Questions or comments? E-mail me Barrett Sallee
Raise your hands if you honestly thought in August that, as we head into October, Alabama would still be undefeated, Ole Miss would be considered a legitimate contender to make it to Atlanta, and Auburn would have won a game 3-2. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? One month into the season, here’s where the SEC teams stand as of today.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Everyone knows that Clemson folds like a cheap tent, so Alabama’s win on opening night over Clemson didn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. However, after punching Georgia in the mouth for four straight hours on Saturday night, it’s likely that Bama may actually be back after all. “Just average” teams don’t go into a hostile environment – even if it’s an artificially manufactured environment – and roll up a 31-0 score by halftime. That just doesn’t happen.
John Parker Wilson has shown massive improvement between his junior and senior years, going a gaudy 69-110 (62.7%) for 747 yards, 6 TD, and only 1 INT so far in 2008. Even more impressive is Alabama’s rushing attack. The top 3 RB’s on Alabama’s roster, Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch, all are averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. In addition to the solid play on O, the Tide D has been stifling, racking up 9 sacks and holding their opponents to a 38% red zone touchdown percentage.
With a relatively light in-conference schedule the rest of the way, save for games against Auburn and LSU, the Tide is, most certainly, in the driver’s seat to get to Atlanta. After one-month of the season, it certainly appears that, what most people thought was only typical Alabama delusion, could become a reality sooner rather than later.
2. LSU Tigers
Not far behind the Crimson Tide is the LSU Tigers. The Tigers looked a little lethargic last weekend vs. Mississippi State, but even while sleep walking, there was really no doubt who was going to win that game. The mad-hatter Les Miles has the Tigers in a good position to repeat as SEC Champions, but have to avoid land-mines like Florida, Georgia and Alabama to get there.
LSU is at a point, pardon the cliché, where they don’t rebuild, that just reload. Entering this season after the Ryan Perrilloux fiasco, LSU had all kinds of QB question marks. All those questions were answered in the second half of the Auburn game, as Jarrett Lee grew up in front of everybody’s eyes, leading LSU to the come-from-behind victory. Charles Scott is, not only establishing himself as one of the SEC’s best running backs, but – dare I say it – a Heisman contender. LSU’s defense is as solid as ever, and, even if the young QB sputters a bit, there’s no reason to believe that the Tigers D can’t step up behind Tyson Jackson and Ricky Jean-Francois, and win a ball game or two.
3. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss certainly lucked out when Houston Nutt became available in the off-season, and Nutt has paid immediate dividends in Oxford. While Oxford, Miss. was in the spotlight for other reasons in September, as the two Presidential candidates debated there, there’s no debating this – the football team in Oxford is good.
Houston Nutt always seems to get the most out of his most talented players, and win games that seem un-winnable. Jevan Snead has been very effective, despite throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns (8). The Rebel D has been bailing him out a bit, forcing six fumbles. But, Snead will have to cut down on the INT’s if he wants to lead Ole Miss to Atlanta. Brandon Bolden, Cordera Eason and Dexter McCluster all have provided a nice compliment to Snead’s 1,029 yards through the air this year.
4. Auburn Tigers
The much-ballyhooed Tony Franklin offense has been stuck in neutral for the first month of the season. Off-season QB questions remain unresolved, play-calling seems to be a little suspect, and special teams problems persist. With all that being said, Auburn’s defense is as good as any in the land, and will keep the Tigers in every game. If the offense ever gets rolling, this team will be very dangerous.
QB Chris Todd has gotten the majority of the snaps this season, but Kodi Burns has shown that he deserves a shot. Statistics aside, the offense seems to function better with Burns under center. Todd has made some pretty good throws, especially in the LSU game, but all-in-all, there seems to be more fire and enthusiasm when Burns is in. Plus, Burns has the athletic ability to rescue the Tigers if a play breaks down.
The Auburn offense has routinely put the defense in horrible situations, and the defense has routinely stepped up. In the second half, Mississippi State and Tennessee combined to start 7 drives in Auburn territory in their respective games vs. the Tigers. In those 7 drives, the Tigers have allowed only 7 points. First-year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads has quickly shed the shadow cult-hero Will Muschamp, and is making a big name for himself on the Plains.
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Sly Croom’s team has seemed to have taken a step back from solid 2007 season. However, the Bulldogs did play LSU tough for a while, and battled Auburn tooth-and-nail. There’s still time for the Bulldogs to get back on track and get back to another bowl game, but they need to get better fast in order to do so.
Anthony Dixon had a solid September, but the rest of the Bulldog offense has been average-at-best. Tyson Lee started, and played well, in his first career start in maroon and white against the defending national champion LSU Tigers. If Croom gives Lee the ball next week, things may be looking up for the Bulldogs.
6. Arkansas Razorbacks
Things are bad in Fayetteville. Very bad. The Arkansas administration ran an underrated Houston Nutt out of town, and replaced him with Bobby Petrino, who is on his 64th coaching job over the last hour-and-a-half. Arkansas needed fourth quarter comebacks to beat ULM and Western Illinois (no, that’s not a typo). If it weren’t for those, Arkansas could be 0-4, and a VERY bad 0-4 at that.
Arkansas is giving up an average of 38 points per game, and has only one interception and one fumble recovery on the season. More times than not, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game, and that’s precisely why the Razorback’s have struggled. Couple that with the fact that the Razorbacks have rushed for only 362 yards on the season – a number that Darren McFadden could attain in his sleep – and it’s apparent that the Razorback’s are in need of some serious help.
With two months left to go, these rankings are, of course, fluid. It’s been a fun season so far, and in the wild wild SEC West, it only looks to get better.
SEC West September Synopsis – September 28, 2008
Fixing Auburn’s Offense – September 15, 2008
Wells or Not, USC’s Defense Will Dominate – September 10, 2008
No Need To Panic, Auburn Fans – September 2, 2008
SEC and ESPN Reach Mega Deal – August 25, 2008
What Will Happen In The SEC – August 18, 2008
Bama Is Not Back – August 5, 2008
SEC Under-The-Radar Games – July 26, 2008
Enough With The Buckeyes – July 16, 2008
SEC Coaches: How Many Is Too Many? - July 8, 2008
New Coordinators No Problem For Auburn - July 1, 2008
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