Rider's Early SEC Breakdown

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Rider's Early SEC Breakdown

 
Tim Tebow and the Gators sit atop the SEC, but just barely.

As I finish going through the conferences and assigning my power rankings, I will post my results here at Pregame. I started with what most people believe is the toughest conference in the country, the SEC. I'm ranking these teams based on the outcome of my power rating system. These numbers can change throughout the summer when I get more information about quarterback situations, injuries, suspensions and how impact freshman are performing. But for now, this is how things shape up in the SEC. My rating system is based on 1-10 in the following categories:

Coaching
Schedule (A tougher schedule results in a lower number)
Quarterback
Running Back
Receiver/Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Linebacker
Secondary
Special Teams

Power Rating in Parentheses

1. Florida Gators (82) - The Gators just finished ahead of Georgia thanks in large part to what I believe is a much easier schedule. Both of these teams are loaded but a three-point difference in strength of schedule favoring the Gators proved to be the difference. Also, Florida's offense, which I believe will be the best in the country, didn't receive a grade lower than eight in any category. Throw in one of the nation's best special teams units and the Gators nip the Dawgs for the top spot in the SEC.

2. Georgia Bulldogs (81) - A murderous road schedule that includes trips to South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU and Auburn, not to mention the tussle with Florida in Jacksonville, is really the only negative when it comes to the Dawgs this season. They were very consistent in the grading system, scoring eight or above in seven of ten categories. UGA has my highest rated defense in the SEC. The Dawgs got a rare 10 from me at running back, thanks to the presence of superstar Knowshon Moreno and talented freshman Caleb King.

3. LSU Tigers (79) - The Tigers scored high in every category except quarterback and secondary. With eight home games in 2008, LSU would have had a great chance to repeat as National Champions this year if Ryan Perrilloux didn't get kicked off the team but he did and LSU is scrambling to find a quarterback heading into the season. The Tigers are still tough in the trenches, scoring a combined 19 on the offensive and defensive lines, which allowed them to barely beat out Auburn for the third spot.

4. Auburn Tigers (78) - If Kodi Burns, Chris Todd or the combination of the two can effectively run Tony Franklin's spread offense, the Tigers could be the SEC spoiler. They have and experienced offensive line and deep stable of productive running backs. The front seven on defense should dominate but an inexperienced secondary will need to prove itself. The special teams are strong and the schedule is tough but not daunting. Quarterback play will be the key.

5. Tennessee Volunteers (72) - If Auburn is a possible spoiler, the Vols are a potential sleeper. Tennessee actually graded out higher than I thought they would at this point. Led by Arian Foster, the Vols have one of the deepest group of running backs in the country. They will run behind a deep, talented offensive line. Like Auburn and LSU, the Vols are untested at QB with junior Jonathan Crompton taking over for Erik Ainge. The secondary is loaded but the schedule is tough.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (69) - The Tide and South Carolina graded out the same but I give a slight advantage to Alabama because they have an experienced quarterback in John Parker Wilson. The Crimson Tide received high marks at coaching, running back, offensive line and special teams but a tough schedule and questionable defense probably has Nick Saban one year away from seriously competing with the SEC big boys.

7. South Carolina Gamecocks (69) - The Cocks were decimated by injuries on the defensive side of the ball last year and they should be vastly improved in that area this season. South Carolina was pretty consistent grading wise across the board, scoring a seven or higher in seven of ten categories. But question marks at quarterback, running back and along the offensive line continue to haunt Steve Spurrier in his tenure with the Gamecocks.

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs (66) - The Bulldogs had one of my lowest scores at quarterback, which is why they rank this low, despite going to a bowl game last year. If Wesley Carroll can improve, the defense is good enough to once again carry this team. They have a strong secondary and one of the conference's best special teams units but are average in pretty much every other category. A lot went right for the Bulldogs last year but it's hard to keep relying on 99-yard interception returns and blocked punts to win ball games.

9. Kentucky Wildcats (60) - There is a big drop-off from Miss. St. to Kentucky but if one on the lower ranked teams is going to jump up and surprise in the SEC, I think it could be the Cats. Like a lot of other SEC teams, Kentucky is replacing a productive quarterback but they graded out well in schedule, running back, defensive line and secondary. With a manageable schedule and what should be one of the best defenses the Cats have had in a long time, Kentucky could go bowling and stage a possible upset at some point in the SEC.

10. Ole Miss Rebels (59) - This is the team creating a lot of buzz this offseason thanks to the addition of Houston Nutt and former Texas transfer Jevan Snead at quarterback. And while the Rebels should be more competitive under Nutt, they are probably still a year away from causing problems in the SEC. Ole Miss is talented on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as receiver, but running back and the secondary are huge question marks at this point.

11. Arkansas Razorbacks (55) - I know FloridaChad is going to blow his stack and there will be better days ahead for the Hogs under Bobby Petrino. But the pieces just aren't in place for success this season. Arkansas lost both its studs at running back, must replace its entire secondary, find playmakers at receiver and hope that Casey Dick can direct Petrino's offense. I've seen nothing from Dick that makes me believe he will be successful in a pro-style attack. The Hogs graded out at seven or higher in only three categories and one of those was coaching.

12. Vanderbilt Commodores (52) - Last year Vandy had everything set up to receive a bowl bid and it didn't happen. I think Bobby Johnson is a good coach but this is a tough place to have sustained success. When opportunities to make a bowl arise like they did last year teams like Vandy must take advantage of it. Vandy has a strong secondary and special teams unit but they received my lowest grade at quarterback in the SEC. After taking a step forward the last couple of seasons, Vandy will be lucky to win three games in 2008.

I will be updating my rankings throughout the summer and will let you know if there are any major changes.

  • With so much junk out there about football, reading in-depth info is a pleasure!

  • Chad, I'm with you on LSU. However, these rankings are based on a ratings system. It's not the end all, you know what I'm saying? It's just a point to start from when handicapping early in the season. I think LSU losses three games this season but they still have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the country. They have one of the easiest schedules in the SEC, including playing eight games in Baton Rouge. They have a talented stable of running backs. I think if LSU had a tougher schedule, they would be in a lot more trouble but with the talent they still have on the roster, I have to rate them pretty high in July. Now, like I said, these numbers can change so if the quarterback position doesn't improve, their grade at that position could drop even further heading into the season. But like I said, even though my numbers currently give them a slight lead over Auburn, I like the Tigers to beat LSU at home and take the SEC West.

  • I'm not as high on LSU as you are this year, Tommy.  Their QB situation worries me.  They don't have an established starter going into two-a-days, just a competition between backups Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee (Lee is the better talent, Hatch at least has some experience).  Granted the team has a solid O Line and great depth at the running back spot, but you still need a good decision maker behind center, especially in this conference. My thoughts may change when I start following fall practices, but for now, I'm not putting a lot of stock in the Tigers.

  • Chad, while I currently have LSU slightly ahead of Auburn based on my ratings system, I do believe the Tigers will emerge out of the west as well.

  • Thanks Matty. Bennett was my biggest sleeper in the draft. He put up huge numbers the last two years at Vandy with below average QB play. Now he'll get a chance to do the exact same thing in Chicago. lol

  • No complaints from me, I know the Hogs will be abysmal this season and I don't see them doing any better than 6-6.  And I agree that Dick hasn't had much if any success on this team in general.

    We both agree on the top two in the league, though I think Auburn edges Bama in a very weak West this year.

    Can't wait til kickoff, I made a bunch of money betting the SEC last season and plan on doing it again this fall.

  • Awesome blog Tommy - the detail for every team in the conference is quite impressive.  The Bears just inked former Vandy WR Earl Bennett to a deal today.  I had no idea he was the SEC's all-time leading receiver.