SEC's reputation suffers in two-horse race

BY foxsports • October 15, 2009

It's that time of year. Upsets are making their annual appearances. Posers have been exposed. Now the big debate starts: is a one-loss SEC team better than an undefeated team from anywhere else in the country?

In past years the answer was, "Are you kidding? Two-loss SEC teams would win any other conference in a trot." But not this time.

This year's SEC is shaping up to be a two-horse race with Florida and Alabama fielding the top-ranked teams in the country. Beyond that, a lot of people are saying the SEC is the WAC without the blue field and trips to Honolulu.

That's a little harsh, but numbers don't lie.

This was supposed to be a breakout year for Bobby Petrino and Arkansas. Instead, they're going to try to stop Tim Tebow and Florida Saturday with a defense that's giving up 398.6 yards a game (190th in the nation).

"We're playing the best team in the country," Petrino said. "They are very sound in everything they do. It'll be a great challenge for us, but we're certainly looking forward to it."

Auburn, the "surprise" of the league with a five-win start before falling to Arkansas, has also looked anemic at times, giving up 27.2 points a game (163rd in the country).
Georgia is even worse. Three of the Dawgs' six opponents have put up 37 points or more on them, and the defense made Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton look like Peyton Manning.

The offense isn't much better. The 'Dawgs have lost the ball on turnovers 16 times and only taken it away five, a minus-11 turnover ratio that puts them 118th out of 120 major college teams. And their running offense is the worst in the SEC, averaging only 97.2 yards per game.

That would be fine if Matthew Stafford was still putting up 500-yard passing games for the Dawgs, but quarterback Joe Cox has been schizophrenic at best — five touchdowns against Arkansas, no touchdowns and two interceptions against Tennessee, and one first down in the first half against LSU before orchestrating two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Ole' Miss has lost twice and been dropped from the conversation. LSU is still in the picture, but Jordon Jefferson has only thrown for seven touchdowns in six games. Does anybody think he's a championship caliber quarterback?

South Carolina has shown signs of brilliance but lost to Georgia and won squeakers against N.C. State and Kentucky, making them two plays away from being 3-3. Sure, the Old Ball Coach can be a spoiler, but no reasonable analyst puts the Gamecocks on a level with the Gators or the Crimson Tide.

Then you get down to Vandy, 2-4 and stung by an overtime loss to Army, and Kentucky, 0-3 in the conference and looking for a lifeline. It doesn't look good.

Of course, the two top coaches in the conference continue to sing its praises.

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