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SEC bowl winners and losers: Alabama in a rare spot

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Saban proud of team after loss (0:55)

Nick Saban speaks with Tom Rinaldi about what went wrong for Alabama and what he told his team after the loss to Clemson. (0:55)

Well, it wasn't exactly the best season for SEC football.

Outside of a rather average regular season, the SEC went just 6-7 in bowl play -- including Monday's thrilling 35-31 loss by No. 1 Alabama to No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.

What's worse for the SEC is that it had to watch rival ACC take the national championship from its king and finish bowl season with a 9-3 record (going 4-1 against the SEC).

When your rival is better than you during the regular season and in the postseason and it takes your last glimmer of hope in front of the nation, it makes for a long offseason.

So the SEC as a whole wasn't exactly a winner during the postseason, but there were some things the conference should hold its head up high about.

Here are the SEC postseason winners and losers.

WINNERS

  • Florida: Even though Florida won the SEC East for the second straight season, the Gators didn't garner much enthusiasm because of such poor offensive play. With time to rework some things and to get that offensive line in shape, the Gators actually had nice-looking offense in a 30-3 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl to go with its solid defense. Florida managed just two offensive touchdowns and gained just 331 yards, but its offense looked much more polished than it has in months. For a program that needed some momentum going into the homestretch of recruiting, this was a win that should generate some more excitement in Gainesville.

  • Kirby Smart: It was a ho-hum start for Smart at Georgia, but he ended his first season as head coach with a nice 31-23 win over TCU in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Smart didn't win the East and his team wasn't in contention for most of the season, but this was a nice win to end his first season before diving into recruiting. He's doing an excellent job in recruiting and currently holds the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, but to end his first campaign with a win provides some momentum in his locker room.

  • South Carolina: Yes, South Carolina lost to South Florida in overtime, but did you see that offense? The Gamecocks racked up 481 points and 39 points. Want some perspective on that? South Carolina crossed the 400-yard mark just twice during the regular season. South Florida won 11 games this season, and the Bulls should have been ranked against South Carolina even though they weren't. In Will Muschamp's four seasons at Florida, his offenses hit 400 yards against AP-ranked teams only twice.

  • Joshua Dobbs: Tennessee's senior quarterback ended his Volunteers career with 291 passing yards with a touchdown and 118 rushing yards with three more scores in the Vols' 38-24 win over Nebraska in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Dobbs ended his career on a high note despite a very disappointing regular season for Tennessee. The Vols were an easy target to pick at after Butch Jones' "Champions of Life" comment, but Dobbs helped them end the season -- and his career -- the right way.

  • Ed Orgeron: Hey, LSU's new coach is 1-0 in bowl games. Despite the Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman talk, Orgeron is LSU's guy and continued the momentum from the regular season with a dominant 29-9 win over Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The Tigers sacked Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson eight times and held him to 186 total yards and zero touchdowns.

LOSERS

  • Alabama: When you're nearly a touchdown favorite and on a historic 26-game winning streak with everyone calling you the best team in the nation, you better win it all. That didn't happen, as the once top-ranked Crimson Tide was knocked off by Clemson in the national championship. This team -- and especially the defense -- wanted best-ever consideration, but that all vanished in the fourth quarter of Monday's game, when Clemson outscored Alabama 21-7 by gashing that elite defense and smothering a struggling offense.

  • Vanderbilt: The Commodores ended the regular season winning four of six but came out flat against NC State in the Camping World Independence Bowl. The explosive offense we saw in wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee was nonexistent, as Vandy had just 314 yards and quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw three interceptions. Vandy's day ended with a kickoff return for a touchdown and pick-six by the Wolfpack.

  • Sean White: That broken arm was one thing, but with former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham enrolling at Auburn, White's days as Auburn's starting quarterback are in trouble. Stidham is a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn's offense and brings 1,265 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games of work -- three as the primary quarterback. We don't know if White's arm will affect him this spring, but Stidham definitely will.

  • Texas A&M: The Aggies started 6-0, only to finish the regular season 8-4. In two straight seasons before, the Aggies were 5-0, yet finished 8-5. So with Kansas State as A&M's final opponent in 2016, the Aggies stayed consistent by losing 33-28. The start was somewhat different, but the end result wasn't, and now the offseason chatter will commence once again about how secure Kevin Sumlin is as the head coach in College Station.

  • Arkansas: A team that was so up-and-down during the season played its bowl game exactly how its regular season went. In the first half, Arkansas was up with a 24-0 lead over No. 22 Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. It was then down in the second half after giving up 35 straight points to lose 35-24. Welcome back, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. To make matters worse, tight end Jeremy Sprinkle was arrested and suspended for shoplifting at ... a Belk superstore. Oh, and receiver Drew Morgan was ejected late for spitting in the face of a Virginia Tech player.