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An SEC Football Midyear Roundtable

A couple of our writers got together to banter about the SEC and how things have played out thus far.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Colorado State at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who has been the team that has impressed you the most?

Julian Mitchell: Definitely the LSU Tigers. I expected them to be a solid team this year, the best LSU team in years, but still show no indications that they could beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. Steve Ensminger has done wonders with this offense. If you brought someone to 2019 in a time machine from the Les Miles era or the beginning of the Orgeron era, they would think LSU’s offensive stats are a prank. They look like they can beat Bama.

Sean O’Leary: As most will say, it’s definitely LSU. They were a good team last year. They wiped the floor with the Georgia Bulldogs and beat Miami and the Auburn TIgers, who were all in the Top 10. Joe Burrow was good, but not great. He seemed like he was going to be a game manager type quarterback, which is better than what LSU has had in years past. Now, after bringing in Joe Brady to be the passing game coordinator, and in the second year of OC Steve Ensminger, Burrow looks like a Heisman contender and potential top ten pick. They are so explosive on offense with Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase breaking out. This offense, along with their star-studded defense, looks like it can finally contend with Alabama in the West.

Erik Mauro: LSU. They are in just the second year with the offensive coordinator, and they showed flashes offensively last year, but Joe Burrow and company have taken a massive step forward.

Guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson have completely broken out as receivers, and Burrow is a bonafide Heisman candidate. Last year, Burrow completed less than 60% of passes and threw just 16 TDs. This year he’s at 80% and 25 TDs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has added in nearly 500 yards on the ground and 7 TDs, averaging over 6 yards a carry. Take the multiple ways to score, and add in a defense with talent all over the place and this team is tough to beat.

Michael: LSU. We knew going into the season that this offense was going to be different, but holy smokes. They have a top 2 offense in the country, they’ve had success running and throwing the ball. Joe Burrow has been slinging it everywhere and the ability to move the ball at any pace has been impressive. But, as always, it won’t mean anything if they can’t beat Bama.

Who has been the team that has been the biggest disappointment to you?

Julian Mitchell: The Tennessee Volunteers. You just can’t drop BOTH of those first two games at home. The WR corps isn’t getting the attention they deserve because of the poor start.

Sean O’Leary: The Vanderbilt Commodores. Not that I expected them to be great in the first place, but I thought a team with Ke’Shawn Vaughn would at least be *watchable*. Nope, when you lose to UNLV, you aren’t watchable. This team is bad.

Erik M: I will say Tennessee, but the Texas A&M Aggies are a close second. You can’t lose to Georgia State at home, in year 2, with a returning starting quarterback. This program had a top 15 recruiting class, and there has not been a whole lot of signs that they are getting better. The jump doesn’t have to be huge, but a bowl game in year 2 is usually a good standard.

Michael M.: I’ve got to say the Mississippi State Bulldogs. I knew there would be regression this year, but losing to Kansas State and a miserable Tennessee team just ain’t it. They just didn’t show up against Auburn at all. Joe Moorhead’s offense hasn’t translated, even with the “perfect guy for his system”, Tommy Stevens. While I thought they’d regress, I didn’t think they could potentially go back to the Mississippi State of the mid 2000’s.

Who has been the team that has been the biggest surprise to you?

Julian Mitchell: This is a bit of a weird answer, but I’ll say Georgia in the Notre Dame and South Carolina games. Those offensive performances were both pretty disappointing. The Bulldog offensive line was touted as one of, if not the best group in the country going into the season. They can’t afford to be handled like that anymore if they want to make the CFP.

Sean O’Leary: I think it still has to be LSU. I didn’t see this offensive explosion coming, mostly because LSU has never had a fun offense since I started watching college football. I suppose another one would be Texas A&M. I understand that their schedule has been really tough, but I was expecting more than a 3-3 start, but then again, that might be on me.

Erik: This sounds weird, but it’s the Florida Gators. I know they made a New Years Six game last year, but I’m talking about the quarterback here mostly. Feleipe Franks got hurt in the first game of the year and will miss the season. Kyle Trask stepped in and has not missed a beat. The only loss the Gators have is to LSU, and there is no shame in that.

Michael M.: Vanderbilt. They just have been terrible. While the offense wasn’t expected to be a world-beater, Riley Neal really hasn’t been consistent. On defense, they can’t tackle which is a staple for all Derek Mason teams. It’s been disappointing and a surprise. I miss the Vanderbilt that would always be a tough out. But getting trounced by UNLV won’t be.

Who are your SEC Offensive/Defensive Players of the Year so far?

Julian Mitchell: Offense: Joe Burrow

Defense: Javon Kinlaw

Sean O’Leary: Offense: Joe Burrow

Defense: Derek Stingley Jr.

EM: Offense: Joe Burrow

Defense: Derrick Brown

Michael M: Offense: Jeaux Burreaux

Defense: Derrick Brown

Boldest prediction the rest of the way?

Julian Mitchell: LSU stays undefeated for the rest of the regular season.

Sean O’Leary: I was originally going to say LSU beating Alabama, but I’ll go another way and say that Florida wins the East. Kyle Trask really impressed me with his performance on the road in Death Valley.

Erik: I’m going to agree with Sean that Florida wins the East. Georgia losing really opens the door for the Gators. South Carolina plays Florida this week, and if Florida beats the Gamecocks this weekend, all that stands between them and the East title is the game against Georgia - and the Dawgs haven’t really looked impressive for most of the year.

Michael M: Missouri wins out. They get Florida at home, and honestly look like the most complete team in the East. I predict if they do win out, the SEC is going to try to put a lot of pressure on the NCAA to reverse their bowl ban.

What is your SEC Championship Game?

Julian Mitchell: LSU vs. Georgia. I think LSU finally gets over the Alabama hump this season because I think this is a suspect Crimson Tide defense compared to past years. Georgia will also pull themselves together off of the motivation from the South Carolina loss.

Sean O’Leary: I’ll stick with my bold prediction and say LSU and Florida. I legitimately think that LSU has a chance to be the number one team at some point this season, and Florida, as I said, impressed me in Death Valley. Georgia’s loss to South Carolina is troubling, and this might be a bit of an overreaction, but I’d love to see this rematch.

EM: Florida vs Alabama. Florida has a wide open path if they can get by Georgia, but for me, until an SEC teams beats Alabama again, it’s hard to bet against them. Speaking of bets, if I was a bettor, I would probably play Alabama over LSU by at least 10. Bryant-Denny at night? Nope, not gonna do it.

Michael M: LSU vs. Missouri. This is the year. This is finally the year LSU gets over the hump and beats Bama. The offense is amazing and the defense is good enough to make the plays required.