made the first-team All-SEC squad after racking up a team-leading 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Best moment: South Carolina had no business beating Missouri, given the circumstances. On one hand, the game was in the wrong Columbia -- Missouri, not South Carolina. On the other hand, the Gamecocks fell behind by 17 points, Shaw was out with an injury and Dylan Thompson was a wreck. But then came the fourth quarter South Carolina fans won't soon forget. Shaw came on the field and led a furious comeback by throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gamecocks won on an Elliott Fry field goal in overtime.

Worst moment: The 11-point loss at Georgia was a tough pill to swallow, but going on the road to Rocky Top was an utter meltdown. The Vols scored two touchdowns before halftime to take the lead, South Carolina responded with back-to-back touchdowns of its own in the third quarter and then it all fell apart. Two field goals, including one at the buzzer, was enough to doom the Gamecocks. Shaw had one of the worst games of his career and South Carolina lost to a sub-.500 team, a loss that would ultimately cost the Gamecocks a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

Season wrap: Tennessee

January, 15, 2014
The first year of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville, Tenn., was very up and down. While the Volunteers failed to reach a bowl game for the third straight season, it's clear that the arrival of Jones injected some much-needed energy into a program fighting to become relevant again in the SEC.

Tennessee battled back from blowout losses to Oregon and Florida and a crushing overtime loss to Georgia to upset 11th-ranked South Carolina at home in October. The final stretch of the season showed just how far Tennessee still is from the top teams in the conference, as the Vols lost four of their last five, including three to ranked opponents, each by 28 points or more.

Offensive MVP: Senior running back Rajion Neal ended his Tennessee career with his best season as a Vol. He ranked sixth in the SEC with 1,124 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and tied for seventh with 12 touchdowns. He rushed for 100-plus yards five times and also caught 27 passes for 108 yards.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker A.J. Johnson found ways to yet again make plays all over the field for the Vols. He ranked sixth in the conference with 106 tackles and tied for fourth with 60 solo stops. Johnson didn't register any sacks, but he led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and also defended three passes.

Best moment: Without question, it was when the Vols stunned No. 11 South Carolina 23-21 at home on Oct. 19. Two weeks after falling 34-31 to Georgia in overtime, Tennessee frustrated the Gamecocks all game long before it ended on a 19-yard field goal by Michael Palardy and served as Tennessee's first win over a ranked opponent in almost four years.

Worst moment: Tennessee was blown out by nearly 50 at Oregon, but the worst moment of the season had to be that devastating 14-10 home loss to rival Vanderbilt on Nov. 23. There was a controversial first-down call and a fake jump pass that doomed the Vols, as their second straight loss to Vandy eliminated them from bowl contention.

Season wrap: Texas A&M

January, 15, 2014
With a preseason top-10 ranking and lofty goals coming off a smashing 2012 season, things didn't work out the way Texas A&M had hoped in 2013. There was no BCS bowl game or division championship as the Aggies finished 9-4.

But it was still an interesting, compelling and productive season in Aggieland as Texas A&M is ahead of schedule when it comes to SEC success. Beating a ranked team would have been a nice feather in their caps, but the Aggies weren't able to do it. Nonetheless, recruiting is strong, the facilities are being upgraded and the buzz around the program is at levels rarely seen before.

Offensive MVP: No doubt it was quarterback Johnny Manziel. He improved as a sophomore in several passing statistics from his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2012, and as Manziel went, so did the Aggies. Mike Evans is a close second, but Manziel was still the main man with 4,873 total yards and 46 total touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Considering the struggles of the unit, it's not easy to pick one. But we'll give the nod to true freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne. He was moved into the starting lineup at a new position (middle linebacker) midway through the season and became a major contributor, finishing third on the team with 89 tackles and leading the team with seven tackles for loss.

Best moment: The Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The Aggies trailed by 21 points at halftime, then proceeded to come from behind and win 52-48. There were too many great individual moments in that game to pick just one, from Manziel's hurdle that turned into a touchdown pass to Travis Labhart, to Toney Hurd Jr.'s interception return that gave the Aggies the lead to Nate Askew's interception that sealed the win.

Worst moment: The trip to Death Valley on Nov. 23. With their BCS bowl hopes still alive, Texas A&M was pounded 34-10 by LSU. Manziel and Evans never found a rhythm, the offense never got going and LSU dominated.

Season wrap: Vanderbilt

January, 15, 2014
For all the history Vanderbilt made this season (again), it's a season that probably will be best remembered for what the Commodores lost. Third-year coach James Franklin, after elevating the program to unprecedented heights, left to become the Penn State head coach.

The Commodores won nine games for the second consecutive year, the first time that has happened in the 124-year history of the program, and also finished in the Top 25 of the final polls for the second year in the row -- yet another first for the program. Keep in mind that until 2012, the Commodores hadn’t won nine games in a season since 1915.

It easily could have been 10 victories, too, if not for a 75-yard touchdown run by Ole Miss’ Jeff Scott with 1:07 to play in the season opener.

The Commodores persevered in 2013 despite a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, and they again played championship-caliber defense. They were No. 23 nationally in total defense, the third consecutive season in which they finished among the nation’s top 25 defenses. The only other SEC defenses that can make that claim are Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.

Offensive MVP: Jordan Matthews will go down as one of the best and most productive receivers to ever play in the SEC. The record-breaking senior led the league in receptions (112) and receiving yards (1,477). He also was a leader in the locker room and set the tone every day on the practice field. Even though opposing defenses shadowed Matthews and did their best to take him away, he still delivered one big play after another for the Commodores.

Defensive MVP: Bob Shoop's defense the past three seasons was a huge factor in the Commodores' climb into the upper echelon of the SEC. In particular, the secondary was consistently outstanding, and senior safety Kenny Ladler did a little bit of everything this season. He led the team with 91 tackles, intercepted five passes and forced an SEC-best five fumbles. When the Commodores needed a play to be made this season on defense, Ladler was there to make it for them.

Best moment: Take your pick. Sweeping Florida and Georgia in the same season ranks right up there. But nothing trumps beating rival Tennessee for the second consecutive year, especially doing it in Neyland Stadium. Backup quarterback Patton Robinette's fake jump pass and 5-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left won it for the Commodores, who last won two in a row over the Vols back in the 1920s, when they won six straight in the series.

Worst moment: Blowing the late lead against Ole Miss in the opener was a kick in the gut for the Commodores, not to mention being pillaged at home 51-28 by Missouri in the first week of October. But the real downer came off the field, when Franklin bolted for Penn State.