SEC Notebook Midseason Review: Alabama and LSU set to battle for CFB Playoff spot

If the first half of the season is a true indication of what's to come, the league's champion will emerge Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa.
Derick E. Hingle/Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

With the college football season at the midway point it’s time to take a look place at the highs and lows of the midseason action. From outstanding individual efforts to some of the most thrilling plays of the season, the SEC West continues to live up to the hype as the most compelling and contested division in all of college football.

Midseason MVP

Leonard Fournette, LSU, HB, Soph.

There is no more outstanding player than Fournette. His 158 rushing yards against South Carolina was his lowest output in any game this season and still averaged 7.9 yards per carry in that contest. LSU has been criticized for simply giving the ball to its star running back time and again but the formula may lead it to the CFB Playoff.

Freshman of the (half) year:

Calvin Ridley, Alabama, WR

Many five-star prospects fail to live up to the hype, especially so early in their college careers and playing in the shadow of one of the best receivers in school history (Amari Cooper). Despite all that, Ridley has emerged as Alabama’s leading receiver and big play threat only seven games into his first season in Tuscaloosa.

Biggest surprise (team):

No. 5 LSU (6-0 overall, 4-0 in the SEC)

Having the opening tune up game canceled, only to open the season on the road to SEC opponent Mississippi State followed by a game against Auburn, the SEC media’s preseason favorite to win the league, is hardly the recipe to becoming the last undefeated team in the SEC. 

Biggest surprise (player)

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss, QB, Jr.

The potential has always been there for Kelly, it’s the mental aspect of the game that has plagued him. Having found a fresh start in Oxford, the quarterback with the famous bloodlines has not disappointed.

After winning a long offseason competition against two players with some game experience, who would have thought Kelly would lead the SEC in passing yards and touchdowns after seven games? There’s not one quarterback in the league that’s within 500 yards of Kelly’s 2234 yards.

Auburn (4-2 overall, 1-2 in the SEC)

Despite its 4-2 record, Auburn appears to be the worst team in the division. The offense can’t pass the ball –ranked 13th in SEC — and can’t score — 10th in scoring offense.

As bad as the offense has been, the defense may be worse for the Tigers.Will Muschamp’s defense currently rank last in the league in total defense, 12th in scoring defense and 13th in rush defense.

Biggest disappointment (player)

Jeremy Johnson, Auburn, QB, Jr.

The odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy from the SEC leading up to the season was benched after three games for a redshirt freshman that had never started a college game. That’s about as bad of a turnaround as a player can have in a six game span.

Biggest loss:

Ole Miss upsets Alabama 43-37 in Tuscaloosa

Had the Tide not been upset at home, they would likely be the No. 1 ranked team in the nation right now and the SEC would be contemplating the potential of having two teams ranked in the top four by season’s end and headed to the playoff.

Now the SEC will be lucky to get one team in the playoff by season’s end.

Most viral moment:

That time Fournette ran wild against Auburn:

Best play of the year:

Chad Kelly’s amazingly fortunate touchdown throw against Alabama:

Worst play of the year:

Jeremy Johnson’s pass “attempt” that went backwards against LSU: 

Best game left on the calendar:

No. 5 LSU at No. 8 Alabama Nov. 7

The two have a combined record of 12-1 and 7-1 in league play. The game will pit LSU’s league best rushing attack (325.5 rushing yards per game – No. 4 in the nation) against the Alabama’s league best rushing defense (70.9 rushing yards allowed per game – No. 3 in the nation).

Player to watch out for in the second half:

Jake Coker, Alabama, QB, Sr.

The way the Crimson Tide are currently playing, every other contender in the conference should be scared. If Coker can give the Tide just enough of a passing threat, without turning the ball over, this team will not be beaten in the second half of the season.

Who makes the CFP Final Four:

Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Stanford

Team most likely to get passed over for a CFP spot:

TCU