Ranking the SEC's programs

College : : Story
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Sunday, August 07, 2011

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HAVE YOUR SAY: Discuss the SEC program rankings

Competing in the SEC is a rigorous experience. After all, it’s the nation’s best and most balanced conference.

Equally difficult is ranking the SEC 1-12.

Some decisions were easy. For instance, South Carolina has won back-to-back national titles and obviously is the conference’s premier program. Meanwhile, Kentucky and Tennessee obviously should be at the bottom of the list.

In the middle is where things got difficult with programs such as Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State jockeying for position.

We begin our offseason series of rankings programs in conferences with an inside look at the SEC.

NEXT UP: Big 12

1. South Carolina

2011 grade: A+
Where the program stands:
The Gamecocks are in the midst of a Golden Age with regards to their program. They won the program’s first national title two seasons ago and entered the ’11 campaign aiming for back-to-back national titles. The Gamecocks accomplished that goal with yet another magical run through the College World Series. This program will never be in better shape than it is right now.

2. Florida

2011 grade: A+
Where the program stands:
Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff have done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail the past few seasons, and it’s safe to say the persistence has paid off. The Gators reached the College World Series two seasons ago before doing the same this past season and reaching the CWS Championship Series. Look for the Gators to also enter 2012 as the nation’s top-ranked team.

3. Vanderbilt

2011 grade: A
Where the program stands:
It only was a couple of years ago everyone wondered if the Commodores could win the big games in the postseason. Well, they’ve certainly answered that question in a big way the last two seasons. They reached an NCAA Super Regional two seasons ago before having the best campaign in school history with a trip to Omaha this past season. Tim Corbin has Vandy right where it should be.

4. LSU

2011 grade: C-
Where the program stands:
What a strange past season it was for the Tigers. They entered ’11 with high expectations, but failed to reach the NCAA postseason after compiling just a 36-20 overall record. The Tigers, despite not making an NCAA Regional last season, still are in fine shape. They’re expected to compete for the national title in 2012. And oh yeah, this still is a program that won a national title a couple of seasons ago.

5. Arkansas

2011 grade: B
Where the program stands:
The Razorbacks entered the 2011 season in somewhat of a rebuilding mode after losing several key ingredients to the ’10 team. However, they still compiled a 40-22 overall record and reached an NCAA Regional. The Hogs are a consistent postseason contender and will be expected compete for the national title next season with the return of several premier pitchers.

6. Alabama

2011 grade: B
Where the program stands:
It’s evident to us that coach Mitch Gaspard did a tremendous coaching job in ’11. The Crimson Tide lost several key cogs from their ’11 NCAA Super Regional club, but didn’t skip a beat at times last season. They compiled a 35-28 overall record and reached the Tallahassee Regional title game. Now the Tide’s goal is to take yet another step forward on the national stage.

7. Mississippi

2011 grade: D
Where the program stands:
The Rebels have experienced a wealth of success under the direction of coach Mike Bianco, but the program took an unexpected step back last season by failing to reach the NCAA postseason with a 30-25 record. The Rebels have a talented freshman class coming in this fall, but there’s no doubt it’ll be important for them to get back on track in ’12. Ole Miss is a good, but not great, program.

8. Georgia

2011 grade: C
Where the program stands:
What a tough past year it was for the Bulldogs, and specifically coach Dave Perno, with the serious spinal injuries to Chance Veazey and Jonathan Taylor. It’s amazing the Bulldogs were able to keep things together this season. But they did, reaching the NCAA postseason with a 33-32 overall record. The Bulldogs have had consistency issues the past few seasons, but they’ve still reached the postseason three of the last four years, including an ’08 trip to the CWS title series.

9. Mississippi State

2011 grade: B+
Where the program stands:
Coach John Cohen’s Bulldogs struggled the first few seasons under his tutelage, but finally are getting in a groove. The Bulldogs had some inconsistent moments in ’11, but took a huge step forward by reaching the NCAA postseason and taking Florida to the wire in the Gainesville Super Regional. State is a program to watch moving forward. They’re just getting going under Cohen.

10. Auburn

2011 grade: D
Where the program stands:
We knew well before the ’11 season the Tigers could have some growing pains with the departures of several key cogs both at the plate and on the mound. The Tigers had some good moments this past season. They also had some bad moments, which ultimately resulted in them not reaching the NCAA postseason with just a .500 overall record. The Tigers took a step forward two seasons ago by hosting an NCAA Regional. Now it’s time for them to regroup after an unsuccessful campaign.

11. Kentucky

2011 grade: F
Where the program stands:
The Wildcats had one of the premier right-handed pitchers in college baseball with Alex Meyer leading the way. However, they were unable to make a move in the SEC last season with just eight wins in league play and an overall record of 25-30. It’s time the Wildcats find a way to take a step forward. UK hasn’t reached the NCAA postseason since ’08.

12. Tennessee

2011 grade: F
Where the program stands:
There’s some good and bad news for the Volunteers. The good news is they have new leadership and there’s only one direction to go. The bad news is they must find a way to become relevant again in the incredibly tough SEC. The Vols finished the ’11 campaign last in the league with a 25-29 overall record.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org

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