The time has once again arrived for us to rank the SEC football programs from glorious top to "oh my God my eyes! My eyes!!!" bottom. As usual you'll soon find the full aggregated rankings over at Team Speed Kills, and below I have provided my ballot.
Last week many of my fellow SEC bloggers chose to rank the University of Georgia as the top football team in the conference. I was not one of them, placing the Red and Black third on my ballot, right where they remain this week. One could certainly construct a valid argument for ranking the 'Dawgs higher. You know, if one were not fearful of bringing down the wrath of the Gods on one's football program.
Which I am. On a daily basis. It would also help if one had not watched the first half of the Clemson game. Had that half been played in a raucous Williams-Brice Stadium I fear the Bulldogs would not have weathered the storm and made it to halftime in a tie. No one front runs quite like the crowd in Columbia. And I saw a team that may give those 'Cock fans something to crow and play their lame 90's electronic instrumental about. I believe that the Bulldogs will improve significantly from game one to game two. But I'm not giving credit for that improvement until I see it on the field.
As I neglected to put up my week one ballot last Monday, I have peppered this week's ballot with some of the observations that informed my week one ballot. Thankfully most of them still hold, though where my opinion was swayed by this weekend's action I have acknowledged as much.
Games watched in whole or in part: Eastern Michigan at Florida, San Jose State at Auburn, Lamar at Texas A&M, Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (God help me), Florida Atlantic at Alabama, Arkansas State at Tennessee, East Carolina at South Carolina, Ohio at Kentucky, Sam Houston State at LSU.
1) Texas A&M: Put up huge offensive numbers on South Carolina in a venue which we Bulldog fans have to grudgingly admit is no easy place to play. Then scored 73 on Lamar, who admittedly didn't put up much of a fight. Does their defense have problems? Heck yeah. But so do all the defenses behind them. And the buy-in to play Hold 'Em with the Aggies right now is at least 40 points. There are precious few offenses in the league with any hope of doing that regularly.
2) Auburn: Much like Georgia in week one they put up 45 points by pulling away, though the Tigers pulled away a bit quicker.
3) Georgia: Todd Gurley is getting most of the publicity, but the offensive line deserves a lot of credit for opening up monstrous holes. That being said, I'm less thrilled with the defensive performance after rewatching it and realizing how many points Clemson left on the table in the second half. A better offensive line (such as the Gamecock unit which may be the best one in the league) is unlikely to allow as many jailbreak blitzes. Also there were a couple of times when a quarterback more mobile than Cole Stoudt could have really gashed the defense and changed the momentum of the game. So while I was pleasantly surprised, I'm not head-over-heels yet.
4) Alabama: Once again Saban and Smart's defense looks as if it might be vulnerable if subjected to a well-run hurry up no huddle offense featuring elite athletes. West Virginia didn't have those, but there's a school southeast of Tuscaloosa and just west of the Georgia line that does.
5) LSU: Last week Les Miles once again stumbled crotch-first into a swarm of killer bees, but managed to maintain his composure long enough to notice a winning lottery ticket sitting next to the hive. This is no longer just luck. Miles has a preternatural calm, and his team buys into it. Even when, as last night against Wisconsin, they seem bent on losing, and doing so grotesquely. On the flip side, we now know that Kenny Hilliard is capable of putting the team on his back, that Leonard Fournette is not in fact 11 feet tall and bulletproof, and that when Les waits essentially until kickoff to name a starting quarterback he probably has a damned good reason.
This week Travin Dural made clear that Anthony Jennings should always have a homerun threat in him. That'll go a long way toward giving Jennings time to develop into the QB the Tigers need him to be.
6) Ole Miss: Sure Vandy appears to be pretty bad. But prior Ole Miss squads still wouldn't have handled the Commodores this authoritatively.
7) Missouri: Went on the road to Toledo for heaven only knows what reason (I'm going with failure to read the contract fine print, nor maybe Gary Pinkel needed an excuse to visit his aunt there . . .) but nevertheless Maty Mauk looked awfully good in the win.
8) South Carolina: Mike Davis came back and things didn't look quite as awful as the Gamecocks pulled away to defeat East Carolina 33-23. But combined with the prior week's blowout at the hands of Texas A&M this looks like a team that's vulnerable until some things on defense get sorted out.
9) Mississippi State: Gave up over 500 yards of offense but eventually prevailed over UAB.
10) Florida: In week one God clearly tried to give Jeremy Foley one more chance to can Will Muschamp before the Gators' season started. He didn't take it. And while the 65-0 score of the Gators' week two matchup with Eastern Michigan is impressive, 28 of those points came after the midpoint of the third quarter when Eastern appeared to have essentially folded and the Gators were still chunking it. It's going to take more than that to make me forget how disheveled this team looked in 2013, even when they were healthy.
11) Tennessee: The Volunteers looked far too evenly matched with Arkansas State, especially along the line of scrimmage, for me to believe they'll be more than a speed bump for their next opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners.
12) Arkansas: I continue to believe that the Razorbacks may be a good bit better on the field this season without getting much better in the win column. I don't know how patient Arkansas fans would be with another 0-for-SEC campaign.
13) Kentucky: We learned as much about how good a football team Kentucky is by watching them play UT-Martin as I learned about quantum mechanics by watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta.
14) Vanderbilt: Calling the Dores' opener against Temple a dumpster fire is inadequate to describe the carnage. It was more of a dumpster fire with a box of kittens inside that got out of control and burned down a children's museum. Then they made an Ole Miss team which struggled to put away Boise State look like a top five team. This Vanderbilt squad is on track to be not just the worst team in the SEC, but the worst team in recent SEC memory.
So that's it. That's the list. Feel free to tell me what I got wrong in the comments. Though commentary on my lineage and hygiene is probably not necessary. Fair. But unnecessary. Until later....