SEC midseason awards: Saban, Ojulari, Jones among ''winners'
A season of league-only games in the Southeastern Conference isn't for the meek — or the mediocre.
The SEC has reached (roughly) the halfway point of the 10-game season with four teams ranked in the top 10 — No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 8 Florida — and nine with losing records.
Only the Crimson Tide (6-0) remains unbeaten, having already decisively beaten the Bulldogs and Aggies. Alabama appears destined to run away with the SEC West, since it has already beaten the most legit potential challenger Texas A&M. Defending national champion LSU has flopped badly.
Georgia and Florida are the only teams in the East with winning records. So that division will almost surely come down to the outcome of their game Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida.
AP Sports Writers covering the SEC voted on an assortment of midseason awards, good and bad. Here are the results:
COACH OF THE FIRST HALF
Nick Saban, Alabama (4 votes): He has overcome his own , after a false positive before the ,, and so far the season-ending injury to star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Georgia and Texas A&M appeared to be the hardest tests ahead of the SEC championship game. Others receiving votes: Sam Pittman, Arkansas (3); Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M (1).
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE FIRST HALF
Mac Jones, Alabama QB (5 votes): Granted, he had the SEC's best supporting cast of playmakers led by receiver Jaylen Waddle (now injured) and tailback Najee Harris. But Jones has been a terrific successor to Tua Tagovailoa, ranking third nationally in passing yards with 16 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Others receiving votes: Mississippi WR Elijah Moore (2), Harris (1).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE FIRST HALF
Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia (4 votes). Ojulari leads the league with five sacks and three forced fumbles. The sophomore is a big reason defense has helped keep the Bulldogs in contention for their fourth straight SEC East title. Others receiving votes: Arkansas LB Bumper Pool, Alabama LB Dylan Moses, Kentucky DB Kelvin Joseph and Kentucky LB Jamin Davis each received one.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
(6 votes): Emerged as the Tigers' go-to runner after limited chances in the first two games. Now ranks fifth in the SEC with 503 yards, including three straight 100-yard games before finishing with 71 yards and ,. Others receiving votes: Arkansas RFR DB Jalen Catalon (1), Vanderbilt QB Ken Seals (1).
MOST SURPRISING TEAM
Arkansas: The Razorbacks (four votes) are 2-3 with a narrow miss at Auburn, which got a key officiating call in its favor. It's a big sign of progress after the Chad Morris era and the arrival of Florida transfer QB Feleipe Franks has been a big help. Others receiving votes: Texas A&M (3) and Missouri (1).
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER
Mac Jones, Alabama (3 votes). He proved himself as ‘Bama’s offensive leader and a tough, resilient quarterback late last season after Tagovailoa's hip injury. Now, Jones is a Heisman Trophy candidate. It was the most divided voting. Others receiving votes: Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks (2), Florida TE Kyle Pitts (1), Ole Miss QB Matt Corral (1) and Georgia's Olujari (1).
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM
: The defending national champions lost massive talent from a 2019 season that was one of the best in SEC history. The Tigers aren't defending much of anything right now. They're 89th in total defense and are averaging 33.6 points, which ranks 73rd. At least LSU won something in a landslide. Others receiving votes: Kentucky 1, Mississippi State 1.
(six votes). It’s not just that Vanderbilt has been outscored 153-47 in its winless start, but three of its four losses have come against teams with losing records. Others receiving votes: South Carolina coach Will Muschamp (1), LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini (1).
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (seven votes). The Tide star receiver and punt returner was one of the nation's most electric playmakers. He was , with a broken ankle on the opening kickoff against Tennessee. Others receiving votes: Georgia DB Richard LeCounte.
AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker, Charles Odum, Pete Iacobelli, Mark Long, Brett Martel, Gary B. Graves and Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
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