Now that we've reached the halfway point of the season, we have a lot better idea of which teams to take seriously, and which ones we can forget about. Of course, there's still a lot of football to be played this season, so in the Midseason Report we'll be taking a look at what each team has remaining in front of them, and what they'll have to do to call themselves conference champions. In this post, we'll take a look at the SEC.
1. South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) - The Gamecocks may only be 2-2 in conference play this season, but in the 2010 version of the SEC East, that's all it takes to be on top. The question is whether or not Steve Spurrier and South Carolina can stay there. A question that is hard to answer when your quarterback is the completely unreliable and unpredictable Stephen Garcia. As we saw against Kentucky, the Gamecocks need Marcus Lattimore to stay healthy down the stretch if they're going to hold on and reach the SEC title game. The good news is that they have two very winnable games up next on the schedule in Vanderbilt and Tennessee. After that, however, they get Arkansas and Florida in The Swamp. All four are winnable games, but if the SEC has taught us anything this season, it's that every game is losable as well.
2. Florida (4-3, 2-3) - Oh the SEC East, the one place in the country where losing three straight conference games still leaves you in control of your own destiny. Sure, the Gators are 2-3 in the SEC, but all three of those losses came against SEC West teams. Which means that if Florida wins out it'll be going to Atlanta. The Gators play Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina to finish out their SEC slate over the next three weeks, and both of the tough games (Sorry, Vandy) either come at home or at a "neutral" site. What will determine whether Florida can get it done is which offense shows up. Will it be the unit that managed to put up 29 points against a tough LSU defense, or the one that couldn't break double-digits against Alabama and Mississippi State ? I wish I could say I knew, but getting Chris Rainey back can't hurt.
3. Georgia (3-4, 2-3) - Yes, that's right, Georgia is still alive in the SEC East. Forget about those four straight losses that left us all wondering if Mark Richt would survive the season, the Bulldogs have exploded the last two weeks and are right in the thick of things. The problem for Georgia is they have no room for error, and have already lost to South Carolina this season. So even if they do survive a trip to Lexington this weekend -- something Auburn barely did, and South Carolina couldn't -- they still have to play Florida in Jacksonville and travel to Auburn. Yes, seeing the Bulldogs outscore Tennessee and Vanderbilt 84-14 over the last two weeks was encouraging, but let's not forget that Tennessee and Vanderbilt are horrible.
4. Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) - Listen, I'm not going to pretend that Vanderbilt has any chance of winning the SEC East. It's just I have to include them because the way the dominoes have fallen thus far in the season, they're not out of contention yet. So, yes, Vandy has a chance to win the SEC East. I also have a chance at convincing Megan Fox to drop the dude from 90210 and marry me instead. Let's see which one happens first.
5. Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) - Kentucky is in the same boat as Vanderbilt in that it's alive, but barely. Though to Kentucky's credit, they've been a lot more impressive than Vanderbilt. The Wildcats nearly knocked off Auburn and did take down South Carolina, and the tough part of the schedule is done. The problem is that not only would Kentucky need to win out, but they'd also need quite a bit of help from everybody else.
1. Auburn (7-0, 4-0) - Cam Newton is the new Tim Tebow, but this kid isn't nearly as interested in quoting the Bible as he is in running over defenses. I have no doubt that Newton is good enough to lead this Auburn team to the SEC title game, but the Auburn defense leaves me incredibly concerned, as does its remaining schedule. The Tigers get LSU at home this week, and then have three winnable games before finishing the season in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl. If Auburn can overcome its defense and win out then I don't think there's any question that this team will be playing in Arizona come January with a crystal football on the line.
2. LSU (7-0, 4-0) - Can you comfortably say that you can predict what Les Miles is going to do next? No, of course not. The man is insane, and his team seems to have taken on the identity of its bi-polar head coach. The most worrisome aspect of the Tigers is obviously the offense, and you have to figure that at some point Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee are going to throw that back-breaking interception to end this team's hopes. Considering that the Tigers still have Auburn and Alabama back-to-back over the next few weeks before finishing the season in Fayetteville, there will be plenty of chances for them to do just that.
3. Alabama (6-1, 3-1) - You didn't make the mistake of thinking this team was dead, did you? Is this Alabama team as good as last year's national champion? No, there's no way the 2009 Alabama defense lets Stephen Garcia tear it apart. Still, even if this defense isn't as strong as last season's unit, it's pretty darn good. The Tide have an easy game with Tennessee this week before having to travel to Baton Rouge, but then they have their last three games at home with Georgia State sandwiched by Mississippi State and Auburn. If Alabama wins out, it's going to Atlanta, and barring some catastrophic injury, I can see it happening.
Prediction: Trying to predict what's going to happen in the SEC is a fruitless exercise in that come Sunday morning, the entire conference could be turned upside down. Still, a prediction is what is asked of me, and a prediction is what ye shall receive.
Two teams will travel to Atlanta to play for the SEC title, and I believe those two teams will be Alabama and Florida. Yep, again. As far as Alabama is concerned, I just think they'll win out, with the SEC West being decided on the final Saturday when they end Auburn's bid at an undefeated season and a national title.
Florida? Well, I don't have that much faith in the Gators at this point, but that's still more faith than I'll ever be willing to put in Stephen Garcia. So they'll be the lucky recipient of a second beating by the Tide in December.