SEC Football: Trick or Treat in the Southeastern Conference

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor IOctober 31, 2011

SEC Football: Trick or Treat in the Southeastern Conference

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    The season has now passed through Week 9 of the 2011 SEC football schedule, as we roll into Halloween day.

    This season has brought each Southeastern Conference team tricks and treats throughout the year.

    In the first nine weeks, there have been surprising players, disappointing records and scary stats that have defined the season.  

    Click through the slideshow to see a Halloween update for each SEC team.

    The teams are listed in order of my power ranking for the conference as it stands today.

12. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Trick: In the preseason, Wildcat fans, and some in the media, had high expectations for new starting quarterback Morgan Newton.

    The junior quarterback has been a major disappointment and has struggled to generate much offense for Kentucky. Over eight games, he is averaging just 98 passing yards per outing.

    Treat: While the defensive line has been less-than-stellar, the defensive back seven has been solid for the Wildcats. As a matter of fact, the two players with the most tackles in the conference are Kentucky Wildcats.

    Linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy Jr. each average over 10 tackles per game. The next best tackler in the conference is averaging just over eight tackles a game.

    Scary Stat: Kentucky ranks 115th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging just 16 points per game.

11. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Trick: With three seniors returning on the defensive line, many expected Ole Miss to do well against opposing rushing attacks.

    The opposite has occurred, as the Rebels are allowing a poor 226 rushing yards per game in 2011. That ranks them dead last in the SEC in rush defense.

    Treat: Special teams have been solid this season. The Rebels have connected on 5-of-5 attempted field goals and lead the conference with an average of 27 yards per punt return.

    Scary Stat: Ole Miss is last in the SEC, and 104th in the nation, in total defense, allowing 438 yards per contest.

10. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Trick: Tauren Pool ran for over 1,000 at running back for Tennessee last season. That had fans excited to see what the senior could do in 2011.

    Unfortunately for the Vols, Poole has been bottled up by opposing defenses this season, and the Volunteers are last in the SEC in rushing offense with just 82 rushing yards per game.

    Treat: While star quarterback Tyler Bray and talented receiver Justin Hunter are out for the season with injury, they were impressive in the games they did play. Still in the lineup is dynamic receiver Da'Rick Rogers.

    Even with an unsettled quarterback situation, Rogers has continued to produce and is second in the SEC in receiving yards per game with 80 yards per start.

    Scary Stat: Tennessee has lacked a consistent pass rush this season on defense. The Volunteers rank last in the SEC in sacks with just 11 so far this year.

9. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Trick: Many were hoping the senior quarterback Larry Smith would have a breakout season.

    Instead, he has struggled mightily, and the Commodores have had to turn to backup Jordan Rogers.

    Treat: Behind the strength of linebacker Chris Marve and a solid defensive line, including Rob Mohr, Vanderbilt is fourth in the SEC in rush defense.

    The Commodores are allowing just 125 rushing yards per game.

    Scary Stat: Vanderbilt ranks 108th in the country with just 152 passing yards per game.

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Trick: Bulldog fans were hoping that quarterback Chris Relf would develop in the passing game as a senior.

    While he has run the ball well at times, Relf has just 11 touchdown passes to nine interceptions over the first nine weeks and has passed for over 200 yards in just one conference game.

    Treat: Mississippi State has run the ball well with tough running back Vick Ballard and big quarterback Chris Relf.

    The Bulldogs rank fifth in the conference in rush yards per game with 175 yards per outing.

    Scary Stat: Mississippi ranks 119th in the nation in kick-off yards per return with just 16 yards per return.

7. Florida Gators

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    Trick: In the preseason, everyone was talking about how dominant the Gator defensive line could be.

    While they have had their moments, overall the unit has underwhelmed. Florida averages just 1.75 sacks per game and have had some trouble wrapping up runners coming out of the backfield.

    Treat: The pass defense has been solid. Led by sophomore safety Matt Elam, the Gators have allowed just 168 pass yards a game to the opposition.

    That ranks third in the SEC for pass defense.

    Scary Stat: Florida is one of the more sloppy teams in the country, as they are 115th in the nation in turnover margin (minus-eight) and have been called for the most penalties in the SEC.

6. Auburn Tigers

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    Trick: Auburn fans believed, even with the loss of the Tiger's top two receivers from a year ago, that Auburn would have a solid group of wideouts in 2011.

    However, the unit has disappointed, outside of talented Emory Blake, who has missed time with injury.

    Auburn is averaging just 163 passing yards per game so far this season. Some of it is quarterback issues, but much of it has been inconsistency and injuries in the wide receiver corps.

    Treat: Some wondered if star running back Michael Dyer, who went for over 1,000 yards last season, may not be as effective with a rebuilt offensive line and the loss of Cam Newton to the NFL.

    Dyer has answered his critics, as he has already ran for 989 yards and nine touchdowns over the first nine games.

    Scary Stat: Auburn has given up 185 rushing yards per game this season on defense.

5. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Trick: With a senior returning at place kicker, Georgia expected a solid season kicking the ball.

    Instead, they have missed 10 field goals already this season. That ranks Georgia 100th in the country in field goal percentage.

    Treat: The Bulldog defense has been very good against the run so far in 2011.

    Led by 350-pound defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia is allowing just 86 yards per game on the ground.

    Scary Stat: Georgia is first in the SEC in sacks. Already racking up 20 sacks on the season.

4. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Trick: The Gamecocks have been through the saga of Stephen Garcia. From his off-the-fieldd issues to his poor play on the field, he may be the biggest trick in the conference for 2011.

    Conner Shaw has stepped in to replace Garcia and done well at times, but the Gamecocks still have thrown eleven touchdowns as compared to a  big 12 interceptions.

    Treat: The defense has been stellar and led the Gamecocks to a top-10 national ranking.

    South Carolina is third in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 266 yards per game to opposing offenses.

    Scary Stat: The Gamecock defense has created 26 turnovers this season. That is second most in the nation.

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Trick: When Arkansas lost star running back Knile Davis to injury before the season, they hoped the backups could fill in and execute.

    That has been a problem in most games so far in 2011, especially for backup Ronnie Wingo Jr.

    Arkansas ranks 10th in the conference in rushing yards per game, with just 131 yards per contest, so far this year.

    Treat: Out of a slew of talented receivers, senior wideout Jarius Wright is having a break out season.

    Wright leads the SEC in receiving with an impressive 44 catches for 709 yards and seven touchdowns.

    He leads an Arkansas passing game, behind the big arm of star quarterback Tyler Wilson and leads the conference in passing offense with a huge 321 pass yards per game.

    Scary Stat: The Arkansas defense is giving up near 400 yards per game.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Trick: With such a dominant defense and talent throughout the secondary, including defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama expected to generate turnovers in pass defense.

    So far that has not happened, as Alabama has just nine interceptions over the first nine weeks of the season.

    Treat: There were questions about whether or not quarterback A.J. McCarrons could effectively lead the Alabama offense.

    McCarrons has shown that he can, as he has thrown for 1,664 yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions so far this season.

    Scary Stat: The Alabama defense is giving up just 44 rushing yards per game and rank first in the nation in total defense.

1. LSU Tigers

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    Trick: Everyone though Jordan Jefferson would be the starting quarterback at LSU this season, until off-the-field issues removed him from the starting role.

    While backup Jarrett Lee has played well beyond most peoples expectations, including a very impressive 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, LSU has not been an explosive passing team.

    The Tigers are averaging just 183 passing yards per game in 2011, good for just eighth in the SEC in pass offense.

    Treat: Young defensive lineman Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo have led an LSU defensive line that has helped hold opposing offenses to just 76 rush yards per contest.

    That high pressure defense is fourth in the nation in total defense, giving up just 251 yards per outing.

    Scary Stat: LSU is second in the nation in turnover ratio with a  ridiculous plus-15.