We have spent the summer rating each position group in the SEC which now allows me to make nearly certainly to be faulty conclusions based on our voting record. First off, for the ease and convenience of our readers, here’s how we voted plus links to each article.
Rankings by Unit
Now it is dangerous to simply total up the ordinal ranks at each position and declare that the team’s quality. But not all ranks are created the same, nor are all position groups. Just ask any LSU fan about the quarterback situation the past decade.
Also, we don’t vote on exactly the same criteria. Billy leans a bit more to raw talent and I lean more towards actual production. Neither way is right or wrong. In fact, it’s good to have a divergence of points of view, but it also means this is isn’t a strict talent rating of these teams.
Caveats aside, it does give us decent stratification for the teams, and we can make some snap judgments based on our unit breakdowns and how the SEC race will shake it. But first, here’s an easier chart to read with the results, breaking it down to simply offense and defense. Offense has four unit rating groups and the defense only three (leaving off special teams), so offenses will have a higher vote score average.
Let’s still a page from Bill C and deal with everyone in tiers, because the voting did sort of sort itself out into a few tiers. I also in parenthesis include the team’s preseason rank in the SEC media days poll, to see where consensus opinion has the team.
2018 Final Vote
Tier I: The Elite
Georgia (1E). Bama outpolled Georgia 193-69 in votes for the SEC title, but our unit rankings give the slight edge to Georgia. The big thing for the Dawgs was not having any units outside of the top 3 save their defensive line (6th) and receivers (5th). And the receivers could make a solid top 3 case. Often the secret to success is not your elite players but the absence of holes in your roster. Well, Georgia’s got both stars and well-rounded depth. Good luck, everyone.
Alabama (1W). This is a sign of weakness, by Bama standards. Last year, Bama showed no weakness save maybe special teams, finishing first in three categories and second in two more. They weren’t just the most talented team overall, they were the most talented team at nearly every level. That’s not the case this year. You can make a strong case that someone is better than them at each position group except maybe running back. That counts as a sea change. Still dominant, just not absurdly dominant.
Tier II: The Contenders
Missouri (4E). The big surprise of this exercise is how well Mizzou fared. The Tigers are buoyed by a terrific QB protected by an awesome line, throwing to elite receivers. That went a long way in the rankings. Not only do they have several elite units, it’s all on offense, and the running game should be strong as well. The defense could be awful, but they grade out as a better version of Ole Miss: all offense and no defense.
Mississippi St (3W). The Bulldogs rank near the top of the SEC in everything except their receiving corps ranked dead last and their linebackers were near the bottom. But they are good at everything else, showing that the window really is open for the Bulldogs. They even have the top ranked defensive line, and if you can’t create pressure up front, it can hide a lot of other problems.
South Carolina (2E). I’m buying the Gamecock hype. They don’t have a running back which could hamper them, but they do everything else well. Again, doing lots of things well and nothing poorly is a good blueprint for overall success. They need a magical day to beat Georgia I think, but they should be better than everyone else they play in conference.
Auburn (2W). Auburn grades out a lot like South Carolina only not as well, and with a lot more preseason hype. And boy, are they whistling past the graveyard when it comes to their offensive line. And heck, we didn’t really ding them for their running backs, which could be a huge question. Auburn looks solid everywhere except up front on offense, but elite nowhere except, well, up front on defense. It’s the tale of two lines.
LSU (5W). We actually had LSU and Auburn tied, but I’ll give Auburn the nudge for preseason standing. This is the inverse of the Missouri Tigers. Here, the offense rated, oddly, in 8th in every category, which is pretty much definitionally mediocre. But the defense? Oh my God, the defense could be terrifyingly awesome. This is the opposite plan of South Carolina and Auburn. Don’t be good at everything and excel at nothing. Instead, excel on one side of the ball and hope it covers up everything on the other side. It’s worked before.
Tier III: The Bowl Teams
Texas A&M (4W). I really don’t get what people see in Texas A&M this year. Yeah, they changed coaches, but it’s not like Kevin Sumlin was a tire fire. He was a solid coach who couldn’t get over the hump, but I don’t believe he was the thing holding the Aggies back. Nothing about this team excites me. I don’t see the playmakers, but I also don’t see it being a disaster either. They look anonymously decent.
Florida (3E). I’ll grant you the defensive line, but otherwise… where’s the beef? Maybe Jordan Scarlett comes back from injury as his former self, but that’s asking a lot. There is a lot of big names here, but precious little production. Maybe Dan Mullen lights a fire and they radically transform. It’s not impossible, but I don’t think it’s terribly likely. There’s more of a rebuild needed than Florida wants to admit. This wasn’t one down season.
Ole Miss (6W). I’ve been thinking of the Rebels as an easy mark, but they did pretty well in our poll. There were a few categories where they flirted with the basement, but by and large, they profiled as a good not great football team. Given the recent sanctions, that’s a huge positive. The offense could be legitimately great if they find a running game. If nothing else, this is a team that looks poised to upset someone and ruin their season. Hopefully Auburn’s.
Kentucky (5E). The Wildcats are in sort of a no man’s land between this group and the cellar, but I’m feeling nice. They can punch up in the higher weight class. That defense is flat out bad which will certainly present some problems for a team that will likely play ball-control on offense. This is as close to a one-man team as you can get.
Tier IV: The Dregs
Arkansas (7W). Did not finish in the top half of the conference in a single vote, though got close with the linebackers (8th). Other than that, it’s a straight line of double digit finishes. What does this team do well? It’s going to take some time to build something here.
Vanderbilt (7W). Vandy is an easy team to make fun of, and they did finish at or near the bottom in nearly every category, but they do have a decent offensive line, so that can limit some damage. The Commodores don’t have playmakers, but their goal is to limit the bad events rather than risk things to make good things happen. Keep it close and hope the other team screws up.
Tennessee (6W). Finishing behind Vandy is an embarrassment. I have no idea how it happened, but there you go. I can’t speak for Billy, but I have no particularly ill will to the Vols, so it’s not even fandom tanking the rankings. I suspect they are better than how we have ranked them, but this feels pretty close to rock bottom.