End of Quarter One: Where do SEC teams stand?

Lyn Scarbrough

September 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm.

All signs point to Alabama winning another SEC title at the moment. (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s only mid-September, but a lot of college football has already been crammed into the first three weeks of the 2013 season. You could say that it’s just the end of the first quarter, so it’s too early to know the outcome. But, while much is still open to opinion, some things are already obvious.

Looking around the Southeastern Conference, here are some of those:

*Alabama won’t lose a regular season game. Its biggest test was in College Station on Saturday and Tide fans were pleased with the results – maybe not with the numbers in the stats, but joyous about the numbers on the scoreboard. The jury is still out on how good this Bama team is. The offense sputtered against mediocre Virginia Tech in the first game. The defense gave up yardage and points in record-setting fashion against Texas A&M in the second. You have to figure that when both sides of the ball get it together on the same day, Alabama will devastate its opponents. Fortunately for the Tide, in most games it won’t matter. At the end of the season’s first quarter, only Ole Miss and LSU appear to have much chance to derail Bama, and both of those games will be in Tuscaloosa.

*Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron probably doesn’t get enough credit. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel probably should get the Heisman Trophy again, but won’t win because of the negative opinions that his off-the-field antics have created.

*LSU has been one of the biggest surprises in the conference. After losing a record number of early defections for the NFL Draft, many were skeptical about the season. So far no need for that skepticism. The Tigers have steamrolled three opponents and could make it four against Auburn on Saturday. Away games against Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss, plus Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium make a division championship unlikely. But, it could still be an unexpectedly strong season in Baton Rouge.

*Georgia won’t lose again before playing Alabama in an SEC Championship Game rematch, and they may not lose then. The Bulldogs were three yards from the BCS National Championship last season. Already with one loss, it’s unlikely that Georgia would play in Pasadena, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Alabama about their last two seasons.

*South Carolina won’t lose again before playing Clemson in Columbia to end the season, and they may not lose then. The Gamecocks, like Alabama and Texas A&M, have an easy conference schedule, not playing the three best teams in the other division, but the loss to Georgia will keep them away from Atlanta in December.

*If that prediction about South Carolina is wrong, the loss could be in Orlando in two weeks when the Gamecocks play UCF, which beat Penn State in Happy Valley this past weekend.

*Auburn is a better team than a year ago, already matching the win total from last season. The 2012 team would not have held Mississippi State to seven consecutive failed third down conversions in the second half to continue getting the ball back. And it wouldn’t have made the 88-yard touchdown drive in the closing minute to win the game. It’s unsure how many victories the Tigers will have this year, but the team will be more competitive, exciting and more of a factor in the 2014 SEC title race.

*Before the end of next season, Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne could be mentioned in the same sentence as other all-star three-headed monster backfields that have played for Auburn … Williams/Brown/Jacobs … Jackson/James/Agee … Brooks/Cribbs/Andrews.

*Despite the massacre in Oregon on Saturday, this could still be a much improved season for Tennessee. With two wins already, a postseason bowl looks likely, possibly a winning season and better bowl bid than expected.

*The Florida-Tennessee game at Florida Field this weekend could be critical for both teams. The Volunteers make bowl eligibility likely with a win. For the Gators, they have to rebound from the Miami game — where they dominated the contest statistically, but gave it away with turnovers. If the home team can’t win this one, will they be expected to win away from home against LSU, South Carolina or Georgia, or at home against reincarnated national power Florida State? Lose to Tennessee and a six-win season looks realistic for the Gators.

*You have to hate it for Vanderbilt, but a disappointing season is looming. The 1-2 start isn’t what enthused Commodore fans were wanting. They should win the next three, but then have Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida consecutively. A third nine-win season won’t happen. They need to hope for bowl eligibility.

*Could Dan Mullen’s job be on the line by season’s end? The Bulldogs already have two losses with LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss still ahead. The Dogs better look out for Troy in five days as well. State fans will want to wait a while before thinking about holiday bowl trip plans.

*Ole Miss, on the other hand, could be for real. At 3-0, Rebel fans are understandably excited, especially after the 20-plus point beat-down of the beleaguered and much overrated Longhorns in Austin. We’ll know more pretty quickly. Their next four games – at defending national champion Alabama, at improved and explosive Auburn, at home against Texas A&M and at home against LSU. Win two of those and Hugh Freeze goes into the Coach of the Year discussion. Win three and the team goes into the championship discussion.

*Despite the 3-0 start, it still could be a long season for Arkansas. If the Razorbacks lose at Rutgers on Saturday, it’s hard to find three more sure wins for the rest of the season.

*Missouri could lose this weekend at Indiana. Kentucky won’t lose … it doesn’t play … but will then lose the next three, virtually insuring for the Cats another losing season.

*Team most likely to end the SEC seven-year run of BCS national championships … Oregon has shown no weakness yet on offense or defense, including against teams from two BCS conferences. Based on performance so far, the Ducks are the best team in the country. If not Oregon, it could be Stanford. The Cardinal hosts the Ducks later in the season. Jury is still out on Ohio State due to the health of the quarterback and the quality of the opposition.

Here are my Southeastern Conference power rankings three weeks into the season:

1. Alabama

2. LSU

3. Georgia

4. Texas A&M

5. South Carolina

6. Ole Miss

7. Auburn

8. Florida

9. Mississippi State

10. Vanderbilt

11. Tennessee

12. Arkansas

13. Missouri

14. Kentucky

Still, it’s too early to know the outcome. After all, it’s only the end of the first quarter. There’s a lot of football left to play.