Hit or Miss: Midseason review of the SEC

It’s near the midpoint of the college football season so it’s time to review what I got right and wrong in my preseason predictions as well as name some standouts and disappointments. Here’s the SEC.

… I had Kentucky‘s offensive line as a top position group, and they’ve been outstanding all season. Darrian Kinnard has one been one of the best in the country and it’s a big reason why the Wildcats are undefeated.

… I put Ed Orgeron on the hot seat, and at this point he’s on the hottest seat in the conference. That may not sound like a stretch now but at the beginning of the season just a year removed from a national title it sounded odd.

… I had Sam Pittman as my top up and coming coach, and he’s proven me right, getting Arkansas firmly in the AP Top 25.

… I had LSU defensive backs as the top position group in the conference and they’ve been very underwhelming so far, ranking 11th in the conference in passing yards allowed. Derek Stingley has been poor so far this season, with a PFF grade far below his last two seasons and now he’s hurt.

… I had Tank Bigsby as the top MVP candidate. He may not even be the best running back on his own team considering how strong Jarquez Hunter has been. Hunter has more rushing yards than Bigsby at this point.

… I had Arkansas going 4-8. The Razorbacks are going to finish around 8-4, and are one of the best offenses in the country. I definitely didn’t see that coming.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss – Despite the loss to Alabama, the Rebels QB has lit the world on fire this season, and is PFF’s top-graded quarterback in the conference. He’s not just getting it done with his arm though, as he’s also added eight scores on the ground. He’s the reason that Ole Miss has the top scoring offense in the conference.

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia — The centerpiece of the best defense in the country, Davis is unblockable. At 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, he is insanely quick for his size, eats up blockers, and is still disruptive as both a run defender and pass rusher. You need to double team him on every single play, and yet he still manages to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: RB Jarquez Hunter, Auburn — Few people would have imagined that Hunter would have more rushing yards than Tank Bigsby at this point of the season, yet here we are. He’s proven that he’s a big play threat, and is the No. 1 rusher in the country in terms of yards per attempt at 9.9. He’s a first down every time he touches the ball. He and Georgia TE Brock Bowers have been back and forth battling for this honor.

Defensive Freshman of the Year: CB Tyreek Chappell, Texas A&M — The cornerback has played more defensive snaps than any other freshman in the conference this season, and he’s played very well. While his coverage has been solid, it’s actually the run game where he excels, as he’s not afraid to step up to take on blockers and make tackles in space. He has 24 tackles already this season and is an integral part of the Aggies’ pass defense. Others get more attention but keep an eye on him.

Coach of the Year: Sam Pittman, Arkansas — There are a lot of strong candidates here, including Mike Stoops who has Kentucky off to a 6-0 start, Kirby Smart who has Georgia at No. 1 in the polls, and more. But Pittman has turned this Arkansas team into a force to be reckoned with. Yes, they’ve lost their last two games, but they’re still as feared as anyone outside of Georgia and Alabama at this point, and he’s established a culture and brand of football that is clearly working in Fayetteville.

Biggest Surprise: Arkansas — As I’ve already stated, this Razorbacks team has come out of nowhere to be a squad to be reckoned with in the conference. They play a unique brand of football, are as physical as anyone in the country, and are genuinely fun to watch.

Biggest Disappointment: LSU — The Tigers are currently 3-3 and sit dead last in the West, and the heat is turning up on Ed Orgeron. A Week 1 loss to UCLA where the Bruins were able to do whatever they wanted offensively against them was a sign of things to come, and they have already lost to both Auburn and Kentucky, two teams for which LSU clearly has more talent. And underwhelming performance all around.

Coach on the Hottest Seat: Ed Orgeron — With LSU underperforming the way that it is and certain scandals around the program coming to light, we may see a Gene Chizik situation occurring.

Draft Stock Up: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss — He started the season as a question mark who turned the ball over too much. Now he’s a surefire first-rounder and could end up No. 1 overall.

Draft Stock Down: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU — Stingley Jr. is still CB1 on most boards but he’s living off his freshman season and now that he’s hurt again he’s going to have to answer a ton of questions.

Unsung Hero: DE Josh Pascal, Kentucky — The Wildcats aren’t undefeated without their star on defense. The offense gets a lot of the attention but this guy makes huge play after huge play.

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