Texas A&M is 3-6 and must win out vs. Auburn, UMass and LSU to become bowl-eligible and avoid a losing season.
That’s quite a precipitous drop from the preseason, when the Aggies were ranked No. 6 nationally. Texas A&M was stunned in Week 2 by Appalachian State, and has currently lost five straight games for the first time since 1980.
However, the Aggies are far from the only SEC team this century to massively underachieve on preseason expectations. Here are 10 others, in chronological order:
1. 2000 Alabama
Fresh off an SEC title, the Crimson Tide opened the season ranked No. 3 and with designs on competing for a national championship. Instead, Mike DuBose’s team lost its opener at UCLA then got shut out by Southern Miss at Legion Field in Week 3. Alabama finished the season 3-8, with DuBose resigning under pressure following a loss to Central Florida in late October. The season ended with a lifeless 9-0 loss to Auburn in the first Iron Bowl played in Tuscaloosa in nearly 100 years, and a 3-8 record that was Alabama’s worst since the 1950s.
2. 2003 Auburn
After a 9-4 season that included an upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl, Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers began ranked No. 6. They were outscored 40-3 in losses to USC and Georgia Tech to begin the season, then rebounded to win five straight before getting crushed 31-7 by LSU. Back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Georgia in November led to an attempted coup immediately dubbed “JetGate,” in which the Auburn athletics director, president and several trustees flew to Louisville to try and hire Bobby Petrino to be coach before firing Tuberville. Word leaked out just after Auburn beat Alabama to get to 7-5, helping galvanize the fan base behind Tuberville and against the administration that tried to force him out.
3. 2005 Tennessee
The Volunteers were coming off an SEC championship game appearance and ranked No. 3 in the preseason in 2005, though a Week 2 loss to Florida dropped them back to No. 10. Tennessee then beat Ole Miss and LSU to get to 3-1 before crashing with four consecutive losses to Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Notre Dame. Most galling was a 28-24 defeat at home to Vanderbilt on Nov. 19, which clinched the Volunteers’ first losing season since 1988. They ended the season at 5-6 after beating Kentucky, but failed to make a bowl game for the first time during Phillip Fulmer’s as head coach.
4. 2008 Auburn
After four consecutive seasons winning nine or more games, things fell apart quickly for Tuberville’s Tigers. Auburn was ranked No. 10 in the preseason and won its first three games, though the last was the infamous 3-2 victory over Mississippi State. The Tigers then lost to LSU before beating struggling Kentucky, then went on to finish the season with losses in six of their last seven. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin — whom Tuberville had never wanted to hire — was fired after just six games. A 36-0 drubbing at the hands of Alabama in Tuscaloosa — their first loss to the Crimson Tide since 2001 — was a fitting capper on a 5-7 season. Tuberville resigned at season’s end.
5. 2010 Alabama
It seems sort of ludicrous to say that a team that went 10-3 and destroyed Michigan State 49-7 in the Citrus Bowl was an underachiever, but the 2010 Alabama team entered the season ranked No. 1 after winning its first national championship under Nick Saban the previous season. Much of the roster returned, including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, star receiver Julio Jones and nine other players who would eventually be first-round NFL draft picks. Alabama won its first five games before falling 35-21 at South Carolina in early October, then lost to LSU and eventual national champion Auburn in November. It was the last time prior to this season that the Crimson Tide entered the Iron Bowl with two losses.
6. 2010 Florida
Florida had won the national championship in 2008 and spent much of the 2009 season ranked No. 1 before losing to Alabama in the SEC title game, and entered 2010 ranked No. 4 nationally despite the loss of quarterback Tim Tebow, cornerback Joe Haden, center Maurkice Pouncey and several other stars. The Gators won their first four games handily before visiting Alabama in early October, where they lost 31-6 and followed that up with narrow defeats to LSU and Mississippi State. An overtime win over Georgia salvaged a bit of dignity, but Florida lost in November to both South Carolina and Florida State and finished 8-5. Coach Urban Meyer resigned at the end of the season.
7. 2013 Georgia
Mark Richt’s Bulldogs had come a few yards away from beating Alabama in the 2012 SEC championship game and playing for the national title, and entered 2013 ranked No. 5 in the country behind quarterback Aaron Murray, running back Todd Gurley and a potent offense. Georgia lost its opener 38-35 at eighth-ranked Clemson, but won four straight games to get back to No. 6 in the polls. Then came back-to-back losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, which knocked the Bulldogs out of SEC championship contention before they even reached the meat of their schedule. A 43-38 loss to Auburn on the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” in mid-November dropped Georgia to 6-4, and they finished 8-5 after losing to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
8. 2014 South Carolina
The Gamecocks had reached unprecedented heights under Steve Spurrier, going 11-2 three consecutive seasons from 2012-14 behind such signature players as Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore and Jadeveon Clowney. They entered the 2014 season ranked No. 9, but stumbled out of the gate in a 52-28 home loss to Texas A&M in the debut broadcast of the SEC Network. South Carolina won three straight to reach 3-1, but lost back-to-back games to Missouri and Kentucky and never really recovered. The result was a 7-6 final record, including their first loss to Clemson since 2008.
9. 2015 Auburn
Despite losing four of their last five and finishing 8-5 in 2014, the Tigers were still picked No. 6 and projected to win the SEC West the following year. Former Mr. Football Jeremy Johnson took over for the departed Nick Marshall at quarterback, and after a promising season-opening win over Louisville, the Tigers barely squeaked by Jacksonville State in overtime. They were then blown out by LSU in Baton Rouge, resulting in Johnson being benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White. Subsequent losses to Kentucky, Arkansas (in four overtimes), Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama followed, as Auburn went 7-6 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, good for last in the West Division.
10. 2020 LSU
It would have been impossible for the Tigers to match their magical 2019 season following the departure of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and so many others to the NFL. Then the COVID pandemic played havoc with LSU’s roster, as top receiver Ja’Marr Chase and several others opted out of the season late in the summer. Ed Orgeron’s Tigers lost their opener 44-34 to Mississippi State, then fell to Missouri two weeks later. Losses later came to Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama, dropping LSU to 3-5 and putting major heat on Orgeron not long after he’d been the toast of college football. The Tigers beat Florida and Ole Miss to get to 5-5, but saw their season end their after they self-imposed a one-year bowl ban after NCAA violations emerged within the program.
Creg Stephenson has worked for AL.com since 2010 and has covered college football for a variety of publications since 1994. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @CregStephenson.