Unbelievably, we’re just about halfway through the college football season. After six weekends of college football in the South, this much is certain: your Bloody Mary recipe should be perfected by now. But, if not, you’ve still got time to make the grade.
Tip: add a few dashes of Worcestershire and a little horseradish, even if you’re using Zing-Zang, the preferred Bloody Mary mix of SEC Banter.
Speaking of making the grade, the season’s midpoint means it’s time to tour college football’s finest football conference and hand out mid-term grades, SEC Banter style.
Before we begin, however, I am compelled to observe that the undisputed greatest decade of all time produced several classic films about “making the grade.”
For example, in 1986’s ‘Back to School,’ Rodney Dangerfield enrolled in college to show support for his discouraged son, who wasn’t sure college was for him. Dangerfield passed all of his classes with straight D’s and one A, inspiring us all.
Then we have the underrated hit of 1987, ‘Summer School,’ in which Mark Harmon taught remedial English to a band of misfit high school students.
What ensues? Plenty of hijinks and tomfoolery, that’s what.
‘Billy Madison’ isn’t an ’80s movie, but might as well be. In this deeply moving social commentary about the value of education, Adam Sandler advanced through 12 grades in just two months, and boy did he study hard to impress his pretty teacher, Ms. Vaughn.
All of these performances were Oscar-worthy, and all made the grade, leading to the obvious question of what’s your SEC team’s grade halfway through the season?
Let’s start in the SEC West, home to college football’s national champion in five of the past six seasons.
Alabama, 5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 1 overall: The two-time defending national champion is the model student, taught by the master teacher. The only thing keeping the Tide from an A+ is its ridiculously easy schedule.
Georgia State in October? Bama gets an A.
Arkansas, 3-3, 0-2, unranked: The Hogs’ grade is a reflection of first-year coach Bret Beilema’s strategy of repeatedly handing the football to freshman phenom Alex Collins and, if that doesn’t work, handing it to Collins again.
Bielema’s strategy has produced no conference wins thus far. C-.
Auburn, 4-1, 2-1, unranked: Auburn is much-improved from last year, but that’s not saying much.
And Auburn’s grade is lowered somewhat because its head coach is named Gus. I always thought Gus was more of a pet name. If you have a bulldog or black lab, Gus is a great name. Not a great name for a bigtime college football coach, so Auburn gets a C+.
LSU, 5-1, 2-1, No. 10: Bayou Bengal fans can’t believe their eyes. After years of putrid offense and dominating defense, LSU’s offense is dominant and its defense putrid. This bizarro-world scenario can only happen to Les Miles.
It’s a B for the Tigers.
Mississippi State, 2-3, 0-2, unranked: I’m not sure whether it’s more challenging to solve the Obamacare government shutdown, watch an entire NBA game, or build a winning program in Starkville, MS.
The puppies of the Magnolia State get a D.
Ole Miss, 3-2, 1-2, unranked: With its former high school head coach, heralded recruiting class, and win over Texas, the pesky Rebels were gaining momentum in Oxford.
Then Ole Miss was blanked by Alabama and upset by Auburn, which, as noted above, has a head coach named Gus. C.
Texas A&M, 4-1, 1-1, No. 9: I heard a greedy, scheming plaintiff’s attorney with slicked-back hair was putting together a class action lawsuit on behalf of those suffering from Johnny Manziel over-exposure. Sign me up. The Aggies get a B.
Now to the SEC East, which looks to rebound from dropping 7 of the past 10 SEC Championship Games to the West.
Florida, 4-1, 3-0, No. 17: The Gators’ defense tops the conference and the offense is improving under backup QB Tyler Murphy. Sleep on the always tackily-clad Florida squad (and their fans) at your peril.
It’s a solid B+ for the Gators.
Georgia, 4-1, 3-0, No. 7: The Bulldogs survived the country’s most brutal September schedule, but barely survived against an overmatched Tennessee team. That porous defense will cost Georgia a game sooner or later, but for now, it’s an A- for Georgia.
Kentucky, 1-4, 0-2, unranked: If you care about Kentucky football, email me and I’ll assign a grade. But at this point I simply cannot justify wasting valuable SEC Banter space on the Wildcats. Sorry. Sort of.
Missouri, 5-0, 1-0, No. 25: Missouri is the mystery of the SEC. While one of only two undefeated SEC teams and compiling impressive stats along the way, these Tigers really haven’t played anyone. That changes Saturday Between the Hedges. Missouri gets a grade of incomplete.
South Carolina, 4-1, 2-1, No. 14: With Jadeveon Clowney mailing it in and the early loss to Georgia, the Gamecocks find themselves an afterthought in a strange no-man’s land, like Missouri. I’m referring to Missouri the state, not the team. Steve Spurrier’s Sakerlina squad gets a B-.
Tennessee: 3-3, 0-2, unranked: Oh so close were the Vols to their biggest win in nearly a decade last week against Georgia. But close only counts in horseshoes, bocce ball, and other leisure games. SEC football is no leisure game. Tennessee gets a C.
Vanderbilt, 3-3, 0-3, unranked: Hopes were high in Nashville for the Commodores to compete in the SEC East.
Winless in the conference with Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida lying in wait, Vandy remains anchored down in the depths of the SEC. D stands for Dores.
So, there you have it, SEC Banter’s mid-season grades. If you disagree with your team’s grade, look for me at a tailgate near you and we’ll engage in some banter.
I’ll be sipping the perfect Bloody Mary and learning important life lessons from ‘Billy Madison’ shortly before kickoff.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.