A season-ending look at the SEC

So much for any stability within the Alabama football program. A year after leading the Crimson Tide to 10 wins and a Cotton Bowl victory, Mike Shula finds himself unemployed, and the Tide (6-6, 2-6) is searching for its fifth head coach since Mike DuBose was sent packing following the 2000 season.

In short, Shula lost to everybody that counted this season -- which was ultimately his undoing -- and Alabama struggled to a .500 finish that climaxed with Shula's fourth straight loss to Auburn. The former Alabama quarterback was allowed to twist in the wind for more than a week and then was fired after going 26-23 in four seasons. In his defense, he inherited a mess complete with NCAA sanctions after stepping in abruptly in May 2003 following the whole Mike Price fiasco. Alabama took some steps toward respectability under Shula, but patience wore thin at the Capstone (now there's a surprise) after he went just 4-14 against nationally ranked opponents and 3-16 against SEC teams with winning records.

Shula wasn't eager to sacrifice any of his assistant coaches, which only expedited his firing. He called his own plays, and the Tide offense this season struggled to finish drives. Mississippi was the only SEC team to score fewer touchdowns in the red zone. The biggest problem on defense was up front, where Alabama wasn't nearly as formidable as it's been in the past. All in all, it was an unfulfilling season that included an inexcusable home loss to Mississippi State.