Posted: 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
The Gators had a pretty good opening month. The defense has a strong case for being one of the best in the country. It's easily the best in the SEC in alotofstatisticalcategories. The offense did improve some over last year, though not by leaps and bounds, and it's actually running more smoothly (so far) with backup QB Tyler Murphy. If not for a deluge of turnovers in Miami, the team would be sitting in great shape at 4-0. Instead, a team that was never going undefeated is 3-1. The utter and complete red zone dysfunction at Miami—plus a lot of mistakes against Tennessee that would've hurt against someone better—earn this team lower than an A, but it's not too far off from where it aimed to be.
Oh, what could have been. If the Bulldogs had just managed to pull out that game against Clemson, this would be a top five team with serious national title chances. Instead, it's a top six team with serious national title chances. The defense is and will remain the big question, but the offense has shown an ability to put up points on just about anyone. If that side of the ball can gel and get any degree better between now and November, then 12-1 and a BCS title game berth is definitely on the table. If not, then it's probably going to be Sugar Bowl-bound. Not a bad consolation prize.
Lost to Western Kentucky, a team that Tennessee blew out. Kind of hung in there with Louisville, though late scores make the final look a bit closer than it was. Would have been shut out by Florida if not for a fake field goal. At least the Wildcats beat Miami (OH), though it's a truly terrible team. It's hard to find a lot of positives from UK's season so far. Everyone thought this would be the SEC's worst team, and it hasn't done a thing to change that notion.
Quick: name the four SEC teams that have scored at least 35 points in every game. Texas A&M;, Georgia, LSU, and… Missouri. The Tigers have played three cupcakes and Indiana, so no one has really paid much attention to them so far. Let me catch you up some. James Franklin is fully recovered from the injuries he battle through last year, and he's looking like his old self. He and three running backs make for four good running threats, as they're all averaging over five yards per carry. Dorial Green-Beckham and a pair of seniors are making a dangerous receiving trio. The defense hasn't been tested greatly, though it looks decent enough. MU hasn't been getting off to a good start in all of its games, but if it can do that, it'll be looking good for conference play.
South Carolina: B
The best game this team played was its first one against North Carolina, though it doesn't look as great now with UNC appearing to be pretty bad. Then again, it might be the game against Vandy. A couple of late scores made the margin closer than the game was, but the offense clicked and the defense did its job most of the way. The team just couldn't keep up with Georgia, though, and its win against UCF was about as uneven as a football game gets. It's definitely a flawed team; its offense can't be fluid for more than a couple drives in a row and its defense can't lock an opponent down for too much longer. Even with the flaws, it's still pretty good. You can't say that about most flawed South Carolina teams.
C is the grade that signifies average. Tennessee can handle bad teams but it can't handle good teams. That sounds like a C team to me. Justin Worley is not going to cut it at quarterback, but there's no one else really to turn to. The defense might not be the disaster it was last year, but it's not going to win them games either. The Vols have actually gained the most turnovers in the league, but they've lost the most too. This team is a rebuilding project through and through, just as we all thought.
It's kind of the same story with the other team from Tennessee. Cupcakes? No problem. Well, mostly no problem in UT's case. But good teams? Problem. South Carolina handled this team better than the 35-25 final would have you believe. It's unfortunate that VU lost the opening shootout to Ole Miss, the second straight time the Commodores started the season with a heartbreaking loss. It could have helped the team establish itself in the pecking order of the middle of the SEC. The boost in grade over UT is for nearly beating Ole Miss and for handling all baked goods well, but I can't give it much more than that.
See also: September grades for the West.