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Each week throughout the season, we here at MrSEC.com will provide you with our views on the SEC’s best and worst football teams. But rather than give you the same ol’ #1 to #14 list, we assign each program to one of four different categories. (Inside of those categories, the schools are listed alphabetically.) Our category assignments are based upon how well each team is playing, what they’ve accomplished to date, and what we believe each squad’s ceiling to be at this moment.
Three weeks in the books, here’s how we see things stacking up…
National Title Contender
Alabama (2-0 overall, 1-0 SEC) — Giving up 600+ yards to anyone, even Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, is cause for concern. If Bama wins the SEC crown and comes face to face in the BCS title game with a team like Oregon — they play at a faster speed than A&M with as many or more playmakers — how will the Tide fair? Still a BCS contender, obviously, but the defense needs to find itself.
Georgia (1-1 overall, 1-0 SEC) — The Bulldogs can’t afford another loss if they want to grab the brass ring come January. Well, unless they get some Les Miles-type luck. And speaking of Miles, he’ll bring his Tigers to Athens next weekend for a clash with serious national implications.
LSU (3-0 overall, 0-0 SEC) — The Tiger defense looks as stout as ever. LSU’s offense — including QB Zach Mettenberger — looks more formidable than usual under coordinator Cam Cameron. The schedule is about to turn tougher, though, with games against Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss all on the docket between now and October 19th.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (1-1 overall, 0-0 SEC) — We know that the Gators’ defense is strong, but what about the offense? To jump up a category into the national championship picture, Florida needs to be able to put up yards and protect the football in the same week. It’s been a while since they’ve been able to do that.
(UP ONE CATEGORY) Ole Miss (3-0 overall, 1-0 SEC) — One of this week’s movers, Hugh Freeze’s team looks to be gaining confidence. Down at the half in Austin, Texas last week, the Rebels showed some grit by coming back and branding the Longhorns right in their own corral. Top-ranked Alabama is up next in nine days.
South Carolina (2-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) — USC’s offense is a well-balanced machine at the moment. Mike Davis is leading the charge from the running back position and Connor Shaw is making big plays from the quarterback spot. Carolina’s defense — despite a hiccup at Georgia — remains pretty darn good as well. This team might jump back into our top category at some point.
Texas A&M (2-1 overall, 0-1 SEC) — First of all, A&M’s offense can run with anybody. Quarterback Johnny Manziel has absolutely freakish talents. Oh, but that defense. The Aggies don’t appear able to stop anyone. Which means that Manziel and crew will have to play error-free — the QB tossed two picks against Alabama — if Texas A&M is to win the national crown. It’s not impossible, but that D will need to improve before we bump the Ags up a category.
Arkansas (3-0 overall, 0-0 SEC) — An impressive start for Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks. This week the work gets tougher with a road trip to Rutgers. Brandon Allen will be a gametime decision at quarterback. And once the non-conference slate is put to bed we’ll find out if the Hogs can run on teams inside the SEC.
Auburn (3-0 overall, 1-0 SEC) — It hasn’t always been pretty, but Gus Malzahn’s bunch is 3-0. LSU will be waiting for the Tigers in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. Pull an upset on the Bayou and you’ll see us move Auburn way up our chart.
Missouri (2-0 overall, 0-0 SEC) — Again, the Tigers haven’t been scintillating to watch but they have beat the teams on their schedule. Next comes a road trip to Indiana, followed by games with Vandy, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. By November we’ll know whether or not Gary Pinkel’s bunch is an SEC-caliber squad.
Tennessee (2-1 overall, 0-0 SEC) — The Vols got smoked at Oregon last week and this week it’s off to Florida. We’ll not drop Tennessee into the basement contender category yet, but if injuries continue to mount as the schedule strengthens, we just may.
Kentucky (1-2 overall, 0-0 SEC) — Everyone knew Mark Stoops would have to build the Cats up from scratch. (Get it? Cats… scratch?) From what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats getting anywhere close to the bowl bubble this season.
Mississippi State (1-2 overall, 0-1 SEC) — A disappointing 1-2 start with the win coming against — once more with feeling — a cupcake. The Dogs have been without starting quarterback Tyler Russell for two weeks and that surely made a difference last week at Auburn. Still, the Bulldogs look like the SEC West’s worst team at the moment.
(DOWN ONE CATEGORY) Vanderbilt (1-2 overall, 0-2 SEC) — The Commodores have gotten off to a slower start than most anticipated. Could that be a result of the distraction caused by an offseason rape case? Possibly. Regardless, James Franklin will have to turn his team around quickly after an 0-2 start in the league. We’ve dropped them a notch in our categories due to the 0-2 start, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dores climb out of his strata.