Mike Strange: An early SEC grade: Who's better? Who's Not?

Mike Strange

After a long, hot summer of anticipation, one third of the 2012 college football regular season is in the rear-view mirror.

Thus far, there has been a heavy diet of cupcakes being consumed by the 14 SEC schools. That's typical of September.

Compared to every other league, however, the SEC has been doing some heavy lifting with 10 league games already played. The Big Ten hasn't hit an intraconference lick yet.

Florida is the only FBS team in the nation that is 3-0 in its conference. Georgia and South Carolina are among four teams nationally with two league wins.

The last Saturday in September brings four more SEC games, the most interesting being Tennessee at Georgia and Arkansas at Texas A&M.

To get the weekend rolling, I'll take a stab at an early evaluation of the conference that has strung together six consecutive national championships.

Who's better than in 2011? Who's worse? Who's the same?

Alabama: Same. The defending national champions were supposed to drop off at least a little bit. You can't tell it so far.

Arkansas: Worse. A summer motorcycle wreck has mushroomed

into a train wreck.

Auburn: Worse. The Tigers, 8-5 in 2011, are an overtime victory against Louisiana-Monroe from being 0-4.

Florida: Better. Road wins at Texas A&M and Tennessee speak for themselves. Fast-developing Jeff Driskel is an upgrade at quarterback.

Georgia: Better. The Bulldogs won the SEC East last year but remember they started the season 0-2.

Kentucky: Same. And that's being generous. The Wildcats' start is on pace with last year except the Western Kentucky result is flip-flopped.

LSU: Worse. Maybe. Barely. I would have said "same" before the 12-10 close call at Auburn.

Mississippi State: Better. The Bulldogs are 4-0 for the first time since 1999. Tyler Russell has already matched his TD pass total (8) from 2011.

Missouri: Same. The Tigers were 8-5 last year and the returning talent is pretty good. A similar roster might not get to eight wins in the SEC, though.

Ole Miss: Better. The Rebels went 3-1 against non-conference foes this year, an improvement over 2-2 last year. They'll probably win an SEC game this year, too.

South Carolina: Same. The Gamecocks lost some good players off an 11-2 team but Steve Spurrier has the program to a point where more good players are taking their place.

Tennessee: Better. The late collapse against Florida looked familiar but the roster is better equipped for the SEC grind. That's assuming Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are around for the full season this time.

Texas A&M: Who knows. The Aggies were 7-6 last year and there's not enough evidence yet to project how they'll fare in their SEC debut.

Vanderbilt: Worse. By this point last year Vandy had beaten UConn and Ole Miss. This year? Only Presbyterian. It's hard to project five more wins to get to 6-6 again.

Check back in a month. Things could look entirely different.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 2

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Have had the freedom to see a lot of SEC games this year and this is what Ive noticed..GA is playing some very good;Consistent football.IMO GA would probably beat LSU right now..LSU is overrated and them struggling against a good defense is no fluke.The SO Car. team that played Vandy looks totally different in week 4 and they drilled Mizzo; something GA did not do..KY's QB is so bad they will have to start a true freshman..QB Frazier at Auburn is a spread QB and will set turnover records if Auburn doesn't adjust their offense..Driskell won't be looking so improved with a 360 lb LSU DE drape on his back..Jury's still out on MSU; outside of Auburn who handed them the game with 5 turnovers they have played NO ONE!!!The Aggies have talent and speed and will only get better..Shifty eyed Saban should win recruiter of the decade;How could you not be #1 with no less than 7 first or second round NFL players!!

Vol86 writes:

Nothing strange here.

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