What's your prediction for the matchup in the SEC championship game, and has that changed at all from what you were predicting in the preseason?
Right now, I’ve gotta say it’s going to be Florida and LSU in Atlanta in early December, which is different than the Auburn/Florida matchup I saw in the preseason.
In the Eastern Division, Vanderbilt sits atop the standings now, but I don’t see any chance they’re there at the end of the season. Florida seems to have righted their ship with a resounding victory over LSU Saturday night. Georgia is certainly not out of the mix, but they’ve been less than impressive in consecutive games against Alabama nad Tennessee. South Carolina already has 3 conference losses. Kentucky is in the early stages of a losing streak. Tennessee sucks.
In the Western Division, I didn’t expect the Tony Franklin experiment to run like a well-oiled machine this season, but I certainly didn’t expect the disaster that has been the 2008 Auburn offense. LSU seems to have barely missed a beat from last season and are thriving without Ryan Perrilloux’s antics. It’s obvious that Mississippi State and Arkansas would struggle to win the Sun Belt this year and Ole Miss just doesn’t have the horses this year. The West will comedown to the mid-November showdown between Alabama and LSU, but at this point, I give that edge to LSU.
If your team has Vanderbilt coming up at some point on its schedule, are you worried? If not, which team should be the most worried?
Any team that plays Vanderbilt should be worried, but if I’m Phil Fulmer I’m petrified. The natives are growing restless in Knoxville as the Vols have been anemic on offense all season long. The Commodores are not a powerhouse themselves, but are as opportunistic a team as there’s been in several years. They lead the country in turnover margin and capitalize on the short fields their opponents give them.
Holding onto the ball has not been the Vols’ strong point this season. As they’ve lost it 10 times already. Mississippi State beat the Dores by not beating themselves. If you can force Vanderbilt to drive the field to score, you’re in very good shape as VU still ranks last in the conference in total offense by a long shot.
If the Vols were to lose that game to Vanderbilt, it would – in all likelihood – wrap up a losing season for UT. That would not be good for Fulmer’s job security, what little there is left.
Other than perhaps Alabama's season-opening win over Clemson, the SEC doesn't really have any marquee non-conference wins thus far, and a couple of traditional powers (Auburn and Tennessee) are struggling in high-profile fashion. Is it too early to call this a "down year" for the conference?
That depends completely on your definition of the word “down”. The SEC is not as strong as it was last year, which was certainly one of the most impressive bodies of work in recent memory. As usual, the SEC lost a lot to the NFL draft and that’s taken its toll on the league offensively this year. There’s yet to be that 3rd QB to step up as a reliable option behind Stafford and Tebow. JPW and Jevan Snead have both shown signs, but Snead is a turnover waiting to happen and JPW will follow up a 250 yd game with a 75 yd game.
Defensively, the SEC is as strong as ever. The numbers will be somewhat inflated this year because of the stagnant offenses, but come bowl season, the defenses and team speed will again shine through.
It’s a testament to the standards of SEC fans to talk about this year as a potential “down year”. As of Week 7, the SEC has 2 teams in the AP Top5, 3 in the Top10, and 5 in the top 25. Only the Big 12 has more with 6.
So sure, go ahead and call it a “down year” for the SEC if you must, but don’t call it a bad one. A couple of high profile programs are immersed in a season of FAIL, but Vanderbilt nearly cracked the Top 10 and Ole Miss has already matched its win total from last year, so there are positives as well. I fully expect another success bowl season this year as well.