Mid-Season Grades in the SEC

A lot of people said last week was mid-season, well I say this week is mid-season. 13 weeks of football plus Championship Saturday makes 14 weeks…we just finished Week 7 so it is mid-season now.

Best Defenses

1a. LSU, (A+) – They are incredible. The defensive line is stacked. They are stacked at linebacker. The secondary is second to none. Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne make up the best cornerback duo in the country. They have speed everywhere, and I think they have a little more of it than Bama.

1b. Alabama, (A+) – They are incredible as well. Their linebackers and safeties are the best in the country, Upshaw and Barron probably being the best at their position in the country. D Line is good, corners are excellent. I think their coaching is a little better than LSU.

3. Georgia, (A-) – They have a lot of playmakers on defense, and they are evenly scattered throughout, with an underrated D Line. They’ve come a long way from ’09 and even last year.

4. Florida, (B+) – The Gators just have a solid defense. They have been overlooked a little bit due to the offense’s great start, and then sharp decline…but the D has been pretty consistent.

5. South Carolina, (B) – The Gamecocks have the best defensive line in the SEC. The back seven aren’t on the same level although they do have some good players in Shaq Wilson and Stephon Gilmore. They’ve played well enough for USC to contend.

6. Mississippi State (B) – The Dawgs have steadily improved week by week including their best performance last week vs. South Carolina. After a slow start Fletcher Cox is asserting himself as the best player on the team. Cameron Lawrence has been a welcomed surprise at linebacker and Johnthan Banks has stepped up as the best cornerback with 5 INTs.

7. Vanderbilt (B-) – They have played well all year, keeping Vandy in all their games but one, and in that one they held Bama close until the 2nd half. They lead the SEC with 15 interceptions, Casey Heyward with 5 of them.

8. Arkansas (C) – The Hog’s D was touted as Bobby Petrino’s best defense since he’s been at Arkansas. They haven’t really lived up to that billing. They’ve been good enough to win some games but they are going to have to be better to make a run down the stretch.

9. Tennessee (C-) – The Vol’s have some talent here but they are young like the rest of the team and have struggled at times. They play hard, but don’t have much depth right now.

10. Auburn (D+) – The plus is for some improved play of late, but they still aren’t very good.

11. Kentucky (D) – This was supposed to be UK’s strength this season. Danny Travathan is one heck of a player to have to play on such a poor unit.

12. Ole Miss (D-) – The Rebs are allowing almost 450 yards per game and over 6 yards per play.

 

Best Offenses

1. Arkansas (A) – Tyler Wilson is as good as advertised. If Knile Davis would not have gotten hurt, they would probably get an A+. As solid as they are, Bama’s D got to them. We’ll see how much they improve as we move towards their meeting with LSU at the end of the year.

2. Alabama (A-) – If Bama wins the ‘Game of the Century’, Trent Richardson will likely win the Heisman Trophy. They have the best offensive line in the SEC, and A.J. McCarron has done exactly what they need out of him…and maybe a little more. They are not explosive, but they are rock solid.

3. Georgia (B+) – Aaron Murray will most likely be a Top 10 NFL draft choice in a couple of years, he is a really good quarterback. He still has trouble throwing interceptions, but with the receivers he has, decent O line, and the emergence of Isiah Crowell, they are good…how good would they be if Ealey and King weren’t knuckleheads?

4. South Carolina (B+) – This of course is a grade based on how good they are to this point of the season, we’ll see how losing Marcus Lattimore effects the rest of the season. Trading Garcia for Shaw hasn’t hurt them so far, and they have plenty of explosiveness, however, much of that may be negated if they cannot find a running game in the 2nd half.

5. LSU (B) – The Tigers might be really good, but who would know when you’re watching a Les Miles coached team. They line up and beat you up. They’ve shown some flair with some big plays so far this season, and they may be saving a few wrinkles for the ‘Game of the Century’…which they match Bama pretty well here except a slightly lesser O line and they don’t have a tailback like Richardson.

6. Auburn (C) – Michael Dyer is a stud. McCalleb is fast. Emory Blake is good. But Gus Malzahn is having major problems with his quarterbacks. Frazier isn’t ready, but Trotter and Mosley can’t do the job.

7. Mississippi State (C-) – Things have been really rocky for what was expected to be a really good unit. The O line has been injury-proned and Chris Relf did not live up to expectations. Tyler Russell has played decent over the last game and a half. Vick Ballard is a good running back, but the wide receivers need to step up.

7. Florida (C-) – With John Brantley, UF is much better than this. But since he hasn’t played the last two and a half games, that has to be taken into consideration. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps look like world-beaters against lesser teams, but are MIA against a good defense.

7. Tennessee (C-) – As it was with Florida, with Bray at UT they are a lot better than this. Add Justin Hunter too and Tennessee would be close to an ‘A’. If Touren Poole would live up to expectations they’d get that ‘A’. But things haven’t really worked out so far and the Vols are struggling.

10. Vanderbilt (D) – Larry Smith has been bad ever since he got to Vandy. Rodgers isn’t that much better, but they seem to find a way to get a big play at times. They are not very good right now, but when a Vandy offense is #10 on this list, that’s a good thing for the ‘Dores.

11. Ole Miss (D-) – They should not be this bad. With one of the most highly-touted offensive lines in the preseason, three serviceable QBs, three talented running backs, and some really good wide receivers you have to wonder how this can happen. But it has, and they can’t do hardly anything on this side of the ball.

12. Kentucky (F) – This is just awful. Isn’t Joker Philips supposed to be an offensive coach? Morgan Newton has regressed, and they have no one to come close to replacing Cobb, Locke, etc.

 

Best Coaching Jobs

1. Gene Chizik, AUB – He may have won the national championship last year, but he lost an unprecedented amount of players off that team. Still, he’s managed to win close games and forge their way into the Top 20 at 5-2.

2. James Franklin, VU – Vandy is a hard place to coach, but so far he has taken care of business against an FCS school, beaten the defending Big East Champs, clobbered Ole Miss, played tough at South Carolina, tough considering what he was up against at Alabama, and took Georgia to the last play of the game. And Vandy will probably end up in a bowl this year.

3. Les Miles, LSU – In year’s past it seemed like LSU was winning in spite of Miles. But this year it seems like he has elevated their play. LSU lost a bunch of talent off last year’s team, but they have replaced it and played better than most expected. With all the preseason distractions, he held them together and they ripped through the toughest September anyone faced this year.

4. Mark Richt, UGA – Georgia could have easily folded after being 0-2 and everyone calling for Richt’s head. But they have won 5 in a row behind a stout defense and a solid offense. Richt is off the hot seat for now and the Dawgs have a great shot at winning the East.

5. Nick Saban, UA – Saban is the best coach in the SEC, be it recruiting, X’s & O’s, or motivation. He broke everyone’s will they have played this year and will most likely to do the same until November 5th…and they may do it there too. He has Bama running like a well-oiled machine.

6. Steve Spurrier, USC – Much slower than an actual gamecock, Spurrier has brought South Carolina towards the top of the SEC. He’s still a great coach, and despite some poor play from his players, he has still managed to get his team to 6-1 and in the driver’s seat in the East.

7. Bobby Petrino, ARK – No one likes Petrino, but everyone agrees he can coach. After getting wiped clean at Alabama and losing 35-17 at halftime to Texas A&M, he got his team up off the mat and they went on to win that game and beat Auburn handily. They are still alive in the West, even though they need some help, and they are a quality, Top 10 team.

8. Dan Mullen, MSU – Things haven’t worked out the way everyone in Starkville had hoped so far this year, but it hasn’t been because State hasn’t played hard. MSU has been in every game, and has only lost to teams who are currently in the Top 25. Mullen hasn’t been able to get an SEC win yet, but he has developed a team that is very tough to beat.

8. Derek Dooley, UT – The mess he inherited at Tennessee was a tough job, and he’s got good players but no depth. Now injuries have forced the Vols into a tough place and getting to a bowl game will turn into a really good season at this point.

10. Will Muschamp, UF – Muschamp hasn’t done a bad job, but he hasn’t done anything to improve off of last year, and the Gators may be in jeopordy of having a worse record. He doesn’t have the type of players he would like to have, but Florida still has boatloads of talent that he should be able to do something with.

11. Houston Nutt, UM – This have gone from bad to worse this year at Ole Miss. He coached the Fresno State game like it was the Superbowl. Unless a miracle happens, he is going to be fired, and they may not wait until the end of the season.

12. Joker Philips, UK – Kentucky looks like a team that wouldn’t make a bowl in the MAC. They are playing horribly, maybe the worst team in the SEC in at least 10 years. He is only in his second year, so he will probably get to keep his job…but the leash will be short heading into 2012.

 

 

Bowl Projections

BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs. LSU winner

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. LSU loser

Capitol One Bowl: Georgia

Cotton Bowl: Arkansas

Outback Bowl: South Carolina

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Auburn

Gator Bowl: Florida

Music City Bowl: Tennessee

Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State

BBVA Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt

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