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2017 SEC Unit Rankings: Final Ballot

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Creating a Frankenstein’s monster of a power poll

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama
Anyone else know how to stop them?
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Over the past two months, we here at ATVS have rated every unit in the SEC. Because of our diligent efforts, we can now put together our voting patterns to come up with some rough estimate of how we think the SEC shakes out by quality.

I have taken the raw vote totals in all eight categories and ranked each team accordingly. We’ll also take a look how each of us voted on the teams, looking at their raw vote totals as well as how that would place them in each writer’s personal ballot.

Unlike the usual pieces, let’s go from worst to best so we can maintain the anticipation of who is number one. Just kidding, it’s Bama.

14. VANDERBILT (387 votes)

Poseur: 14th, 93 votes
Billy: 14th, 98 votes
Paul: 14th, 100 votes
Crissy: 14th, 96 votes

Poor Vandy. We took them out behind the woodshed. In an odd quirk of voting, I gave Vanderbilt their best showing in raw votes (lower numbers are better), but have them most distantly in last place to the penultimate squad. The Commodores ranked dead last in three categories and 13th in three more. Their only first division finish was in running backs, All of us ranked Vanderbilt last in at least two categories with Billy leading the way at four. They are a horribly outmatched team that will somehow find a way to win six games because life is funny that way.

13. MISSISSIPPI STATE (337 votes)

Poseur: 13th, 77 votes
Billy: 13th, 82 votes
Paul: 13th, 91 votes
Crissy: 13th, 87 votes

Another unanimous vote as far as ordinal rankings are concerned, but we start to see serious disagreement on their absolute quality. I have State in a virtual dead heat in 10th place (four schools separated by 3 votes) and Billy has them knocking on the door. Paul and Crissy, on the other hand, have State firmly nestled in last in the West. State only had one last place finish in the unit rankings (DB’s), but they lack any real positives. We rated them as having decent a LB corps and a superlative QB. Other than that, they were always fighting to stay out of the cellar. In another odd quirk of voting, I voted for them in 11th place five times. This is a below average team with one big bullet in the gun: Nick Fitzgerald. If you’re gonna be good at one thing, have a great quarterback. I think they are going to exceed our unit rankings’ vote in the standings.

12. KENTUCKY (304 votes)

Poseur: 10th, 74 votes
Billy: 11th, 76 votes
Paul: 12th, 76 votes
Crissy: 12th, 78 votes

The Wildcats are getting mild hype this year as a possible dark horse contender or a spoiler at the very least. We don’t see it in our unit rankings. We like their linebackers and their running backs, though RB is such a loaded position in the SEC. None of us believe in their quarterback play, and that’s usually the great equalizer. And for all the talk on how weak the East is, the teams they were dueling for this spot were a couple of West teams. I think the division may be stronger than we think.

11. ARKANSAS (297 votes)

Poseur: T-11th, 75 votes
Billy: T-9th, 73 votes
Paul: 11th, 74 points
Crissy: 11th, 75 points

Man, that’s eerie how closely we all voted Arkansas. We voted on eight different position groups, independent of one another, and somehow came to vote totals separated by just two. Billy is the big believer in the Hogs, relatively, thanks to his twin faith in their quarterback and offensive line. We agreed with him on the QB, but not the line. The Hogs get dragged down because their bad units are really bad (WR, DL, LB), but there is a lot to like about this team. This is another squad that very well could be greater than the sum of their parts. Literally.

10. OLE MISS (295 votes)

Poseur: T-11th, 75 votes
Billy: 12th, 79 votes
Paul: 10th, 73 votes
Crissy: T-9th, 68 votes

The total opposite of Arkansas. This is a squad on which we were all over the place. Ole Miss earned the top of our receiver rankings, and finished dead last in two categories (RB and LB). As you can see, there’s also a wide spread in how we voted on them with our biggest disagreement coming on the defensive line. The off-the-field issues make it seem a likely candidate for underperforming its ratings, so the complete antithesis of Arkansas thing keeps giving.

9. SOUTH CAROLINA (271 votes)

Poseur: 9th, 68 votes
Billy: 8th, 65 votes
Paul: 9th, 70 votes
Crissy: T-9th, 68 votes

Four units ranked in the double digits and four ranked within two votes of dead average. The Gamecocks have some issues (though I’m the only one who ever threw them a last place vote… for OL), but they don’t have a ton on the positive side of the ledger to cancel out the negatives. The highest they ranked in any category was fifth, and they only once received a top-four vote in any category (Me again… I voted them first at WR). I came into this exercise liking the Gamecock offense, but it didn’t score all that well thanks to its offensive line and running back corps. I reflexively hate their defense, but they did decently at every level. Nightmarish special teams play tanks their score and keeps them out of the middle class.

8. TENNESSEE (260 votes)

Poseur: 8th, 64 votes
Billy: T-9th, 73 votes
Paul: 7th, 62 votes
Crissy: 8th, 61 votes

Billy sure isn’t a fan of the Vols. By consensus, they ranked in the double digits just twice. He had them down there four times. They had two No. 4 consensus ranks and one No. 5 rank. Billy never had them higher than sixth, though he did it three times. The problem for the Vols is the things they scored really well in most likely won’t translate into wins: offensive line and special teams. Yes, those are incredibly valuable parts of the game, but you need playmakers to benefit from the holes opened by the line, and we don’t see them as having it. And kicking is great, but you need touchdowns not field goals. And they are good in those phases, not superlatively great.

7. MISSOURI (233 votes)

Poseur: T-6th, 58 votes
Billy: 7th, 59 votes
Paul: 6th, 58 votes
Crissy: 6th, 58 votes

Mizzou quietly did real well on everyone’s ballot, and ended up at almost precisely the same point. They don’t really have any great units, outside of their WR (on which Paul dissents), but they make up for it by not being bad at anything. That’s a tremendously undervalued thing: competence in all areas. The best way to be underrated is to be good at everything and excel at nothing while overrating teams tend to do one thing exceptionally well, so everyone ignores their multiple weaknesses. If you’re looking for the SEC East dark horse, I think it’s Mizzou. The absence of weakness is a strength.

6. FLORIDA (229 votes)

Poseur: T-6th, 58 votes
Billy: 5th, 47 votes
Paul: 8th, 65 votes
Crissy: 7th, 59 votes

God bless Paul. Paul consistently destroyed Florida in our rankings, countering our resident Gator fan, Billy. That’s a massive swing between two voters, as Billy’s ratings are of a divisional contender and Paul’s are of a team that will be fighting with the dregs of the division. They can’t both be right. Florida scores poorly nearly everywhere on offense and rates as a mediocre defense. The thing which saves the Gators is an epic special teams unit. They are going to need every hidden yard they can get. Notice how slight their lead over Mizzou is, and I have more faith in a team that does everything well than one team that excels in one area, especially when that area is the kicking game. Whatever happened to the Florida skill position player?

5. TEXAS A&M (210 votes)

Poseur: 4th, 47 votes
Billy: 6th, 57 votes
Paul: 5th, 49 votes
Crissy: 5th, 57 votes

Oops. I somehow voted A&M in the top four. The crazy thing about the Aggies is that they ranked 10th in three categories (QB, OL, LB) yet still was near the top of the conference. This is a team that hopes it’s incredible strengths (WR, DL, ST) cover for their large weaknesses. There’s a roadmap here for both a Cinderella success story and a Hindenburg-like disaster. The West is tightly packed this year, but no team represents the volatility of the division quite like A&M, who really could finish anywhere from first to last without raising too many eyebrows. I also find it fascinating that the production-based and talent-based voters both gave A&M huge scores, while our more holistic voters both jumped ship. There’s probably a lesson there.

4. GEORGIA (187 votes)

Poseur: 5th, 55 votes
Billy: 4th, 46 votes
Paul: 4th, 38 votes
Crissy: 4th, 48 votes

This makes more sense. The man who demands results (me) is skeptical of Georgia while our talent guru (Paul) positively loves them. Georgia ranks first in two different positional units (RB and LB), but the things they don’t do well? Man, they suck at it. The Dawgs finished dead last in special teams voting and did poorly in OL as well. I throw on some additional skepticism on their quarterback, who hasn’t delivered the goods yet. Paul, on the other hand, loves his talent and thinks Eason has already arrived, which rockets Georgia to the top of the rankings. If he’s right about that, then the Dawgs are going to be a monster. Even if they can’t return a kick.

3. LSU (134 votes)

Poseur: 3rd, 40 votes
Billy: 2nd, 34 votes
Paul: 3rd, 34 votes
Crissy: 2nd, 26 votes

Yup. It’s my fault. Crissy did her level best, giving LSU two first place votes, two second place votes, and a top four vote in seven of eight categories, but that was not enough to stop that famed font of negativity named Poseur. I was the only one to fail to give LSU a first place vote in any category, and I am out of step with the rest of the staff on our receiver corps. Prove it. That said, LSU finished top three in all three levels of the defense, without dissent on the individual ballots. They at least scored sixth or better in every offensive category. What holds LSU back, other than a little bit of offensive consistency is, shockingly, the special teams.

2. AUBURN (133 votes)

Poseur: 2nd, 34 votes
Billy: 3rd, 36 votes
Paul: 2nd, 28 votes
Crissy: 3rd, 35 votes

Damn it, Paul. He was always just about one vote higher than the rest of the staff on Auburn at every position group, and it added up. And check out that margin, Auburn took second place by one measly vote. Yeah, it’s all Paul’s fault. The things is, there’s really not a whole lot of weaknesses here. Auburn’s only below average finish was at receiver, and they could rocket up the ranks if their recruits pan out. The defense doesn’t project to be great, but it definitely can hold its own. The offense has the potential to be terrifying. When even the LSU blog is rating Auburn so highly, it’s time to stock up on canned goods. Or look for Admiral Ackbar.

1. ALABAMA (83 votes)

Poseur: 1st, 22 votes
Billy: 1st, 15 votes
Paul: 1st, 22 votes
Crissy: 1st, 24 votes

Billy and, to a lesser extent, I don’t see anyone within a mile of Bama. Paul has Bama with a decent lead over hard charging Auburn, but it’s still decisive. Only Crissy had it remotely close, and she had LSU in the second slot. Bama finished first in three categories (QB, OL, DL) and second in two more (LB, DB). Their worst finish was fifth at special teams. There’s nothing they don’t excel at, forget “do well”. It’s almost a team without weaknesses right now. Crissy and Paul see some vulnerability at the receiver position, and I’m not as in love with their linebacking corps as everyone else, but that’s it. And those are only relative weaknesses as in, they aren’t clearly the best at it. They won our poll by 50 points, which is a massive gap. Let’s say it again, the Death Star is fully operational.

Let’s go find an exhaust pipe.