How is the SEC shaping up thus far?
Well, here we are folks, having rounded the midway point of the college football season.
Yet again, the Southeastern Conference has proven itself to be the class of the nation, but within the SEC itself, things have not been quite so rosy.
While a few powerhouses at the top have shined quite brightly under the glare of the national stage, a few programs in the country's mightiest conference have sifted down to the bottom of the dirt pile.
Check out where your team stands in Gamedayr's initial SEC Power Rankings, but no matter where your team stands, remember: You can always win the tailgate!
14. Kentucky Wildcats
We here at Gamedayr has gotta call ‘em like we see ‘em, and even though we love the atmosphere and overall party scene over in Lexington, coach Joker Phillips has put together a pure joke of a football program (like that pun? Simple, but not terrible).
Ready for the numbers? Read these and keep in mind that there are 120 eligible DI programs out there.
The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 102 in passing yards (190.0 per game), No. 103 in rushing (119.3), No. 111 in points scored (19.3) and No. 96 in points given up (32.4).
Dumpster fire, nothing more, nothing less.
13. Auburn Tigers
Wherefore art thou Cam?
Auburn’s 2012 season has been far from the poetry of the program’s 2010 national championship run, and if this were a play, Tigers fans would want their money back.
Since that won’t happen (try convincing us that college football is not a big business for these athletic departments), Auburn’s rabid fan base and boosters are calling for Gene Chizik’s head on a platter.
Since that won’t happen, they are hoping at least for his firing, despite still being owed $7.5 million whether he is roaming the sidelines or not. Talk about a swift and brutal fall from grace, but with the prospect of a winless SEC season on the horizon and a team hardly better than Kentucky at this point, some changes absolutely need to be made.
12. Missouri Tigers
Two new teams were heading from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012, Mizzou and Texas A&M. Based on 2011’s body of work and the returning players within both programs, coach Gary Pinkel’s Tigers were supposed to show far more bite than fellow newbies, the Aggies.
Just the opposite has taken place, however. With quarterback James Franklin looking more and more like Samuel L. Jackson’s ‘Mr. Glass’ character in Unbreakable and awful home losses to Georgia, Vanderbilt and Alabama, these Tigers have had all their teeth knocked right out.
An 0-4 start to its life in the SEC was neither expected, nor has it been fun.
11. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss is behind another 0-4 in-conference team for one reason: The Rebels’ first conference win in 16 tries – or two full seasons – was against an Auburn team built in such a patchwork fashion that it wouldn’t even pass for a grandmother’s quilt.
First year coach Hugh Freeze (a far kinder individual than the Mr. Freeze played by Ahhhnold in the 1990’s Batman movies, we’re told) has done wonders with this team, and its four wins are already twice as many as the 2-10 record put together under former coach Houston Nutt.
The talent is simply not there to actually compete against the big boys of the SEC, at least not yet. With two weeks to prepare for their showdown at Arkansas, however, the Runnin’ Rebels have a chance to skyrocket up these rankings.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
Very rarely do teams open their conference schedules with four straight losses, but are still considered a very talented bunch. The 2012 Tennessee football team, then, has broken the mold.
Sometimes it is poor coaching out of Derek Dooley. At other times it is an ill-time defensive breakdown. In desperate moments it is a mental lapse by quarterback Tyler Bray.
Whatever it has been, this is probably one of the most talented 3-4 (0-4) programs in the nation.
That will most likely be small consolation following the season should Dooley, a former assistant under Nick Saban, be sending out resumes while other teams go bowling.
9. Arkansas Razorbacks
Remember the dumpster fire that was the Kentucky Wildcats football program? Well, following a heartbreaking overtime loss at home to a group of unknowns out of Louisiana-Monroe and a drubbing at the hands of rival Alabama, most Hogs fans were ready to throw interim coach John L. Smith and Co. right into the flames.
Then a funny thing happened: Auburn and Kentucky appeared on the Razorbacks schedule.
Like a breath of fresh air, the Wildcats and Tigers came calling and breathed life into a Razorbacks' season that had previously been in the toilet. There are still plenty of issues with this program that will have to be resolved in the offseason, but Ole Miss buses into Fayetteville on Halloween weekend.
A three game win streak in the SEC would be quite the treat for a beleaguered fan base.
8. Vanderbilt Commodores
A lot like Tennessee, the ‘Dores have failed to produce many wins, but have garnered the respect of both opponents and the national sports media.
Unlike Tennessee, and the reason why Vandy currently boasts two league wins is the fact that coach James Franklin (no relation to the Missouri quarterback) has preached toughness, an angry defense and a strong running game. He has ridden his star tailback Zac Stacy to a few wins that would make any old-school SEC proponent proud. This includes a grind-it-out road victory against a Missouri squad that was suppose to finally announce its presence in the SEC.
The talent level and the fan base are both lagging behind the upper echelon of the SEC – as evidenced by its 20.0 points per game average, good for 108th in the nation – but with a defense currently ranked 33rd in the nation in points allowed with 21.0, things may just get better as the season progresses.
Or not. It is still Vanderbilt, after all.
7. Texas A&M Aggies
Led by redshirt freshman and superstar-in-the-making Johnny Manziel, the Aggies have impressed in their first year in the SEC. However, the program will remain on the outside looking in at the big boys of the conference if a problem carrying over from the 2011 season continues to plague A&M.
A season ago, the team was good enough to build double-digit leads in 11 games, but poor enough in the clutch to blow six of them. That led to the eventual firing of coach Mike Sherman.
Against LSU and its ever-stocked roster of future NFL draft picks, first year coach Kevin Sumlin and his players built a 12-0 lead, only to watch it evaporate into a disheartening 24-19 home loss. This after carrying a 17-10 lead into halftime against now-No. 2 Florida before losing 20-17 to open the season.
If this crew can figure out a way to put teams away, the 12th Man can expect some movement up the rankings, if not this season then next.
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
There has been very little ‘game’ in The Ole’ Ball Coach’s Gamecocks over the last two weeks, when his team suffered its first two defeats of the 2012 season. Not only had South Carolina been heading into an evening showdown with LSU in Death Valley with a pristine 6-0 mark, but it was coming off arguably the biggest win in school history after it defeating then-No. 5 Georgia 35-7 at home.
Coach Les Miles’ bunch had been coming off a loss to Florida, and the Mad Hatter had obviously done a good job of helping his group rebound. The Tigers eked out a 23-21 victory, but that defeat did a number on the psyche of Spurrier’s ballclub.
It is tough to outgain a team 191-183 in total yards and still lose 44-11, but coach Spurrier’s Gamecocks managed to do just that after committing four turnovers.
A fantastic season is still salvageable, but a shot at the SEC Title is gone.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Despite losing badly to South Carolina, Georgia is awarded the No. 5 slot in Gamedayr’s Power Rankings largely due to the fact that coach Mark Richt’s ‘Dawgs still control their own destiny.
Beat Florida on Halloween weekend at The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and it is practically smooth sailing all the way from Athens to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
More to the point, the Bulldogs offense and its leader, quarterback Aaron Murray, seems to be peaking at the right time. Murray took home SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors and set a school record for passing touchdowns after he threw for a career-high 427 yards against Kentucky on Saturday. His four touchdown passes gave him 75 on his career, and he now holds the record despite the fact that he is only in his third season.
Expect a big drop if the Bulldogs play against Florida like they did against South Carolina and takes its second SEC loss like a powder puff team, however.
4. Mississippi State
One of the biggest surprises in the country this season, the Bulldogs are off to their best start since bursting out to an 8-0 mark to open the 1999 season.
With the youngest head coach in the entire conference – Dan Mullen is only 40 years old – this squad may just be surprising itself.
Running back Ladarius Perkins has amassed 724 yards on a 5.8 yards per carry average. Quarterback Tyler Russell, the softspoken leader of this 7-0 squad, has already thrown for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns with only one interception.
The lone pick has been in line with coach Mullen’s winning philosophy thus far: Do not give the other team the ball. Mississippi State leads the nation in turnover margin, taking away the football 2.43 times more than it turns it over.
Should they keep the ball out of No. 1 Alabama’s hands and somehow upsets the Red Elephants, how high will this team climb?
3. LSU Tigers
Yes, this team has a loss to its name. Yes, it has suffered from poor quarterback play for the last few years and yes the team’s coach has literally been nicknamed the ‘Mad Hatter’.
Despite it all, here the Tigers come yet again, waiting patiently, stalking its prey in such a way as to make its ferocious namesake proud. LSU lost a smash-mouth game at the hands of national No. 2-Florida, 14-6, but has since recovered to beat then-No. 3 South Carolina at home and then-No. 18 Texas A&M in one of the most intense atmospheres in all of college football.
The team is off this week, giving its coaches and players (not to mention its fans, who had better be securing those tailgating spots now) two weeks to prepare for a highly anticipated showdown with current-No. 1 Alabama on November 3.
Not only will the winner of that game possibly earn the top spot on our rankings, but could be moving to the No. 1-spot in the BCS Polls as well.
2. Florida Gators
Dang, it’s good to be a Gator.
It was not any fun to watch seven losses in 2011, a season rife with growing pains for first year head coach Will Muschamp. The seven defeats were the most for any Gators football team since 1987 – far before most of the current Gators were even born.
What does not kill you makes you stronger, however, and the entirety of Gator Nation is enjoying the benefits of a team that has developed the toughness in its stout run game, shut-down defense and game-changing special teams play necessary to compete for a national championship.
Most believed Florida would be an improved team in Muschamp’s second year, but the second-ranked team in the country with six SEC wins already this season? Not even Nostradamus could have seen this one coming.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
This Tide just never stops rollin’, now does it?
With two BCS National Championship over the previous three seasons, coach Nick Saban has constructed more than simply a well-oiled machine. What this man has got on his hands could compete against Optimus Prime.
You get two numbers here, then we’re done here until Bama does something crazy and wholly unexpected, like lose a game, or even win closely: six and three.
On its 7-0 season, the Crimson Tide has only given up six touchdowns and three field goals.
Seriously, six and three. That is championship-caliber if there ever was such a thing.
Information and statistics sourced from ESPN.com.
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