At this point I would exchange Missouri for Tennessee. Although the mizzou are 4-0 they are likely to only beat KY. Tennessee and Vandy will be toss ups. Tennessee only has to win two games facing Auburn, Vandy, and Missouri. I will go out on a limb and say Ky will be winless in the SEC. UT has Vandy and Auburn in Knoxville. In my opinion UT's win over WKU is better than any of Missouri's wins. And that's not saying much. Either way UT and Missouri will be very close and neither fanbase has much to look forward to except next year or roundball season.
Each week throughout the 2013 football season we here at MrSEC.com will provide you with our views on each of the SEC’s best and worst football teams. But rather than give you a boring #1 through #14 ranking, we’ll instead assign each team to one of four categories. (In side those categories schools will be listed alphabetically.) Our category assignments are based upon how well each team has played, what they’ve accomplished to date, and what we believe each squad’s ceiling to be at this moment.
Now here’s how we see things shaking out at this point…
National Title Contender
Alabama (4-0 overall, 2-0 SEC) — Finally. It took a month of football, but the Crimson Tide finally put together what could reasonably be called a complete game. Sure the offense didn’t fire on all cylinders until the second half, but UA’s 25-0 victory over Ole Miss last week was as close as we’ve come to seeing the “old Alabama” team… the team everyone expected to see all year long. Whether Bama found itself or it will continue to be inconsistent is yet to be seen.
Georgia (3-1 overall, 2-0 SEC) – There are two units in the SEC that were highly-touted in the preseason and have lived up to expectations. One of those units: Georgia’s offense. The Bulldogs put 35 points on Clemson (despite key injuries suffered during that road game). They bit South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney for 41 points. An on Saturday that stepped on the Tigers’ tails, besting LSU 44-41. That’s 120 points in three games against top 10 opponents. Now if UGA could only find a defense.
LSU (4-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) — Saturday was a wake-up call for LSU’s defense. After performing pretty well with new faces all over the lineup, John Chavis’ crew was smoked by Aaron Murray and Georgia. As noted above, there’s no shame in that. Just room for improvement. But that one loss on the road by a field goal to a top 10 team hasn’t scuppered LSU’s BCS Championship hopes. In a year when everything seems to be leaning toward offense, Cam Cameron’s in Baton Rouge appears as strong as any thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (3-1 overall, 2-0 SEC) — Georgia’s offense has lived up to preseason hype and so has Florida’s defense. To date Gators have allowed six points to Toledo, 21 points to Miami (thanks to multiple offensive turnovers), 17 to Tennessee (thanks to multiple offensive turnovers), and seven points to Kentucky. The rank near the top nationally of every major defensive statistical category. UF’s run defense – now sans Dominique Easley – will be tested by Arkansas’s ground game on Saturday. We also want to see a bit more of new quarterback Tyler Murphy before we push the Gators into a higher strata. He’s performed admirably through two games, but both vanquished foes were greatly inferior talent-wise.
South Carolina (3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) — In its season-opener against North Carolina, we gave the Gamecock defense props for shutting down an offense that excelled last season. But the Tar Heels are now just 1-3 overall. And Carolina del Sud has allowed 41 points to Georgia, 25 to Vanderbilt and 25 more to UCF. Still, if USC’s D can improve, the rest of the SEC slate seems pretty tame aside from a home date with Florida. In other words, Carolina could play itself back into the national title race.
Texas A&M (4-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) — And here’s another squad that could still make national noise. A&M’s defense through the first month of the season has been bad. As in “worst run defense” and “worst overall defense” in the SEC bad. Despite the weaknesses on Mark Snyder’s side of the ball, the Aggies are still 4-1 on the year with their lone loss coming to #1 Alabama by a touchdown. A&M can score with anyone thanks to Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and the rest of their high-flying offense. And this might be the year in which an SEC team has to win a shootout in the final game of the season to claim the league’s eighth national crown in a row.
Arkansas (3-2 overall, 0-1 SEC) — After a 3-0 start to the season, Bret Bielema (with Florida on the horizon) is facing the possibility of dropping three games in a row for just the second time in his career. Brandon Allen’s surprise return at quarterback provided the vertical threat necessary to kickstart the Hogs’ beefy ground game. This week that offense will get a tougher test than the one it faced in Texas A&M a week ago. On the flipside, we’ll get a better grasp on the Razorbacks defense this week as UF quarterback Tyler Murphy (making his second career start) figures to be a little bit less threatening than A&M’s Johnny Football.
Auburn (3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) — Auburn had last week off to rebound from its first loss of the year at LSU. Now the Tigers face Ole Miss in a game that could have serious bowl implications for both squads. Nick Marshall has grown week after week as the Plainsmen’s starting quarterback. He’ll need to improve once more if Auburn is to win what on paper has the makings of a high-scoring, up-tempo pinball-type of game.
Missouri (4-0 overall, 0-0 SEC) — Mizzou hasn’t faced a murderer’s row to start their season (Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State), but 4-0 is 4-0. Especially when the natives are growling restless and the coach’s seat is warming. The Tigers fast-paced attack has looked good. James Franklin has played much more like the Franklin of 2011 than the Franklin of 2012 and that’s a good thing. But now the tests will grow tougher. Mizzou will close with eight straight SEC games and a trip to Vanderbilt is up next on Saturday. A loss in Nashville might just undo all of the positive work Gary Pinkel and his team turned during September.
Ole Miss (3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) – The Rebels and quarterback Bo Wallace learned last week that, no, in fact they do not have the weapons to put points on Alabama. Now it’s time for the rebound. Mississippi’s offense still has the potential to do a lot of damage, especially when both the Rebs and their opponent plan on going no-huddle all game long. As noted above in our Auburn breakdown, this week’s game is sort of a separation game. The winner might be setting the table for a nice bowl trip. The loser might be setting a course for mediocrity.
Kentucky (1-3 overall, 0-1 SEC) – First alphabetically in this group, the Wildcats are probably dead last of this bunch in terms of roster strength/depth. After once again having their hopes dashed by Florida – the Gators’ win streak over UK now stands at 27 games – the Cats will have to find a way to regroup at South Carolina on Saturday evening. USC’s defense has been disappointing to date, but Kentucky hasn’t shown enough offense (or enough stability at quarterback) to give even the most loyal Big Blue backers a reason to believe Mark Stoops team can light up the scoreboard at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Mississippi State (2-2 overall, 0-1 SEC) — The Bulldogs don’t appear to be a bad football team, just average. And average in the SEC West likely means a last place finish in the division. Quarterback Tyler Russell is expected to return from a Week One concussion and reclaim his starting job against LSU. But backup Dak Prescott has earned the right to see the field, too. How much those two rotate and how well the offense responds could be the difference between a close game and a blowout.
Tennessee (3-2 overall, 0-1 SEC) — The Volunteers made it through September just as many had forecasted before the season – with lay-up victories over Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama, a blowout loss to Oregon, and a ninth consecutive loss to Florida. Next come Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Yikes. Georgia has stumbled in Neyland Stadium a number of times (2007 and 2009, for instance). The Vols will also try to fire themselves up by wearing their new “smokey” grey uniforms. New duds likely won’t improve the talent of the guys sporting them.
Vanderbilt (3-2 overall, 0-2 SEC) — After a disappointing 0-2 start in the SEC, the Commodores can pull themselves up out of our basement category with a strong showing at home against Missouri. Unfortunately for the Dores, the home field advantage didn’t help their defense when Ole Miss brought their up-tempo attack to Nashville last month. Now Mizzou comes a callin’ with – it could be argued – an even better QB at the controls. If Vanderbilt wants to go bowling, it needs to win these type of toss-up games.