SEC Football: What We Know After 7 Weeks

Jeremy HillmanContributor IOctober 18, 2011

SEC Football: What We Know After 7 Weeks

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    We are now past the half way mark of the season, as Week 7 is in the rear view mirror.

    There were close games and blowouts this past Saturday that gave us more information on each team and got us one step closer to crowing an SEC champion in 2011.

    While Alabama and LSU are clearly at the head of the conference and every team has its strengths, no team is perfect.

    This slideshow will detail the biggest strengths and weaknesses of all 12 SEC teams.

    I put them in order of my power ranking for the conference as it stands today and included an updated bowl projection.

Ole Miss Rebels

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    Record: 2-4 (0-3)

    Biggest Strength: Punt Returns. With speedy Jeff Scott leading the way, Ole Miss is first in the SEC in yards per punt return. Scott is averaging over 20 yards per return for the Rebels, which is easily tops in the conference.  

    Biggest Weakness: Run defense and run offense. It is hard to win in the SEC when you can't run the ball or you stop the run. Ole Miss rushes for just 101 yards per game—second to last in the conference—and allows 225 rushing yards per game on defense, dead last in the conference.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 4-8

    Projected Bowl Game: No Bowl Game

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Record: 2-4 (0-3)

    Biggest Strength: Pass defense. Led by star linebacker Danny Trevathan and talented safety Winston Guy Jr., Kentucky is only allowing 194 pass yards per game. You can run, but it isn't always so easy to pass on the Wildcats.

    Biggest Weakness: Passing offense. Kentucky has struggled mightily in the passing game, gaining just 119 yards per game this season. Quarterback Morgan Newton has been a disappointment with just six touchdowns against seven interceptions.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 3-9

    Projected Bowl Game: No Bowl Game

Tennessee Volunteers

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    Record: 3-3 (0-3)

    Biggest Strength: Passing game. Tennessee was thriving in the passing game before prolific quarterback Tyler Bray went down with an injury. They also lost star receiver Justin Hunter to an injury earlier in the season.

    However, they still have talented wide out Da'Rick Rogers, who is second in the SEC in receiving yards. Hopefully senior quarterback Matt Sims can bounce back from a poor outing versus a dominant LSU defense and keep the effective passing game going.  

    Biggest Weakness: Running game. It has surprised me how poor the Tennessee running game has been this season. Taureen Poole was nearly a 1,000 yard rusher last season and was poised for a big 2011.

    It has not gone that way. Poole is averaging just 65 yards per game and only two rushing touchdowns in the first seven weeks.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 6-6

    Projected Bowl Game: Music City Bowl (Tennessee vs. Wake Forrest)

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Record: 3-3 (1-3)

    Biggest Strength: Rush defense. With senior linebacker Chris Marve leading the charge, the Commodores have been solid in stopping the run. Vanderbilt ranks fourth in the SEC, allowing just 109 rush yards per game.  

    Biggest Weakness: Passing offense. Vanderbilt and staring quarterback Larry Smith have struggled to develop a consistent vertical passing game. The Commodores pass for just 132 yards per contest, second-to-last in the SEC.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 6-6

    Projected Bowl Game: Liberty Bowl (Vanderbilt vs. Houston)

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Record: 3-4 (0-4)

    Biggest Strength: Run offense. With bruising running back Vick Ballard and big mobile quarterback Chris Relf pounding at opposing defenses, the Bulldogs have gained 180 rush yards per game this season.

    Biggest Weakness: Run defense. While Mississippi State has run the ball well, they have struggled to stop the run on the other side of the ball. The Bulldog defense has allowed the opposition to gain over 150 rush yards per contest.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 6-6

    Projected Bowl Game: Compass Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Rutgers)

Florida Gators

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    Record: 4-3 (2-3)

    Biggest Strength: Rush defense. The Gators have a solid defensive line and have done well against the run. Florida is giving up just 120 rush yards per game this season and rank as one of the top four run defenses in the SEC.

    Biggest Weakness: Passing game. With starting quarterback John Brantley—who has struggled at times himself—out with an injury, the Gator passing game has declined. Florida is passing for just 178 yards per game and its dropping week to week.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 7-5

    Projected Bowl Game: Gator Bowl (Florida vs. Penn State)

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Record: 5-2 (4-1)

    Biggest Strength: Offense. The Bulldogs have a solid quarterback in Aaron Murray and a star running back in freshman Isaiah Crowell. They are third in the SEC in total offense, averaging a solid 411 yards per game.

    Biggest Weakness: Penalties. The Bulldogs have been sloppy at times and have been flagged the 9th most in the SEC this season. Georgia is losing over 55 yards per game in penalties.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 9-3

    Projected Bowl Game: Outback Bowl (Georgia vs. Michigan)

South Carolina

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    Record: 6-1 (4-1)

    Biggest Strength: Pass defense. Led by a strong defensive line with Melvin Ingram, Jedeveon Clowney and defensive back Stephen Gilmore, the Gamecock pass defense is first in the SEC, allowing just 133 pass yards per game.  

    Biggest Weakness: Interceptions. With star running back Marcus Lattimore out for the season with an injury, South Carolina will likely pass more. That means quarterback Conner Shaw, who replaced struggling and much maligned starter Stephen Garcia, has to avoid throwing to the other team. The Gamecocks have thrown 11 picks this year, most in the SEC.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 8-4

    Projected Bowl Game: Chic-fil-A Bowl (South Carolina vs. Virginia Tech)

Auburn Tigers

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    Record: 5-2 (3-1)

    Biggest Strength: Running offense. With star running back Michael Dyer leading the way, Auburn has averaged an impressive 197 rushing yards per game this season. That ranks the Tigers third in the conference in rushing yards.  With struggles at the quarterback position, running the ball will continue to be key for Auburn.

    Biggest Weakness: Defense. Auburn's young defense seemed to be improving in recent weeks, but they're still allowing over 400 yards per game to opposing offenses.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 8-4

    Projected Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl (Auburn vs. Texas A&M)

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Record: 5-1 (1-1)

    Biggest Strength: Passing offense. Lead by prolific quarterback Tyler Wilson and a stud receiving corp—including the conferences leading receiver, Jarius Wright—Arkansas has a dangerous passing game. The Razorbacks are first in the SEC in passing offense, gaining a ridiculous 336 yards per game.

    Biggest Weakness: Pass defense. The Razorbacks' defense has struggled to stop the pass this season. Arkansas has allowed 200 passing yards per game. One problem is the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as Arkansas has just six sacks all season.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 10-2

    Projected Bowl Game: Cap One Bowl (Arkansas vs. Michigan State)

LSU Tigers

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    Record: 7-0 (4-0)

    Biggest Strength: Rush Defense. The Tigers, lead by a strong defensive line and athletic defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, buzz around the ball and make life hard for opposing running backs. LSU has allowed just 75 rushing yards per game this season.

    Biggest Weakness: Pass offense. LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee has filled in better than expected for suspended starter Jordan Jefferson, who is back on the team and getting playing time.

    Neither quarterback has shown consistency in their careers and LSU coaches continue to look for the right mix. The Tigers are throwing for just 174 yards per contest, good for just eighth in the SEC.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 11-1

    Projected Bowl Game: Sugar Bowl (LSU vs. Oklahoma State)

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Record: 7-0 (4-0)

    Biggest Strength: Rush defense. Alabama has the best defense in the nation and has a stockpile of talent throughout the starting lineup. The Crimson Tide have been dominant against the run, allowing only 38 rushing yards per game (no, that is not a typo).

    Biggest Weakness: Punting. Alabama is averaging just 38 yards per punt this season. That is second-to-last in the SEC for yards per punt. If field position becomes an issue in a game, this could become a problem. The good news is that if punting is your biggest weakness, you are probably just fine.

    Projected Regular Season Record: 12-0 

    Projected Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game (Alabama vs. Oklahoma)