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Midseason Grades for Every SEC Team

Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 19, 2016

Midseason Grades for Every SEC Team

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Ask around college football for the current status of the SEC, and you'll end up with mixed reactions. Some would say it's overrated, others will say it's as dominant as ever and then the rest are simply tired of talking about the conference down south.

    Whatever your take is, the SEC is a lot like any other conference in the country. You have your cream of the crop, the mediocre teams and then a couple who are already trying to push the reset button.

    We're now halfway through the season. Where does your favorite team stand?

    Note: Team grades are based on what the expectations were before the season began and were the team is right now. If expectations weren't as high and you have more wins than losses, there's a chance said team has a passing grade. If expectations included a national title and said team has two losses, forget about it. 

Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Through the roof? After winning two consecutive national championships, it seemed like Alabama would have to run the table, and Nick Saban needed to turn the Crimson Tide mascot into an actual elephant for fans to be satisfied. If talks weren't focused on what Johnny Manziel had for breakfast, they were centered on Alabama winning another crystal football. 

     

    The Reality

    While Alabama has yet to play its best, it's still sitting pretty with an undefeated record and remains the favorite to be crowed national champions. The Tide steamrolled Ole Miss and was in control of Texas A&M for most of the game. However, you'd still like the offense to click a little faster than it is has as of late, and the defense could improve in a few areas. Although expectations haven't been reached, the results remain the same.

     

    Grade: B+

Arkansas

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    After being one of the biggest disappointments in college football last year, nobody knew what to expect heading into this season with a new coaching staff. Most of the offense left for the next level, the fan base was still wiping away tears and majority of the media was hiding and watching in the same ditch where Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle.

     

    The Reality

    Surprise, surprise! It didn't take long before Bret Bielema had this program making noise. The running game is averaging more than 215 yards per game, and the defense leads the SEC with 20 sacks. The former Wisconsin coach still has work to do with four straight losses after a fast 3-0 start, however, with what he had to work with and the expectations, Arkansas fans shouldn't be complaining. Progress has been made through the first half of the season, and this team continues to fight.

     

    Grade: B

Auburn

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    John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season  

    Pretty much the same as Arkansas. A new head coach in Gus Malzahn had an advantage of being with the program before as an offensive coordinator, but everybody was wondering just how fast he could clean up the mess that Gene Chizik left behind. He had no quarterback, limited weapons and a defense that couldn't tackle anything. Needless to say, the expectations weren't very high early on.

     

    The Reality

    Auburn is a quiet 5-1 and is playing better football with each passing week. The defense has improved from dead last to 10th in the SEC, and the offense is averaging more than 470 yards per game. There is still a ways to go before the Tigers can begin competing with the best of the best. The passing game is almost nonexistent, and the defensive side of the ball still allows too many big plays. Even with that said, at least Auburn will qualify for a bowl game and will no longer be laughed at by the rest of its peers.

     

    Grade: A

Florida

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Florida had enough talent on both sides of the ball to make another run for the SEC Championship Game. The defense was still loaded and the offense had majority of the key players returning, which should have set up a balanced football team that nobody else wanted to play. The team was a lot younger than a year ago, but there were plenty of pieces still in place for Will Muschamp to make a run in his third season.

     

    The Reality

    The Gators are who we thought they were! We let them off the hook! The defense is one of the best in the country and could probably hold the Jacksonville Jaguars to a pair of field goals. However, that offense is uglier than Mason Verger in the Hannibal movie. Eww. Because the offense can't move the ball the length of a coffee table, Florida has already lost to both Miami and LSU. It's got to be frustrating for all Florida fans to have a world-class defense and an offense that can't score on a middle school.

     

    Grade: D

Georgia

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Many were concerned about a defense that lost majority of its starters, but most believed that the offense was explosive enough to keep Georgia in the SEC hunt. Quarterback Aaron Murray, running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell? Yes, please. The defense would eventually figure itself out while the offense should be just as explosive as Oregon. There were questions, but Georgia was legit.

     

    The Reality

    Georgia has surpassed expectations in a way. Who else has played three Top 10 teams already? Has anybody beaten two Top 10 teams? The Bulldogs knocked off South Carolina and LSU, while losing to Clemson by a lousy field goal. The offense is just as good as everyone thought, and the defense has learned on the fly, as it's tied for eighth in the SEC with Mississippi. Thanks to an unusual number of injuries, Georgia lost to Missouri, but this team is still one of the best in the country when healthy.

     

    Grade: B+

Kentucky

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    An undefeated season and national championship. Oh, that's basketball season for Kentucky, never mind. As far as football is concerned, there was an unusual buzz surrounding the program as head coach Mark Stoops was recruiting well and changing the culture in a major way. While the future was looking bright, it's hard to find anyone who was completely buying Kentucky this season. We're talking about a program that hasn't been ranked in the AP Poll since 2007.

     

    The Reality

    Kentucky is still the black sheep of the SEC. While the other teams are trading body shots, the Wildcats are always the lone team that gets beat up without throwing in a few jabs. Kentucky is 1-5 to begin the season and has one of the worst offenses in the country. The defense has showed glimpses of being decent, but it still allows close to 30 points per game. This program will miss out of the postseason for a third year in a row, and Stoops will have his hands full this offseason.

     

    Grade: C-

LSU

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Hindsight is 20/20, but there weren't many people talking about LSU during the offseason. The love had shifted all towards Alabama and Texas A&M. People would bring up all of the talent lost on defense, the poor quarterback play or anything else they could think of to count the Tigers out. Forget that LSU has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. This year's team is certain to take a step back.

     

    The Reality

    LSU is flat out scary. Remember the traditional LSU teams that pound the ball down your throat and play feisty defense? This year's team looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Run for your lives! The ground-and-pound and suffocating defense is still there, but now the offense finally has a passing game under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. LSU is averaging 271 passing yards per contest, which is difficult to believe unless you actually saw it. We're seeing it! Watch out, college football.

     

    Grade: A+

Missouri

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Missouri is in the SEC? Oh, yeah. I forgot about the other new team. What's the mascot again? Whales, Bulls, Tigers? Yeah, that's it. Tigers. After going 5-7 in their debut season in the SEC, everybody was quick to write off the Tigers and send them back to the Big 12 in replace of a real football program. Send us Texas... Oh, wait. 

     

    The Reality

    Still chewing on that crow? Missouri has been the surprise of college football with its remarkable 6-0 start to the season. Already qualified for a bowl game, the Tigers have beaten both Vanderbilt and Georgia in back-to-back road games. The offense is averaging more than 45 points per game, and the defense pressures the quarterback and forces turnovers. Much how Texas A&M proved last season, Missouri has sown that it belongs in college football's toughest conference.

     

    Grade: A+

Mississippi State

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Mississippi State was another team that wasn't given a lot of love but for good reason. Dan Mullen can't seem to win a big game to save his life, and the Bulldogs lost five of their last six games to end the season. On top of that, many key defensive players graduated. It was time for people to give up on the program and begin to look for a sleeper elsewhere.

     

    The Reality

    For once, the majority was right. Mississippi State has gotten off to a terrible start to the season, and there is little sign of it turning around. The team continues to lose pretty much every game against greater or equal competition and is now in danger of missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2009. With the subpar 3-3 start, the Bulldogs have not won back-to-back games since Oct. 13 and Oct. 20 of last year. It's safe to say that Mullen is on the hot seat.

     

    Grade: F

Ole Miss

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    Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Head coach Hugh Freeze built a lot of buzz surrounding his program heading into the second season. After an impressive 7-6 record in his first year, Ole Miss was making noise in the recruiting world and landing numerous talented recruits. While the future was looking bright, the Rebels were also returning the most starters in the SEC. They instantly became the trendy pick to compete in this conference and somehow became overrated at certain points during the offseason.

     

    The Reality

    Darn it. The Rebels weren't able to beat Alabama or Texas A&M. They aren't undefeated and making a run towards a national championship. While the fantasy remains just that, Ole Miss has played surprisingly well and looks like a team that should be feared in another year or two. The defense is athletic and physical, while the offense is full of speedsters and home-run hitters. And although the Aggies and Crimson Tide won their games, Ole Miss kept it close and played both teams tough. A 3-3 start is a nice sized stepping stone.

     

    Grade: B

South Carolina

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season  

    Jadeveon Clowney is going to sack the quarterback on every play and South Carolina is going to go undefeated. The Gamecocks don't even need offense. Clowney will force a fumble every once in a while and return all of them for a touchdown. Clowney is the man, if he can't do it no one can! There were other reasons why a lot of people had South Carolina as the SEC East favorite, but nobody could hear them with Clowney constantly being jammed into our eardrums.

     

    The Reality

    Although shaky, South Carolina remains in the SEC hunt with a 5-1 start. The offense is one of the more balanced in the SEC thanks to improved play from quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Mike Davis. And the defense has held its own with a solid pass rush and people not named Clowney coming up with the sacks. Some may argue that the Gamecocks haven't lived up to the offseason hype, but they only have one loss heading into the second half of the season. Can't argue with those results.

     

    Grade: B+

Tennessee

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season  

    What are expectations? Since Peyton Manning moved on to break NFL records and coach Phillip Fulmer stepped down, Volunteer fans don't have expectations. Like most girlfriends will tell you, it's the simple things that matter most. Don't leave us after labeling this your "dream job." Let's not lose to FCS opponents. And if we're lucky, let's shoot to qualify for a bowl game. If we can do all three, we're making progress.

     

    The Reality

    Head coach Butch Jones have provided Tennessee fans with a box of chocolates. Sometimes they bite into heaven, and other times it taste like chocolate-covered toothpaste. Taking Georgia to overtime shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Losing to Oregon 59-14 reminds everybody that the light may be a train. We'll have a better idea of the future of this program once the second half gets underway, but there seems to be a little more upside than there has been in the past.

     

    Grade: C+

Texas A&M

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Sorry, but we never got a copy of the expectations for Texas A&M. But don't you worry, if you do a quick Google search, you'll find what Johnny Manziel likes to do in his spare time, who he is dating and what he wants to be when he grows up.

     

    The Reality

    Texas A&M has accomplished pretty much everything it had hoped for besides beating Alabama for a second straight season. The Aggies have been in control of every other game this year, Manziel is still in the Heisman race and there's still hope for an SEC title and national championship. If those were the exceptions, the Aggies are still in arms reach of considering this year a success.

     

    Grade: B

Vanderbilt

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    Expectations Heading into Season 

    Vanderbilt wasn't expected to appear in the SEC Championship, but it was the hot team that many thought would make progress under head coach James Franklin. He led the school to six wins in his first year and nine in his second. Could the Commodores win 10 games for the first time in program history? Maybe a slight stretch, but nobody was willing to put it past the upcoming SEC contender.

     

    The Reality

    Maybe Vanderbilt was overachieving the last couple of seasons. The team has struggled to find its footing in the first half, losing three of the first six games. To be fair, the loss to Ole Miss and South Carolina were by a combined 14 points. The Commodores are still a well-coached team that will give you a fight for 60 minutes, but the mediocre start to the season is a harsh reminder that a program must be able to recruit elite talent in order to hang with the big boys.

     

    Grade: C-

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