Believe it or not, we are halfway through the 2013 college football season. As the Tennessee Volunteers take a week off before hosting South Carolina next Saturday, it’s time to take stock of what has happened so far; mid-term grades if you will for the 14 SEC teams.
Mississippi State: Mid-Term Grade D.
Starkville, Mississippi is not exactly the mecca of college football anyway, but things are not well at all for Coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the league after being 5-0 this time last year. Coach Mullen has just about done all he can do at MSU. He’s a good, solid coach, but he may be looking to move on.
Arkansas: Mid-Term Grade C-.
The Razorbacks have looked very good at times and equally bad on other occasions. They’re 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC, and I still think they can pull off a major upset before the season ends. Don’t ask me who or when that will be however.
Ole Miss: Mid-Term Grade C+.
The Johnny Rebs are still very young but very talented. If they continue to improve, they can be a factor in the SEC West sooner than later. Ole Miss is 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the league, but their two biggest tests of the year are in the next two weeks. (Texas A&M and LSU both at home.) An 8- or even a 9-win season is not out of the question.
Auburn: Mid-Term Grade A-.
The Tigers are off to a good start so far at 4-1/2-1. But the schedule gets much tougher in the second half of the season. After a homecoming appearance by Western Carolina this weekend, the Tigers must face Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Tennessee on the road, before closing out the season at home with Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers will be bowl-eligible, but not by much.
Texas A&M: Mid-Term Grade A-.
Only a slip up at home with top-ranked Alabama stands in the way of a perfect 5-0 start for the Aggies. After this weekend’s game at Ole Miss, the toughest tests the rest of the way will be toward the end of the season as the Aggies face LSU and Missouri, both on the road. This is a very good football team and if they win out and finish 11-1, who knows what can happen.
LSU: Mid-Term Grade A.
Only a tough loss at powerful Georgia keeps LSU from being unbeaten at the midway point. Zach Mettenberger’s play at quarterback has been the difference so far for the Bengal Tigers. Everyone is pointing to the game on November 9th with Alabama in Baton Rouge as being the biggest game on the schedule. But, the game this weekend with Florida and the one on November 23rd are just as important. The good thing for Coach Les Miles and crew is all three are at Tiger Stadium.
Alabama: Mid-Term Grade A.
The Crimson Tide started the season as the nation’s number one team, and they’re on top as we approach the halfway point. The closest call ‘Bama has had so far was a 49-42 win at Texas A&M. I said it in the pre-season and I am still saying it; This Alabama squad isn’t as good as last year’s National Championship team. I still feel they could be beaten and the best opportunities are at LSU and in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.
Vanderbilt: Mid-Term Grade D.
Vandy was picked to finish fourth in the SEC East, and even a 9-3 season wasn’t out of the question. However, a real dose of reality has set in for Coach James Franklin in Nashville; You can’t live on what you did in 2012 when the 2013 season starts. Vandy is 0-3 in the SEC and this weekend the Commodores are off before hosting Georgia next week. Then comes Texas A&M and Florida, so another bowl trip for the Black and Gold is not going to happen.
Kentucky: Mid-Term Grade D-.
The Wildcats are 1-4 and this could be the worst Kentucky team we’ve seen in a long time. The only win so far for the “Big Blue” is against Miami of Ohio. Coach Mike Stoops may get it done in Lexington, but we must first define “it.” Football has always been something to keep fans’ interest until basketball season begins, so that must be what “it” actually is.
South Carolina: Mid-Term Grade C.
Expectations were very high in Columbia when the season started. Even though the Gamecocks have struggled the last two weeks with Central Florida and Kentucky, Coach Steve Spurrier’s squad pulled out the wins and USC stands 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. The Gamecocks' only loss thus far was at Georgia, and the game this weekend at Arkansas could tell us a lot about them. If the ‘Cocks can pull out wins this week and next week at Tennessee, they will be back in contention.
Tennessee: Mid-Term Grade B-.
Had the Volunteers not played Georgia so close last week in their overtime loss at Neyland Stadium, this grade would have been a C. Tennessee showed a lot of grit and determination against the Bulldogs last week, leaving Big Orange faithful feeling good about their team, though the way they lost was tough to take. Coach Butch Jones is still looking for that “signature” win, and he could get it next week at home against South Carolina.
Missouri: Mid-Term Grade A-.
The Tigers are the biggest surprise in the SEC so far. With pre-season projections being very low, Mizzou has jumped out to a 5-0 start against a very weak schedule. (Wins over Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State and Vanderbilt) It gets real this weekend as the Tigers face Georgia in Athens. An upset win there and the Tigers will be “for real.”
Florida: Mid-Term Grade A.
The Gators have battled adversity as well as the SEC in starting the season 4-1. Coach Will Muschamp has his team in a position to win the SEC East with a win over Georgia, but first the Gators have a huge test this weekend at LSU. A win there and Florida is a legitimate contender. Fans in the “Swamp” may not like the way the Gators are winning, but they do like the fact that they’re winning.
Georgia: Mid-Term Grade A.
Only a close loss at powerful Clemson to open the season clouds Georgia’s worksheet so far. As the season goes on, that loss will look better and better for the pollsters as Clemson is an awesome college football team. So is Georgia, and if Coach Mark Richt can handle the long list of injuries on his team and persevere in the SEC East, 2013 could be a really special season for the “Dawgs.”
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).