SEC Football Mid-Season Superlatives

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Cameron Newton, Auburn

What is there left to say about Cam Newton at this point? He's been a beast so far in 2010, tossing bombs like they're nothing and running over defenders to gain first downs. Newton has proved every one of his doubters wrong, showing great decision making and superb passing ability. Auburn has had some close calls, but Newton is a huge reason why the Tigers haven't fallen yet. He's also the reason why, a year after going 8-5, Auburn is in the thick of the national title race midway through 2010.

Also considered: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas; Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Drake Nevis, LSU

There are so many good players to choose from in this category, you could make a case for someone on almost any team. However, I'm going with Nevis, who has been selected SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week three times in his seven games. He's third in the league in tackles for loss, second in sacks, and has forced two fumbles, but that's coming from the defensive tackle position. He's not a speed edge rusher getting all those stops; he's pushing offensive linemen over or otherwise out of his way and getting the job done.

Again though, we've seen a lot of great defensive play from all over. This was a really tough call.

Also considered: Nick Fairley, Auburn; Patrick Peterson, LSU; Justin Houston, Georgia; Ahmad Black, Florida

COACH OF THE MID-SEASON: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Raise your hand if you had these Bulldogs starting 5-2. Yeah, that's what I thought. Perhaps we should have seen it coming, given the propensity for Mullen's former boss to get a big boost in Year 2 of his coaching stops. In any event, Mullen made the hire of the off season in getting Manny Diaz to run the defense, as five of MSU's seven opponents had their lowest or second lowest scoring output of the year versus the Bulldogs. Mullen found a replacement for Anthony Dixon in Vick Ballard, and his offense is again one of the best in the league in rushing.

Mississippi State is a game away from bowl eligibility, is ranked for the first time in almost ten years, and has scored more than 40 points three times already. For a team that was little short of moribund two seasons ago, that's exceptional.

Also considered: Gene Chizik, Auburn; Les Miles, LSU

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Nick Fairley, Auburn

Where did this guy come from? Prior to his remarkable game against Mississippi State, almost no one had heard of him. Now? Oh, he only leads the league in tackles for loss at 13.5 and is getting a shade under two of them per game. He's slightly behind Nevis in the sacks and forced fumbles department, but that doesn't take away anything from how well he's played this season. Auburn's defense is 11th in the league against the pass, but it's third against the run thanks largely to Fairley's work inside.

Also considered: Vick Ballard, Mississippi State; Morris Claiborne, LSU; Stevan Ridley, LSU

BEST FRESHMAN: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

The SEC East finally gets on the board with the Gamecocks' outstanding running back. Lattimore has been everything he was advertised to be and more, helping to revive South Carolina's dormant running game. He's also a pretty good option catching passes out of the backfield. Perhaps even more so than his great performances against Georgia and Alabama, what happens when he's not there proves his value. South Carolina's collapse in the second half against Auburn saw him carry the ball only four times, and the offense fell apart against Kentucky when he went out hurt. Everyone is already looking forward to 2013 when Lattimore will be off punishing tacklers in the NFL for a change.

Also considered: Aaron Murray, Georgia; Trey Burton, Florida

BIGGEST STORYLINE: The Collapse of the East

The best record anyone in the East division has right now is South Carolina's 4-2 mark. Tennessee is 0-3 but not mathematically eliminated yet. Vanderbilt controls its own destiny seven weeks into the season. It's been a rough year for what has been the tougher of the two halves of the conference more often than not. The East has only two wins over the West so far, one of which came against the West's cellar dweller Ole Miss.

Division favorite Florida is on the verge of an outright collapse, having lost three straight. South Carolina could have taken firm control after its upset of Alabama, but the Gamecocks blew an 18-point lead to give Kentucky its first conference win. Georgia struggled mightily without A.J. Green and dropped four straight, somehow even losing to a Colorado team that just lost at home to Baylor. Vanderbilt is still largely Vanderbilt, and Tennessee is finding out what life is like with 75% of a full roster where everyone is either of first string or third string quality.

Everyone thought the East would be behind the West this season. No one figured it would be this bad.

Also considered: The Fall of Divisional Favorites Alabama and Florida; Les Miles's Late Game Madness; Auburn's Resurgence

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