SEC mid-term grades

They say statistics are for losers, and there's probably a grain of truth in that. For instance, consider this little nugget gleaned from a thorough examination of the latest Southeastern Conference football statistics:

Vanderbilt is last in the SEC East standings. Mississippi State is last in the SEC West standings. Both have 0-3 records, yet the Commodores are a pretty competitive team and the Bulldogs are not. Here's proof:

Vanderbilt's three SEC losses were by a combined score of 51-39, meaning the average deficit was just four points. Conversely, Mississippi State's three losses were by a combined score of 97-17. That means the Dogs were outscored by an average margin of nearly 27 points.

I found a lot of interesting statistics this week, and I've included them in a mid-term report card for the 12 SEC teams. Eleven teams have played half of their 12 regular-season games, so now's the perfect time to grade the good, the bad and the ugly.

Florida (A): The Gators are 6-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC play, thanks to outscoring their opponents 174-57. They have a great front seven and a two-quarterback system that is working beautifully. If they can win Saturday at Auburn, Urban Meyer's Swamp Swine just might be able to run the table this year.

Arkansas (B+): Say this for the Razorbacks: They're resourceful. They've outscored their first five opponents by a mere four points (106-102), yet they have a 4-1 overall record and a 3-0 league mark that leads the Western Division. The Hogs opened with a 36-point loss to Southern Cal but peaked last week with a 17-point win at Auburn. This team seems to be growing up rapidly.

Tennessee (B): The Vols have scored 211 points, most in the SEC, en route to a 5-1 overall record and a 1-1 league mark. Their passing game is unstoppable. If they'd realized that earlier, they might've beaten Florida in Game 3 and be on their way to an SEC title. Surprisingly, the Vols have allowed 116 points – more than everyone in the SEC except Mississippi State (181), Kentucky (166) and Ole Miss (141).

Georgia (B-): The Dawgs posted back-to-back shutouts of South Carolina and UAB in Games 2 and 3 but surrendered 51 points to Tennessee last weekend. The quarterback play has been shaky at best. Regardless, Georgia is 5-1 overall and 2-1 in league play. A win over Florida Oct. 28 puts the Dawgs right back in the hunt for the SEC East title.

Kentucky (C+): The Wildcats can't hang with the big boys – they lost 59-28 to Louisville and 26-7 to Florida – but they're doing well enough against the little boys to stand 3-3 overall. With Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe left on the schedule, a 6-6 season is entirely possible. The defense is awful but quarterback Andre Woodson (15 TD passes) has been a pleasant surprise.

Vanderbilt (C): As noted previously, the Commodores have lost three conference games by a total of 12 points. Obviously, if they could make a clutch play once in awhile, they'd be 2-1 in the league and 4-2 overall. Chris Nickson is an improving quarterback but missed most of last weekend's loss to Ole Miss. Vandy's defense has allowed just 101 points, which ranks sixth in the league.

South Carolina (C-): Steve Spurrier's boys have scored a mere 128 points, which ranks eighth in the SEC, just one point ahead of ninth-place Vanderbilt. The Cocks have stunk in league play, losing 18-0 to Georgia and struggling to beat also-rans Mississippi State (15-0) and Kentucky (24-17).

Auburn (C-): The Tigers looked to have the SEC's best offense and defense heading into the season, yet they have underachieved on both sides of the ball to date. They were manhandled 27-10 on their home field by Arkansas last week and barely squeaked by against South Carolina 24-17 the week before.

LSU (D): The most talented team in the SEC has outscored its opposition 200-60, yet Les Miles' Tigers have managed to lose two of the three conference games they've played. Gifted quarterback JaMarcus Russell is developing a reputation for coming up small in big games.

Alabama (D): Losing to Arkansas and Florida was bad. Winning unimpressively against Hawaii (25-17), Vanderbilt (13-10) and Duke (30-14) may have been even worse. The Tide is 1-2 in SEC play with likely losses against Tennessee, LSU and Auburn still on the horizon. An inexcusable overtime loss at Arkansas appears to have killed the Tide.

Ole Miss (D-): The Rebels are pitiful, scoring just 78 points in their first five games. Only Mississippi State (76) has been more offensively inept. David Cutcliffe (fired by the Rebels two years ago) must be laughing his butt off.

Mississippi State (F): The Bulldogs have lost their three SEC games by scores of 15-0 (South Carolina), 34-0 (Auburn) and 48-17 (LSU). Their lone playmaker, quarterback Omarr Conner, is sidelined by injury, so the outlook for the season's second half is no brighter.

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