Already halfway through the 2012 college football season, it’s time to hand out mid-term grades, SEC Banter style.
Let’s start in the SEC East which, for the first time in recent memory, has reasserted itself as the conference’s most complete division.
Florida: The Gators have outscored opponents 41-0 in the fourth quarter. They played smash-mouth, fundamental football in the big win over LSU last week (a win predicted by SEC Banter, studious readers will recall). Will Muschamp’s team gets an A- through six weeks of the season.
Georgia: Whether chalked up to overconfidence, poor execution or youthful running backs shell-shocked by the first legitimate defense they faced all year, Georgia was embarrassed at South Carolina last week (also embarrassing was SEC Banter’s prediction that the Bulldogs would beat the Gamecocks). Unless Georgia runs the table and gets lucky with help from other teams, it’s bye-bye national title, bye-bye division title and hello something along the lines of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. I’ll give UGA a C.
Kentucky: Wildcat fans can’t wait to watch their basketball team practice during this Friday’s Midnight Madness. What fun! SEC Banter confesses that tuning in to Kentucky football has not been a priority this season. Should I pass on grading the Cats? Nah. I’ll go with an F.
Missouri: The Tigers opened conference play amidst great fanfare and anticipation. But after dropping one to Vanderbilt at home on Saturday, Mizzou is still searching for that elusive first SEC win. Best of luck to Missouri as it hosts Alabama this weekend. Grade: C-.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are sky high after the dismantling of Georgia garnered a consensus No. 3 ranking. Suddenly this Saturday’s visit to Death Valley doesn’t seem so deathly. SEC Banter assigns Steve Spurrier’s Sakerlina squad an A.
Tennessee: The Vols haven’t beaten a ranked team in three years and find themselves in a struggle for relevance under head coach Derek Dooley. At this rate, I’m not sure whether the Vols’ old hound dog mascot, Smokey IX, will live to see a meaningful conference win. The Vols get a D.
Vanderbilt: Head coach James Franklin has instilled a fiery attitude among the ’Dores. Does that mean they matter in the SEC? Of course not. But SEC Banter respects Vandy and gives them a B-.
Now let’s head west to grade the SEC Western Division, home to college football’s national champion in four of the last five years.
Alabama: This team has done everything to command its No. 1 ranking. Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide in position to return to Atlanta and compete for another BCS title. He won’t smile along the way, but no one said smiling wins championships. Grade: A.
Arkansas: The Hogs’ disastrous season would earn an F if not for last week’s win against a truly pathetic Auburn team. I’m not sure there’s such a grade as an F+, but that’s SEC Banter’s grade for Arkansas.
Auburn: The big question is whether Gene Chizik can survive a loss at Vanderbilt this Saturday. Next big question is whether Cam Newton will help Auburn pay Gene Chizik’s hefty $7.5 million buyout. Auburn gets an equally hefty F.
LSU: The Tigers’ mojo went the way of the Honey Badger — as in gone. Les Miles’s luck has run out. Key injuries have decimated the Tigers. Whatever the reason, this is not the same intimidating, overpowering LSU team we’ve seen in the recent past. Grade: C.
Ole Miss: Despite their 3-3 record, those pesky Rebels are on the rise under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze. They hung with Bama for a while and lost a heartbreaker to Texas A&M. In SEC Banter’s world, it is permissible to inflate a team’s grade based purely on tailgating atmosphere, and that’s why Ole Miss gets a C+.
Mississippi State: Another team from the Magnolia State that’s trending higher. The Bulldogs’ schedule is back-loaded, however, with Alabama, A&M, and LSU in consecutive weeks. MSU grades in at a B+ in part because its head coach, Dan Mullen, bears more than a slight resemblance to Cousin Eddie from the “Vacation” movies. Google them and let me know if you concur.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have strung together a respectable run and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is a gamer. A Cotton Bowl berth is in the cards, and by any measure that’s a successful first year in the nation’s finest football conference. SEC Banter assigns the Aggies a B; it would be a B+ if they didn’t have so many goofball traditions.
So there are your mid-term SEC grades. If dissatisfied with your team’s mark, send me your best gameday beverage and tailgate food recipes and I’ll consider a grade adjustment. For you Mississippi State fans with Cousin Eddie at the helm, be sure your recipes include real tomato ketchup and plenty of Hamburger Helper, which does just fine by itself.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.