Sep 19, 2007

Ranking the SEC

The best conference in college football has been awash with upsets, controversy, and in a few cases, utter domination. Heading into Week 4 of the NCAA season, here’s a team-by-team look at how the conference breaks down, not based on pre-season rankings (*cough* Top 25 *cough*), but based on how each team has performed to this point.

1. LSU
Best team in the conference, and in my humble opinion, the best team in the nation. This is a squad that knocked off a surprisingly stout Mississippi State team that beat the flailing Auburn Tigers last weekend, and utterly dismantled the then-#7 team in college football when Virginia Tech came calling. Going into the season, the big question was about the Tiger’s offense, and how it would rebound after the departure of JaMarcus Russell. The answer? Quite nicely.

2. Florida
Defending national champs, but like LSU, many wondered how ravaged they would be by the draft. After their showing in the Swamp against Tennessee last weekend, I think the question has been answered. In a few weeks, we get to prove why this is the best conference in the nation, as we get two serious national title contenders playing each other in October. What other conference has such a high stakes game so early in the schedule? I know USC is a great team, but they receive the number one ranking perennially without really earning it, and it is damn hard to knock off a number one team that doesn’t lose. Who cares if there isn’t another serious contender for thousands of miles, as long as they don’t lose in their terrible schedule, they walk into another national title game. I know preseason rankings are important, but who has legitimately been the most impressive team over the first few weeks?

3. Alabama
I really do hate Nick Saban, but his renewed contract with Satan, the devourer of souls, seems to be paying off for him. Oh, and all you Alabama faithful, who so have conveniently forgotten his turncoat ways in coming to you? The major rumor in college football (since last May!) is that when Llyod Carr retires at the end of the year for a job in the Michigan Athletic Department (the reason the AD said he will never be fired), Les Miles is slated to take over at his alma mater, and good ole backstabbing Nick is slated to…return to Baton Rouge. Keep celebrating while you’ve got him, because by dealing with Saban, you’ve only set yourself up for a fall. It’s like a wise man once told me: if a girl cheats on her boyfriend with you, and eventually leaves him to be with you, why on Earth would you be surprised when she leaves you for another guy? Tigers don’t change their stripes, and don’t you forget it.

4. Arkansas
Here’s where things get muddy, and it becomes clearer that we are dealing with the upper echelon of competition within college football; any of these next few teams (and probably Alabama, come to think of it), are interchangeable from week to week, so the rankings are based on performance thus far. I hung on every second of the Razorbacks game Saturday, and was mystified by McFadden’s ability to will what seemed to be a lost game back in Arkansas’ favor. I understand why Coach Houston Nutt didn’t put his best player in the game in the waning seconds; he was hurt, and had carried the ball over 30 times already, but the competitor in me wanted to see the kid finish what he had started. It was a gutsy performance, the stuff Heisman’s are made of.

5. South Carolina
The Ole’ Ball Coach has returned, and while beating the Dawgs in Athens, has put the rest of the SEC on notice. As much as I hate his visor throwing, egotistical, maniacal actions, I have to respect the coaching ability. And always s remind myself that Georgia earned his hatred way back when…

Dateline:1966The Gators entered the game 7-0 on the season and vying for their first ever SEC title. The Gators' quarterback, Steve Spurrier, had just locked up the Heisman trophy the previous week after a stellar performance vs Auburn and now had a chance to beat the Bulldogs for the first time in his playing career. But it was not to be. The outcome was never in doubt, as Spurrier threw three interceptions in a 27-10 Gator loss

6. Georgia
For the first time since coming to Athens, Mark Richt has closed practice, leading into this weekends showdown in Tuscaloosa. Some say its paranoid, some say it is a result of Camera-Gate, but I think it’s just rallying the troops after an underwhelming offensive performance to date. There have been bright spots (Knowshon Moreno, the returns of Sean Bailey and Thomas Brown) but the fact remains that more consistent play is needed from the strong armed Texan.

7. Miss State
Losing to LSU is no shame; it’s going to happen to a lot more teams this year before all is said and done. Knocking off traditional SEC powerhouse Auburn might be a great feat, or a sign that it’s a rebuilding year at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Either way, I can finally say, about an SEC team…BLACK HEAD COACHES, SON!

8. Kentucky
Probably should be higher, given the size of the upset in Lexington last weekend, but there are too many mitigating factors. Rivalry games are always really toss-ups, how will Woodson do against SEC defenses, did Louisville have all 11 players on that last touchdown? Just too many questions.

9. Tennessee
God, it feels good that they’re legitimately this low. Losing to a top team on the road? No big deal. Letting said team hang damn near sixty points on you, dispelling any sense of pride on your part? Kind of a big deal.

10. Vanderbilt
Looked really good against Ole Miss, but looked like Vandy against Alabama and the Satan, I mean Saban, nation.

11. Auburn
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Tommy, you may want start packing after losing at home to the OTHER Bulldogs. Things should get easier though, as they only still have to go play on the road at Arkansas, LSU, and UGA. At least the Bama game is on neutral ground.

12. Ole Miss
Got stomped by Vandy, and only barely squeaked by Memphis. Should look great this weekend at home against Florida. No, seriously, this is where everything gets turned around.

Games to Watch

…Besides, of course the powerhouse clash of Ole Miss and Florida, there are three other games that should catch your attention this weekend.

3. South Carolina at LSU
Let’s see just how real this Gamecocks team is, as they head to Death Valley, and visit one of the best teams in the nation. Though LSU should (will) win, I’m interested to see just if Spurrier’s revamped defense matches up against the LSU track meet. Blake Mitchell will be getting Glenn Dorsey flashbacks for years to come.

2. Kentucky at Arkansas
One team coming off of an emotional last second win, another coming off a crushing last second defeat. The rushing attack of McFadden and Jones should be too much for the Kentucky “defense” to handle, but the real match up is this secondary versus Andre Woodson, who announced his Heisman candidacy last weekend. Too bad Mr. McFadden already won it.

1. UGA at Alabama
The Jedi vs. the Sith. Autobots vs. Decepticons. Joes vs. Cobra. The story of good battling evil is as old as time itself, and it continues Saturday in T-town. Can the valiant Dawgs purge the Sabanic cult of Alabama? That’s why we watch.

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