SEC: SEC team overview 102009

Kickoff Show (1 ET)

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:15
AM ET
Join ESPN.com reporters Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and host Chantel Jennings as the discuss who should be in the top four when the College Football Playoff committee's first rankings come out next week. They will also preview Week 9's best games and take your questions.

Midseason review: Vanderbilt

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
5:22
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


The breakthrough season of a year ago probably seems like it was ages ago for Vanderbilt, which has struggled miserably on offense this season and heads into Saturday’s game against South Carolina on a three-game losing streak. The Commodores (2-5, 0-4) simply haven’t been able to get anything going on offense, particularly in the passing game. In their five losses this season, they’ve scored a total of 42 points and have scored 10 or fewer points in four of those five losses. Sophomore quarterback Larry Smith hasn’t played well, completing just 45.8 percent of his passes to go along with seven interceptions and three touchdowns. But it’s not like he’s had a bunch of receivers getting open and making plays for him, either. Vanderbilt’s defense has been solid and deserves a lot better. But when your offense isn’t scoring any points, sooner or later you wear down.

Offensive MVP: RB Warren Norman. Quietly, Norman has put together one of the best freshman seasons in the league. He’s rushed for 450 yards and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He’s also second to Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the SEC with 1,074 all-purpose yards. Norman returns kickoffs for the Commodores and has already taken one back for a touchdown this season.

Defensive MVP: LB Chris Marve. Several guys on Vanderbilt’s defense deserve mention, namely cornerback Myron Lewis, by Marve has been in the middle of everything defensively for the Commodores. He’s second in the SEC with 65 total tackles and is second on Vanderbilt’s team with five tackles for loss and has also forced three fumbles.

Midseason review: Tennessee

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
5:01
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Finally, we have something on the field to judge first-year Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin by and not just something he’s said or done. The results the first half of the season have been mixed, but there are signs of hope. The Vols (3-3, 1-2) are coming off their best overall performance of the season in a 45-19 pummeling of Georgia two weeks ago. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton looked like an NFL prospect in that game after struggling to complete the simplest of passes for much of this season. Monte Kiffin’s defense has been the real deal. The Vols are ranked 13th nationally in total defense and have been in every game in which they’ve played. They played Florida straight up in the Swamp and didn’t back down. However, the home losses to UCLA and Auburn may come back to haunt them.

Offensive MVP: RB Montario Hardesty. One of the best stories in the league this season, Hardesty has shucked the injury-prone label and is on his way to a 1,000-yard season. He’s rushed for 672 yards through six games and also scored seven touchdowns. He’s a strong candidate for comeback player of the year honors nationally and is having a superb senior season.

Defensive MVP: S Eric Berry. Don’t be fooled by Berry’s lower interception numbers, although he did pick off Tim Tebow in the Swamp. The Vols are using him a little differently in this defense and playing him up on the line of scrimmage a lot more. He has 50 tackles to lead all SEC defensive backs, including 4.5 tackles for loss, and remains one of the most dynamic defensive players in the country.

Midseason review: South Carolina

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
4:42
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

One of the key questions with South Carolina coming into the season was whether or not sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia would mature enough to lead this team to a successful season. So far, so good. Garcia has shown a lot of toughness, and he’s also done a much better job of taking care of the ball. The Gamecocks (5-5, 2-2) have proven that they’re good enough on defense to play with anybody, and they’ve done it despite some injuries, suspensions and freshmen playing key roles. They would love to have that Georgia game back right now where they lost in the final seconds on the road. Either way, this appears to be a much improved team and much more focused team than the one we saw going through the motions in the Outback Bowl at the end of last season. The challenge now for South Carolina is seeing it through to the end, something the Gamecocks haven’t done very well.

Offensive MVP: QB Stephen Garcia. He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, and he’s not among the leaders in pass efficiency in the SEC. But make no mistake, Garcia’s playmaking ability is a big reason the Gamecocks are sitting here at 5-2 right now. He’s been able to scramble around and make some plays, and he also hasn’t given up as many plays as he did a year ago. He’s still developing as a quarterback, but it’s been a solid first half of the season for the versatile sophomore.

Defensive MVP: OLB Eric Norwood. One of the top defensive players in a league full of great defensive players, Norwood leads the way with six sacks. He’s been a little quiet in the last two games, but the impact he had on his team those first five games was as great as any player in the league. He’s not just a pass-rusher, either. He’s returned an interception for a touchdown this season and has also blocked two kicks.

Midseason review: Ole Miss

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
4:37
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

As it turns out, Ole Miss wasn’t quite ready to make its move to elite status in the SEC. Not yet, anyway. The Rebels (4-2, 1-2) are still looking for their first quality win after starting the season ranked in the Top 10 nationally. They rose all the way to No. 4 in the rankings, but bombed at South Carolina in a Thursday night performance that was telling back in September. They got another chance a couple of weeks ago against Alabama and could only manage a field goal in a 22-3 loss. The offense has never really looked in sync, although the Rebels did hammer UAB last week. It’s no secret that quarterback Jevan Snead has struggled, but he’s not the only one. Ole Miss’ pass protection has broken down at key times, and the Rebels haven't run it consistently, either. The frustrating part is that Ole Miss’ defense has been everything and more that it was supposed to be. The Rebels’ front seven has proven to be one of the best in the country.

Offensive MVP: WR Shay Hodge. The Rebels haven’t been able to get the ball to Dexter McCluster as much as they would like, so Hodge has sort of stepped in as their go-to guy on offense. He’s third in the SEC in receiving yards per game (64.8) and fourth in catches per game (4.3). He’s also tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches.

Defensive MVP: DE Kentrell Lockett. The hard part with this choice is that so many players have played well on Ole Miss’ defense, but Lockett stands above everybody else with the number of big plays he’s made. He leads the team in tackles for loss (5.5), sacks (4) and quarterback hurries (6).

Midseason review: Mississippi State

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
3:37
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Even the most optimistic Mississippi State fan knew that first-year coach Dan Mullen was going to need some time (and some recruiting classes) to get the Bulldogs up to speed in the Western Division. It’s been rough sledding through the first half of the season, but the Bulldogs (3-4, 1-2) have been in every game but one after halftime. They were stuffed at the goal line by LSU or they win that game. They were hurt by a bad call in the Houston game. It’s a team that’s continued to fight, and the offensive improvement has really been refreshing for Mississippi State fans after how much the Bulldogs struggled on that side of the ball under former coach Sylvester Croom. Mullen’s also playing a lot of younger guys, which is promising for the future.

Offensive MVP: RB Anthony Dixon. After letting his team down in the preseason with his arrest, Dixon has put this team on his back during the season. He’s had five straight 100-yard rushing games and is third in the SEC in rushing with 696 yards. He became Mississippi State’s all-time leading rusher last week with his 135-yard effort against Middle Tennessee and passed his good friend, Jerious Norwood.

Defensive MVP: DE Pernell McPhee. The junior college newcomer has made a huge difference on Mississippi State’s defensive line from his right end position. He leads the team in tackles for loss (6) and sacks (2.5) and is tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries (4). The 6-4, 275-pound McPhee has been equally effective against both the run and pass and is one of those guys who's a long afternoon for any offensive lineman.

Midseason review: LSU

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
3:09
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Perhaps as much as any team in the SEC, LSU is an unknown quantity at this point, almost an enigma, really. You know the Tigers (5-1, 3-1) have talent, and you know they’re capable of making a run during the second half of the season and winning the Western Division. But their offense has been so sketchy to this point that they could also lose two or three more games the rest of the way. John Chavis’ defense has played extremely well and gave LSU every chance to win against Florida two weeks ago. It’s a defense that has steadily improved since the opener against Washington. Again, though, the scary part is what the Tigers have done (or haven’t done) on offense. They’re 112th nationally in total offense, and there’s no way with the talent they have on this team that they should be anywhere close to that inept offensively.

Offensive MVP: WR Brandon LaFell. This is a tough one because the Tigers simply haven’t done a whole lot this season on offense. But LaFell has made the most of his chances. He leads the team with 27 catches, and five of those have gone for touchdowns. The Tigers need to figure out a way to get him the ball more.

Defensive MVP: CB Patrick Peterson. Lots of solid candidates here, but Peterson gets the nod based on the way he’s played in big games. He was outstanding against Florida, making several key open-field tackles, and he also came up big in the win over Georgia. Peterson is tied for fourth in the league with seven passes defended, but he’s also big enough and physical enough to be a force against the run.

Midseason review: Kentucky

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
2:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Just when you thought Kentucky might be toast, the Wildcats (3-3, 1-3) come back swinging and pull off their biggest win of the season. Their 21-14 win at Auburn last week is just what they needed for a little momentum heading into the second half of the season. Rich Brooks and his staff have done a bang-up job of keeping this team together despite several key injuries and a three-game losing streak. The Wildcats played one of their best games two weeks ago in a 28-26 road loss at South Carolina. But instead of allowing that loss to get them down, they seemed rejuvenated and pulled off the win on the Plains last Saturday. Starting quarterback Mike Hartline is out with a knee injury and may not be able to return this season. The Wildcats have also played the last two weeks without All-SEC cornerback Trevard Lindley, so they’re getting it done despite some bad breaks.

Offensive MVP: QB/WR Randall Cobb. No matter where he lines up, he just makes plays. Cobb may see even more time at quarterback, especially in the Wildcat formation, now that Hartline is sidelined. But he’s also catching passes and returning kicks. He’s the most underrated player in the league. He has four receiving touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns and is the guy the Wildcats turn to when they've got to have a play.

Defensive MVP: LB Micah Johnson. The Big Three on defense for Kentucky has been reduced to the Big One. Defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was declared ineligible by the NCAA in the preseason and had to turn pro, while Lindley has been nursing a high ankle sprain the last few weeks. Johnson has been a rock for the Wildcats from his middle linebacker spot. He leads the team with 52 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, and is coming off his best game last week in the 21-14 win over Auburn. He had 14 tackles and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

Midseason review: Georgia

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
1:03
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The wolves were howling pretty loudly in Athens last week. Georgia (4-3, 3-2) may have quieted them for a while with its 34-10 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, but all eyes will now shift to that Florida game two weeks from now. The Bulldogs have a bye this week and can certainly use one. They’ve been their own worst enemy for much of this season with turnovers and penalties, and the defense has again struggled. Going back to last season, the Bulldogs have given up 37 or more points in eight of their last 16 games. The loss that stings the most to this point was the embarrassing 45-19 beating the Vols pinned on them two weeks ago. It’s the kind of loss, depending on what happens the rest of the way, that may force Mark Richt to take a long look at his staff at season’s end.

Offensive MVP: WR A.J. Green. The Bulldogs can thank their lucky stars for Green, who’s been spectacular. In a lot of ways, he’s been their only offense. Green has easily separated himself as the best receiver in the SEC and has made one clutch play after another for the Bulldogs. He leads the league with 41 catches, including six touchdowns, and is averaging 16.6 yards per catch. With 682 receiving yards, he’s more than 200 yards ahead of the next closest guy in the SEC.

Defensive MVP: LB Rennie Curran. He leads the SEC with 72 total tackles and has been one of the few bright spots on a defense that ranks 69th nationally in total defense. Curran is one of the better tacklers in the league and also had the play that saved Georgia in the South Carolina game. He came up and tipped away Stephen Garcia’s fourth-down pass in the end zone. Otherwise, the Bulldogs might be looking at a 3-4 record right now.

Midseason review: Florida

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
12:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Florida is right where it wants to be, unbeaten and sitting atop the first BCS standings. But on the field, the Gators (6-0, 4-0) haven’t been the explosive unit offensively they were a year ago. Not even close. The loss of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy has clearly made Florida more reliant on senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who’s already carried the ball 99 times in six games. That’s a lot of hits for a guy who suffered a concussion four weeks ago. Still, Tebow has found ways to get it done and was his usual clutch self in the fourth quarter last week against Arkansas. Florida’s defense has been excellent, although the health of senior linebacker Brandon Spikes is a concern after he injured his groin and missed most of the Arkansas game.

Offensive MVP: QB Tim Tebow. He doesn’t have the offensive weapons around him this season, but Tebow is still willing the Gators to wins. If it’s third-and-short, he’s money. The same thing goes for fourth-and-short. His passing numbers are down this season, and his mechanics still aren’t the best. But with the game on the line and a critical conversion down coming up, is there anybody in college football you’d rather have under center than Tebow?

Defensive MVP: CB Joe Haden. A little bit of a surprise here, and you could certainly make a case for Spikes. He’s sort of the engine for this defense, but Haden has been more consistent to this point. He’s one of the best all-around cornerbacks in college football and is a big reason Charlie Strong has been able to open it up on defense. Strong knows Haden can cover anybody one-on-one. Haden is tied for third on the team in tackles with Spikes and also has two interceptions. Not many teams have dared to throw his way.

Midseason review: Auburn

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
12:07
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Thanks to a soft schedule, Auburn probably wasn’t as good as the Tigers looked those first five games, but that still doesn’t diminish the job that first-year coach Gene Chizik and his staff have done to this point. The Tigers (5-2, 2-2) have lost their last two games after starting out 5-0 and being nationally ranked at one point. The 21-14 home loss last week to Kentucky was particularly troubling. That’s one you’ve got to win if you’re planning on a big season. A lack of depth is a problem at a number of different spots, and the defense looks like it might be treading water. Offensively, the Tigers need to get quarterback Chris Todd back on track. His production has gone way down the last two weeks after he looked great during the five-game winning streak to start the season.

Offensive MVP: RB Ben Tate. The SEC is loaded with quality running backs this season, but Tate deserves to be right up there with any of them. He’s second only to Mark Ingram in the SEC with 856 rushing yards and has gained 128 yards or more in each of his last three games. He’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the season. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is feeding him the ball, and the senior is delivering with his best season.

Defensive MVP: LB Craig Stevens. The 6-3, 223-pound junior has been an iron man for the Tigers, as all three of the starting linebackers have had to play too many snaps this season. Stevens is third in the SEC with 62 total tackles and leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss. He’s also tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries with five and has been the Tigers’ most consistent performer on a defense that has taken it on the chin.

Midseason review: Arkansas

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
11:35
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


The toughest part of what was a brutal schedule would appear to be behind Arkansas, which has managed to hang in there pretty well. The Hogs (3-3, 1-3) were a couple of missed field goals and a couple of brutal calls by officials away from knocking off No. 1 Florida last week in the Swamp. The game Arkansas would love to have back is that 52-41 loss to Georgia at home the third week of the season. But since that game, the Hogs’ defense has improved dramatically. They sacked Florida quarterback Tim Tebow six times last Saturday in their 23-20 loss to the Gators. Some injuries on offense have watered down their stable of playmakers, but they’re still third in the SEC in total offense and averaging 34.5 points per game.

Offensive MVP: QB Ryan Mallett. He’s been the top newcomer in the SEC and has taken Arkansas’ passing game to new heights. Mallett leads all SEC quarterbacks with 1,646 passing yards and 14 touchdowns and has only thrown three interceptions. He’s a great fit for Bobby Petrino’s system and should only get better the second half of the season.

Defensive MVP: DT Malcolm Sheppard. While he doesn’t have huge total tackle numbers, there’s no denying Sheppard’s presence in the middle of that Arkansas defense. He leads the SEC with eight tackles for loss and is one of those dominant interior defensive linemen that makes everybody else around him more effective.

Midseason review: Alabama

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
11:01
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It can’t get much better for Alabama at this point. The Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) were No. 2 this week in the BCS standings and have already beaten three nationally ranked teams. Their defense might be even better than a year ago, and that’s despite losing star linebacker Dont’a Hightower for the season in the Arkansas game with a knee injury. The passing game has hit a snag these last two games, as quarterback Greg McElroy hasn’t dealt with pressure as well. The other concern has been the Crimson Tide’s kickoff coverage. All in all, though, this looks to be Nick Saban’s most complete team yet at Alabama and maybe one of the most complete teams in the country.

Offensive MVP: RB Mark Ingram. If Ingram doesn’t watch out, he’s going to run his way into Heisman Trophy contention. In fact, he may already have. He’s coming off a spectacular 246-yard performance against South Carolina and leads the SEC with 905 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s the best runner after contact in the league and is extremely dependable. He hasn’t lost a fumble in 304 career touches at Alabama.

Defensive MVP: LB Rolando McClain. The 6-4, 258-pound McClain just looks like an NFL linebacker. He plays like one, too, and is the heart and soul of an Alabama defense ranked No. 1 nationally this week in total defense. McClain leads the Crimson Tide with 49 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss, but his value goes much deeper than sheer numbers. He’s essentially an extension of Nick Saban on the field and anticipates the game so well. McClain is always around the ball and one of those guys who has a knack for changing the complexion of a game with a big hit or key takeaway.

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