Just Whistlin' Dixie?: Analyzing SEC Contenders and Pretenders for a True Winner
We all know that Alabama and Florida are stacked this year and it is pretty obvious Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are just holding out for a spoiler moment.
The rest of the SEC waters are pretty murky with questions of whether teams like LSU, Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee are going to compete for anything this year. The jury is in and ACC SEC Football gives you a look at who is legitimate and who is just along for the ride.
After struggles on the road in Week One, many experts got down on the Tigers, but fast forward a few weeks and that game doesn't look so bad. The LSU defense has given up an SEC third best 11.7 points per game while forcing six turnovers already.
The offense has failed to live up to the hype as they rank dead last in the SEC in total yards. Much of this is due to the lack of productivity from star running back Charles Scott who has run for only 164 yards, gaining only 4.4 yards per carry.
The road ahead of the Tigers may be the toughest in the SEC as they travel to Georgia and host Florida in succession. If they manage to escape those two games and stay relevant in the conference, they also have road games against Alabama and Mississippi looming in November.
LSU has the balance on offense and defense to give a lot of teams trouble. Look for them to give the West a run for their money and possibly show up in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
The Bulldogs' season has been very similar to that of the Tigers so far. Struggles in the first week put them behind the eight ball and the offense responded with two great performances against South Carolina and Arkansas.
Joe Cox has shown his maturity with a 70 percent completion percentage and seven touchdown tosses in his last two games.
The receiving corps has played well as A.J. Green continues to baffle defenses and Michael Moore, Orson Charles, and Tavarres King are developing into great second options for Cox.
The only question mark on offense comes at the running back position where Richard Samuel has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start. With the exception of an 80 yard burst against Arkansas, Samuel hasn't really shown the ability to consistently carry the load for the Bulldogs.
Look for the elusive sophomore Caleb King to split more time with Samuel as he began his season with 11 caries for 59 yards against the Hogs.
Two big problems could bite Georgia eventually in a big game. First, their defense has given up an SEC worst 34 points per game and over 400 yards passing per contest.
Second, the Dawgs have been flagged for over 85 yards of penalties per game. These two factors could be very costly in games against Florida and LSU.
If Mark Richt can get the defense and penalties straightened out then Georgia will be a hot team to deal with. They can put up a lot of points extremely fast.
Arkansas absolutely lit up the Georgia defense this past week as quarterback Ryan Mallett threw for 408 yards and five touchdowns. As amazing as the offense looks, the defense may be among the worst in the SEC by the time the season is over.
They basically gave the game to the Dawgs as they had them down 21-10 in the first quarter. Georgia dug themselves a hole with three turnovers and 93 penalty yards and even with all that help, Arkansas couldn't stop them.
The problem for the Hogs is the competition around them is too good to be blown away by their pass-happy game schemes.
They could be a great spoiler team, but Arkansas is too one-sided to compete for an SEC title this year.
One problem is they have no balance on offense. In two games they have thrown for 855 yards and managed only 221 yards on the ground. That type of offense will be eaten up against teams like Florida and Alabama who can take away the pass and neutralize their potent offense.
The Vols defense showed up big on Saturday as they limited the Florida Gators to 23 points and only 115 passing yards. The young offense has shown signs of promise in their first three games, but Tennessee cannot survive in the SEC East with Jonathan Crompton at quarterback.
While he is still their best option to win each week, his poor decision making is evident with five touchdowns and seven interceptions so far this year, and none of those touchdowns in the last two games.
The schedule doesn't look very promising for Tennessee after this week. After facing Ohio, the Vols host Georgia before traveling to Alabama, while a late season trip to Mississippi still awaits them.
Their defense will win games for them, but the Tennessee offense has been completely abysmal with seven turnovers. If Tennessee can get hot on offense they will be a tough team to beat, but they are too young to be competitive in the East this year.
This summer the Rebels were a hot team in the opinion of many experts. So far Mississippi has been stellar, beating opponents by a combined score of 97-20 in just two games.
The only problem here is that the opponents were Memphis and Southern Louisiana—not exactly SEC caliber teams. While the Rebels open up conference play against South Carolina this week, we won't have a good feel on this team until October 10 when they play host to Alabama.
Auburn is looking to be the surprise team in the SEC this year with a high powered offense that has produced 42.3 points per game. The Tigers attack has been balanced with 754 passing yards and 791 yards rushing.
The defense has shown signs of weakness but Auburn does lead the SEC in interceptions with eight. The Tigers early schedule sets up nicely to put them in a position to compete for the West title as they host both Alabama and Mississippi later in the year.
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