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SEC Power Rankings: Mid-Season Reset

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Now that we're crossing the midpoint of the season, it's time to take a look back at how we initially ranked the teams and examine the evidence from the games played in the first half of the season.

The Doc
The Doc
Scott Halleran

TL;DR: Mid-Season Official Power Rankings Ballot

1. Ole Miss. This team is probably a year ahead of schedule depth-wise, so we won't be surprised if they falter along the way against a tough slate of games. That caveat aside, it's amazing how much this team has improved in Hugh Freeze's third season, pairing an occasionally brilliant but often frustrating offense with a truly scintillating defense.

2. Mississippi State. It's really tough to win in Starkville, so anyone and everyone who enjoys college football should appreciate the terrifying Frankenstein Dan Mullen has assembled out of leftover three star players, JUCO scraps, and unheralded transfers, with the whole unsavory mess being held together by baling wire and poor man's Tim Tebow Dak Prescott. Prescott, a dark horse Heisman candidate, has bludgeoned his way onto the national scene with the Platonic ideal of college quarterbacking: gritty leadership and timely, effective play. Will Muschamp probably masturbates furiously while watching film of Prescott running the quarterback draw over and over.

3. Auburn. Defensive players take note: Gus Malzahn may have his master wizard badge from the Bill Snyder School of Offensive Hijinks, but he hasn't finished his correspondence course in SEC defense. Somewhere (aka, Cincinnati), Tommy Tuberville is cackling maniacally as he stamps "approved" on another invoice paying for the voodoo hex on Auburn's defense.

4. Alabama: This team is uncharacteristically inefficient and mistake prone, but they keep finding ways to win. That's what talent does for you, but Nick Saban may not last the season without a stroke or a full system reboot (Nick Saban doesn't back up unless he's locked and connected to a wireless network).

5. Georgia: Hunter argued for this team to be fourth, while the Kid decided he wanted to demonstrate how very wrong he could be in a public forum and unilaterally placed this team fifth.** The 'Dawgs are healthier and more talented than last year at every position except for quarterback, and the other preseason contenders for the SEC East all look much worse than expected. Of course, Mark Richt is still capable of an epic collapse to an upstart (but increasingly salty) Kentucky team, or an unexpected turnoverfest against Florida, but this team should win the East.

**Actual text message from the Kid: "I have one trump card in my deck, and with it I will switch UGA to 5, with Bama at 4."***

***Hunter apparently ignored the actual text message I sent him two days prior where I ranked UGA 5th.  His follow-up text unilaterally placed them fourth.  The text noted above was in response thereto.

6. LSU: That's So Les! Coming soon to CBS, the home of mediocre but surprisingly watchable (and successful) programming.  Also, LSU appears to have taken the kid gloves off Leonard Fournette, which was a wise decision as he very much looked the part against UF.

7. Texas A&M: Might have started that Kenny Trill thing a bit too soon.  Actually....naaahhhh, it's still awesome.

8. Arkansas: The Razorbacks and the Vols have the same problem: although they look much improved on the field (and in the advanced statistics), they don't have anything to show for it in terms of wins. BERT hasn't tasted victory in eleven tries in his new conference, and you really don't want to come between a hungry, alcohol fueled varmint and his dinner.

9. Kentucky: Sure, the Cats haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of opponents, but credit where credit is due: Mark Stoops has significantly improved the defense, and Neal Brown is conjuring points out of a thin group of skill position players. Which of you had Kentucky on your "outside SEC East contender" bingo card?

10. Tennessee: Ole Miss in Oxford is not the matchup you want following an agonizing loss to Florida and before a home tilt against longtime foe Alabama. Still, you go to the football field and play the opponent you have, not the opponent you want.

11. Florida: I had the stomach flu last week, but I'd rather suffer through it again than watch a single second of another Florida game this season. Win or lose, Muschamp seems determined to make a mockery of the legacy of the Fun-n-Gun Gators of yore.

12. Mizzou: "Don't worry, we won't miss James Franklin at all! Maty Mauk is probably a 5-30% better, more explosive quarterback, anyway!"

13. South Carolina: This is a team without a country, and a coach who's country is Augusta National.

14. Vandy: David Williams needs to take pity on Karl Dorrell and give him his walking papers. Watching anyone struggle and fail so completely is inhumane.

Revisiting Our Week 1 Rankings and Midseason Awards

Power Ranking Movement
Team Preseason Current Change AP Poll
Georgia 1 5 -4 #10
Auburn 2 3 -1 #6
Alabama 3 4 -1 #7
Texas A&M 4 8 -4 #21
Ole Miss 5 1 +4 #3
LSU 6 6 none
Tennessee 7 10 -3
Mississippi State 8 2 +6 #1
South Carolina 9 13 -4
Arkansas 10 9 +1
Kentucky 11 7 +4
Missouri 12 12 none
Florida 13 11 +2
Vanderbilt 14 14 none

After week 1, we suspected that (1) the SEC West was really really strong this year, but that (2) Georgia might be really special. We were almost right about the former and partially right about the latter.

(1)  The SEC West isn't merely really really strong this year, it's historically great.  I began to have thoughts a few weeks ago that it might be the best conference subdivision literally in the history of college football.  That was just a hunch I had based on a holistic assessment of the teams, but it was a sentiment that was echoed by none other than Bill Connelly himself:

Let me say that again. The SEC West is the best division in the country and might end up the best division of all time, and Mississippi State might have the best chance of winning it.

What's so amazing about the West is that after week 1 we rated that division ridiculously high in the week 1 rankings, and that ranking had Mississippi State as 8th best team in the SEC and Arkansas as the t0th.  The former was of course a huge undervaluing, and the latter a not-insubstantial undervaluing.  Arkansas still hasn't gotten a mark in the W column in the SEC under Coach BERT, but they are a vastly improved outfit from last season that passes the eyeball test and that no team on their schedule will be overlooking or counting as a sure win.

(2)  Georgia does look amazing at times, and Todd Gurley is a truly breathtaking player.  But Mark Richt doe.  The man's reputation for not always getting the most out of what could potentially be great teams -- and, specifically, being prone to head-scratching letdown games -- has not arisen out of the blue or without support from ample on-field evidence.  That being said, Georgia can still beat any team in the SEC on a good day (and especially with Todd Gurley playing).  But it's tough to tell which days will be the good days.  Richt richting, and all that.


Grape Job

The Most Powerful Midseason Awards In All The Land

Traditional Categories
Category Team 2013 2014
Most Improved Offense Arkansas 67th in offensive S&P+ 15th in offensive S&P+
Most Improved Defense Tennessee 46th in defensive S&P+ 12th in defensive S&P+
Best Coaching, SEC East Mark Stoops 2-10 (0-8 SEC) 5-1 (2-1 SEC)
Best Coaching, SEC West Dan Mullen 7-6 (3-5 SEC) 6-0 (3-0 SEC)
Offensive MVP Dak Prescott 58.4%, 7.27 YPA, 10 TD/7 INT 61%, 9.47 YPA, 14 TD/4 INT
Defensive MVP Cam Sutton 67th in Def. F/+ 12th in Def. F/+

Houston Nutt Memorial Worst-to-First-to-Worst Team

Mississippi State is currently sitting atop the SEC West leaderboard on the back of a tremendous team effort from the seniors, the heroics of quarterback Dak Prescott, and some clever coaching from head man Dan Mullen. Unfortunately, the elements that make the current team such a tough and entertaining outfit are unlikely to be replicated next year: thirteen seniors (4 offense/7 defense) will graduate, Dak will have the opportunity to go to the NFL, and Mullen will most likely be coaching in Ann Arbor or Gainesville. So that's all to say: enjoy this season, State fans.

Team Whose Coach Would Rather Be Golfing

When the HBC was hired at South Carolina, a completely believable rumor made the circuit of SEC message boards: powerful Gamecock alumni had promised Stephen Orr a membership at Augusta National should he agree to take the South Carolina job. Let's just say that it looks like the HBC decided to pick up his bag before the college season ended this year. Maybe it's the unseasonably warm weather.

Team Whose Play Has Been Most Commensurate With Its Perceived Talent Level

Missouri's recruiting ranking for the last five years: 21st (2010), 57th (2011), 31st (2012), 43rd (2013), and 39th (2014). We've been over this before, but recruiting rankings matter. While they don't guarantee anything (see bonus power ranking below), having more talented players who are ready to play sooner increases the margin for error. In the case of the other other Tigers, the dismissal of Dorial Green-Beckham made the transition from a senior-laden offensive squad to the younger generation even more difficult.

Gary Pinkel has proven that he can coach them up in the longer term, but prognostications that Missouri would be able to defend its fluky 2013 SEC East title were 5-30% off.

Offensive Coordinator Most Likely To Be Parodied on Tosh.0

Oh, well I guess this one has already been decided.  [note: the previous link goes to a video with some vulgar language.  Click at your own discretion.]

The "Thank God The SEC Doesn't Have Relegation" Award

Here's how badly things have gone in Nashville: the 'Dores have two wins, by a grand total of four points, over 1-6 UMass and 5-1 FCS Charleston Southern. Vanderbilt's five losses have an average margin of defeat of more than three touchdowns (average score: Opponent 37.4, Vanderbilt 13.6), and head coach Derek Mason is leading the SEC is dumbfounded/overwhelmed/disbelieving faces on the sidelines. Ye gods, Vandy!

Bonus Power Ranking: Worst Division 1 Head Coaches in the BCS Era

For this week's bonus ranking, we decided to rank the worst of the worst, from atrocious game managers to terrible recruiters. Note that this ranking isn't just about having the worst record, it's about doing the least with the most, squandering talent, money, and opportunity like it's going out of style. For that reason, you won't find every Vanderbilt head coach on this list; instead, you'll find horrible headmen from all over the country: north, south, east, and west. Bonus points were awarded for off-the-field misconduct, although criminal misconduct alone wasn't enough to land someone on the list (sorry, Hot Carl Pelini).

Without further ado, the worst head coaches in America:

12.  Ron Prince, Kansas State. Following a coaching legend like Bill Snyder can't be easy, even if the legend had fallen off a bit with two losing seasons, especially if it's your first head coaching gig. Prince managed to compile a not-completely terrible record of 17-20 with the Wildcats, which qualifies him as probably the second most successful head coach in modern Kansas State football history. Unfortunately, the most successful coach in program history (and the man the stadium in Lawrence is named after) happened to still be alive, and so inexplicable head scratching losses to Big 12 bottom feeders like Kansas (0-3), Colorado (2-1), and Iowa State (2-1) built into a clamoring for the return of the wizard. Bonus points were awarded for: 1) the "RonP4[fill in school]" coaching meme; 2) KSU's 2008 recruiting class, which featured an unheard of 19 JUCO recruits; and, 3) the incredibly bizarre secret buyout contract that Ron P.'s attorney negotiated directly with the (since fired) athletic director.

11.  Will Muschamp, Florida. It's not just the page-boy haircut, or the loss to FCS Georgia Southern, or the first losing season for the Gators since 1979. It's not just the overwhelming levels of anger and irritation he manages to provoke from Spencer Hall and the Alligator Army comment sections. Setting all of those things aside, it's clear from his record: Will Muschamp is the worst multi-year Florida head coach since Charley Pell (1979-1984), which, not coincidentally, is the last time the Gators missed a bowl game (sure, Gary Darnell was bad, but he was an interim who only lasted part of one year).

10.  Tim Brewster, Minnesota:  "Hey, I've got a great idea," said the Minnesota Golden Gophers Athletic Director to his trusty sidekick sometime in late December 2006.  "Let's fire the coach who has kept us above .500 for ten full seasons despite the fact that our school is located in MINN-A-FREAKING-SOTA and replace him with a guy who will run the program all the way into ground.  Because I don't know about you, trusty sidekick, but there's just nothing that i love more than a full-on program rebuild."

"I hear Tim Brewster's available," replied sidekick.

And the rest was three and a half seasons of terrible football history.

9.  Gerry Dinardo, Vanderbilt, LSU:  Dinardo's tenure at LSU went until 1999, and so he crosses over into the Crystal Football era and gains eligibility into our honorable ranking of dishonorable coaching.  And we're happy to have him, because it takes some truly truly terrible coaching to go 4-7 and 2-8 in your fourth and fifth seasons as the Head Coach presiding over the only show in town when the town is actually an entire State.  And the State is Louisiana, which happens to produce the most NFL talent per capita of any of State in these our United States.

Active incompetence doesn't quite do it justice.  Elite ineptitude, perhaps?  We'll work on it.

8.  Stan Parrish, Kansas State, Ball State, Eastern Michigan:  He started out well early on his career with stops at a D-3 Wabash and then Div. 1-AA Marshall, but then the Peter Principle kicked in and he became objectively terrible, and right away.  His record at Kansas State over three years was an abysmal 2-30-1.  He then kicked around for ten years at various places coaching various different positions and working himself back into the role of Head Coach, this time at Ball State.  Yeah, he sucked there too.  6-19 in two full seasons plus one game in a third was all he got.  But hey....then he found himself some coaching work at an even worse MAC school, and let the Wikipedia entry describe it in all its glory:

In January 2013 Parrish was named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Eastern Michigan University under head coach Ron English for the upcoming season. Stan Parrish was named the interim head coach when English was fired after a 1-8 start to the 2013 season. The Eagles won their first game under Parrish's guidance, putting them in position to retain the Michigan MAC Trophy.

Hahahahaha.  I"m sorry, maybe I'm just weird, but i find the stuff after that final comma to be downright hilarious.  I mean, who knew that such a prestigious trophy even existed?

7.  John Blake, Oklahoma:  When you're the coach of Oklahoma and in three seasons you go 3-8, 4-8, and 5-6, well that means you're terrible and should promptly be replaced.  When you are promptly replaced and your replacement wins a BCS Championship in his second year, that means you were terrible.  But, hey, you already knew that part.

6.  Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss: Southern Miss went 12-2 and won their bowl game.  Southern Miss then hired Ellis Johnson.  Southern Miss then went 0-12 the following year.  Marinate on that for a minute.

5.  Paul Wulff, Washington State:  I understand that pulling top recruiting classes is difficult when your best selling point is that Idaho University is just ten miles East, and man oh man dem spuds is yummy. I get all that.  I truly do.  But come on, Paul.  You took it took far, man!

2008 2-11 1-8
2009 1-11 0-9
2010 2-10 1-9
2011 4-8 2-7

Yeah, I know he won only 18% of his games overall and a mere 11% of his conference contests, but the upward trajectory was just beginning.

4. Jon Embree, Colorado:  The only reason Jon Embree isn't number two on this list (the incomparable Derek Dooley can never be outdone in this department, let's face it) is because he walked into a situation at Colorado that was already pretty bad.  Gary Barnett had already been enshrined in the Guiness Book of World Records for "Most Unfathomably Inappropriate Remark About Placekicking" -- this record still stands -- and Dan Hawkins had followed that up by going 19-39 over five seasons.  So, yes, Colorado was not in a great place.  But then Jon Embree took the program to a much much darker place.  His two year records of 3-10 and 1-11 actually make his tenure at Colorado sound way better than it was.  His second year on the job -- the 1-11 season -- he was trotting out a historically bad football team each and every Saturday.  They were dead last in Bill Connelly's rankings, and that never happens for a power conference team.  Generally the worst power conference team in the country -- Hi Vandy! -- is somewhere around 100.  Certainly bad, but nowhwere approaching the levels of putridity that you see in the cellars of the Sun Belt, C-USA, or MAC.  Jon Embree made it happen.  Jon Embree transformed a former National Championship winning program into the Truckstop Shower on College Football's highway.  A tip of the hat to you, Mr. Embree.  That takes serious anti-skill.

3. Charlie Weis, Kansas:  No matter where Charlie Weis goes, he rolls in with the utmost confidence, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the team he is coaching will immediately turn around for the better.  Why wouldn't they?  Him bringing with him a decided schematic advantage and all.  But no matter where Charlie Weis goes, Charlie Weis fails.  The man takes irrational confidence to levels never before seen.  And there are some instances where I consider irrational confidence a good thing; an endearing trait, even.  But not when you mix it with smug.  Any man who publicly claims that the team he is about to begin coaching will have a "decided schematic advantage" has reached a self-satisfaction level well past what I'm able to tolerate.   And on top of all that, he sucks.  You can't be smug and terrible all at the same time.  That's not how it works.  That's not how any of this works!

2. Mike Locksley, New Mexico. Locksley managed to go an unfathomable 2-26 in less than three years with the Lobos, while also finding the time to get into a fist fight with an assistant coach, be the subject of an age and sex discrimination lawsuit from an athletics department staffer, and come under investigation for having a car registered to him impounded when the minor driving it was arrested for DWI. Some people really know how to multi-task.

1. Derek Dooley, Tennessee. The worst coach (15-21 overall; 4-19 in SEC play) in Tennessee's long, proud football history, Dooley managed to combine unprecedented losing with absurd press conferences where he discussed a football complex graphic that read "Opportunity is Nowhere", compared his team to the Nazis, and explained the growth patterns of bamboo. A renaissance man, Dooley managed to alienate his current players by playing favorites and failing to discipline malcontents like current Texas A&M tight end Cam Clear and former Colts wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, while also somehow finding the time to alienate high school recruits and coaches with a combination of condescension and broken promises. Currently serving as the wide receivers coach/assistant head coach for shower discipline for the perennially disappointing Dallas Cowboys, here's hoping we never see his like again.

Honorable Mention: Keith Gilbertson, Brad Scott, Joker Phillips, Ron English, among others.  Please do feel free to discuss the many others.