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Random Thoughts from Around the SEC

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Six weeks into the college football season, a few thoughts:

Arkansas: A 24-17 win over Texas A&M after an off week isn't the most impressive thing in the world, especially given the offense's second half struggles, but a win is a win, and give the Arkansas defense credit. They may not be the best unit around, but they do look a good bit improved over a year ago. The Hogs can put themselves firmly back in the SEC West race with a win against Auburn, but this team has to be kicking itself after watching Alabama's implosion in Columbia. If they don't choke against the Tide, this is a top-five team looking Atlanta-bound with sights on a national championship. Told you that late collapse would haunt them for years.

Auburn: Another week, another narrow win over a middling-at-best team in a close game. If it can be said that Les Miles is the luckiest coach in college football, Gene Chizik probably isn't too far behind, and one getting too carried away with Auburn at this point probably ought to review the Kentucky game to contain themselves. Their win over South Carolina was impressive in hindsight, but the follow-up against the Wildcats once again showed a lack of defense and a one-man show on offense. The 6-0 start looks good, but five or their six toughest opponents on the year come in the second half of the season, so the battle is just getting started on the Plains. With games against Arkansas and LSU in Jordan-Hare in the next two weeks, if Auburn wants to prove themselves as legitimate championship contenders, the time is now.

Florida: Forget the highly-regarded head coach and all of the five-star recruits, objectively this Florida team looks to be the worst Gator squad since the Ron Zook era, and only a handful of key mistakes by LSU spared them being blown out for the second week in a row. This squad still has nothing even close to resembling a quality win -- a win over a Kentucky team 0-3 in conference play does not suffice -- and they would be underdogs against both South Carolina and Florida State if those games were played today. The Gators may get it together by the time the Gamecocks come to town, but for now the only way this team looks Atlanta-bound is for an appearance in the Peach Bowl.

Georgia: Dominating performance against Tennessee, as the passing game looked good and the defense shut down the Vols. Also, hat tip to Aaron Murray, who is probably the SEC freshman of the year. On the other hand, it is Tennessee, arguably the worst team in the conference, the running game was still a bit shaky, and Mike Bobo still insists on calling playaction pass on 3rd and 38. Not good. The second half schedule is loaded with patsies and underachievers (see Florida and Georgia Tech), so Richt has all the opportunity he could ask for in order to earn another year in Athens, but while that will probably happen he's going to have to do much more than thump around the worst Tennessee team of my lifetime in order to really convince anyone he is a viable long-term solution at UGA.

Kentucky: At least they put up a fight this week, though that may say more about Auburn than it does Kentucky. In the final analysis, little has changed: an offense with only a couple of true playmakers teamed with a terrible defense. And with games against South Carolina and Georgia the next two weeks, it may get worse before it gets better. Truth be told, about the only thing I see separating this Kentucky team from the usually bad pre-Rich Brooks teams is a cupcake non-conference schedule. They may get to 6-6 and Birmingham, but that will say far more about their OOC schedule and the down year for the SEC than it will anything positive on Kentucky's part.

LSU: Wow, that was shockingly... competent? There may be an asteroid headin' our way. Both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee played pretty well, and only three timely mistakes -- a Jefferson interception, a muffed punt by Patrick Peterson, and a kickoff for a touchdown allowed late -- kept this game from being a blowout.  And say what you will about Les Miles' time management skills, there is no doubt whatsoever that LSU has the best defense in the conference. No one else is even close to them in that regard, so for all of you people who love to talk about how defense wins championships, put your money on this team. The good news for LSU is that after their fourth win of the year by six points or fewer, they are 6-0 and will easily get to 8-0 with a win against Auburn (mighty McNeese State is this week's opponent). Having said all of that, though, ask an Alabama fan about the dangers of reading too much into a win over Florida. Beating up on the Gators doesn't mean what it once did.

Mississippi State: If an SEC offense puts up 538 yards against Houston, does it really count? Maybe, maybe not. The win over Houston puts MSU in line for a bottom-tier bowl berth with another SEC win, but it's hard to put much stock in a win over a Conference USA team with a third-string true freshman quarterback at the helm. The quarterbacks combined for only 129 yards passing on 23 attempts, and while the 400+ rushing yards were nice, MSU isn't good enough to win that way against quality SEC competition. They may get to Birmingham, but the Bullies still have to prove they can beat one of the better teams in the SEC before Dan Mullen and company get much respect.

South Carolina: Almost twenty years after the joining the SEC, South Carolina has finally arrived, and Steve Spurrier becomes relevant for the first time in almost a decade. Stephen Garcia finally lived up to the recruiting hype, the South Carolina defense finally lived up to the pre-season hype, and Alshon Jeffery staked his claim as the best receiver in the SEC. What more can you say for the Gamecocks? Saturday was literally the greatest day in program history. Having said that, they still have a ways to go before Atlanta, and Florida still has a month to improve in a game that the Gamecocks still need to win, so the cat is not in the bag just yet. For now, though, let 'em enjoy their moment in the sun.

Tennessee: Linebacker Nick Reveiz kept saying that, for better or for worse, how the Vols responded to the LSU debacle would define their season, and after that thumping in Athens those bleeding puke orange better hope he's clueless. What else can really be said of this Tennessee team other than they have little top-end talent, no depth, questionable coaching, and are bad in every phase of the game? Any legitimate team ought to thump the Vols this season, and while Tennessee may get to 6-6 with a perfect November, the odds are likely that they spend Christmas break relaxing with their families.

Vanderbilt: First take says, "Wow, Vandy won 52-6?" A closer look, though, shows that Eastern Michigan is 0-6 and easily one of the worst Division 1-A teams in the country. Consider the parade officially rained upon. Vanderbilt will not make a bowl game this year, but they have probably done enough to get the turkey inseminator another year, which is about all they could have really hoped to accomplish this season.