Rating the units

Rating the units

By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

 

Trying to put SEC football into objective terms, either before or during the season, is never easy, and may very well be impossible. Too many things can’t be measured or predicted, such as injuries or the effect of the ol’ college spirit.

 

But evaluators do what they can, and this is our attempt at giving you a numerical look-ahead to SEC football in 2012.

 

Via a process that first went to press eight years ago, TideFans/NARCAS expanded its rating system beyond the simple six-class system employed in the past. In all 14 SEC previews, you’ll notice eight unit divisions – quarterbacks (QB), running backs (RB), wide receivers and tight ends (WR), offensive line (OL), defensive line (DL), linebackers (LB), defensive backs (DB) and kickers, punters, return men and coverage units (ST, for special teams).

 

Prior to 2004, ratings were doled out to each team during the individual previews. The only way to compare teams was for the reader to manually swap back and forth between two separate reports. In the individual reports, ratings are assigned as follows: Excellent (Ex), Very Good (Vg), Average (Av), Fair (Fr) and Poor (Pr). It also bears mentioning that teams can have a great starter at a particular position, but if depth is poor behind that starter, the ranking for the unit as a whole can be affected. These are unit rankings, not rankings of individuals.

 

In this first comparison box, you’ll see the teams compared against each other within their respective divisions. The team with the highest score is ranked first. At the end of the report, we’ll summarize.

 

SEC EAST

 

QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST

  1. UGA USC UGA UT UGA UGA UGA UF
  2. UT VU MIZ UF UF UF UF MIZ
  3. MIZ UF UF MIZ USC MIZ MIZ UT
  4. USC MIZ USC USC VU USC UT UK
  5. UK UT UT UGA UK UT UK USC
  6. VU UK UK UK MIZ VU USC VU
  7. UF UGA VU VU UT UK VU UGA

     

SEC WEST

 

QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST

  1. ARK ARK TAM UA LSU UA UA LSU
  2. UA UA LSU LSU UA TAM MSU OM
  3. LSU LSU AU TAM AU LSU LSU AU
  4. MSU MSU UA MSU MSU ARK ARK ARK
  5. OM TAM ARK ARK ARK MSU AU UA
  6. AU AU MSU AU TAM AU OM MSU
  7. TAM OM OM OM OM OM TAM TAM

 

Summary

In this first graphic, a numerical value is assigned – seven points for first place in the division, six for second and so forth. Here’s each team’s point total after the first comparison:

 

SEC EAST

  1. Florida 42 points
  2. Georgia 40
  3. Missouri 38
  4. South Carolina 33
  5. Tennessee 32
  6. Kentucky 20
  7. Vanderbilt 19

 

SEC WEST

  1. Alabama 46 points

    (tie) LSU 46

  1. Arkansas 35
  2. Mississippi State 29
  3. Auburn 26

    (tie) Texas A&M 26

  1. Ole Miss 16

 

In the SEC East, there is a bit of a surprise in the rankings. First, Florida leads Georgia, thanks mostly to consistency. While Georgia ranked first in five of eight categories, the Bulldogs also came in last twice (running backs, special teams). Florida came in last just once (quarterback) and stayed relatively on Georgia’s heels the rest of the way. There’s also a mild surprise in South Carolina’s showing, coming in fourth well behind Missouri.

 

In the SEC West, the numbers support most prognosticators’ positions this preseason. Alabama and LSU are in a virtual dead heat, with Arkansas trailing. The biggest surprise among the rest of the SEC West teams is just how bad Ole Miss seems to be.

 

Moving on to the second graph, we compare all 14 SEC teams against one another. It’s not as simple as shuffling two sets of seven figures. Compared against the entire league, a team could be both fourth-best in its division and also fourth-best across the entire league when taken as a whole. Again, a summary follows this report.

 

TOTAL RANKINGS – LIST

QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST

  1. ARK ARK TAM UA UGA UGA UGA LSU
  2. UGA USC UGA LSU LSU UA UA OM
  3. UT UA MIZ UT UF UF MSU AU
  4. UA LSU LSU TAM UA TAM LSU ARK
  5. LSU VU AU UF AU LSU UF UF
  6. MIZ MSU UA MIZ USC ARK MIZ UA
  7. USC TAM UF MSU MSU MSU UT MIZ
  8. MSU UF ARK USC VU MIZ ARK UT
  9. UK MIZ USC ARK UK USC UK UK
  10. OM UT UT UGA ARK UT AU MSU
  11. VU AU MSU UK MIZ AU USC USC
  12. AU UK OM VU UT VU OM TAM
  13. UF UGA UK AU OM OM VU VU
  14. TAM OM VU OM TAM UK TAM UGA

 

TOTAL RANKINGS – POINTS

  1. LSU 93 points
  2. Alabama 92
  3. Georgia 76
  4. Arkansas 73
  5. Florida 71
  6. Missouri 64
  7. Mississippi State 61
  8. South Carolina 57

    (tie) Tennessee 57

  1. Auburn 50

    (tie) Texas A&M 50

  1. Kentucky 34
  2. Vanderbilt 32
  3. Ole Miss 30

Again, no surprises at the top of the conference. LSU pulls ahead of Alabama by 1 point thanks to re-sorting the field across both divisions. But Georgia coming coming in a whopping 16 points behind Alabama is a bit of a surprise.

 

The next-biggest surprise would be the position of Alabama’s two chief rivals, Auburn and Tennessee. Few people expect Auburn to contend for a division title this season, but the Tigers surely would like to finish higher than 10th in the SEC. Tennessee coming in tied for 8th with a South Carolina team that, on paper, figures to be a lot better than the Vols is also cause for pause.

 

To compare this list to previous seasons, we must first note that with the conference now at 14 teams, any point comparison is moot. The previous maximum points to win were 48 in the divisional comparison and 96 overall; those have grown to 56 and 112, respectively. As such, both LSU and Alabama break Florida’s all-time NARCAS record of 89 points, set in the 2009 preseason.

 

As for accuracy, the 2011 ratings were middle-of-the-road, historically. South Carolina and Georgia were flipped, as were Alabama and LSU. There weren’t any huge disappointments, but few surprises (unless one were to count Vanderbilt). Where the ratings most missed the mark was in rating LSU fourth among SEC teams (behind Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas), while the Tigers, of course, ended the year in the BCS Championship Game.

 

Two of the things that most affect this poll’s accuracy, on a historical basis, are the presence of weak units and poor unit balance. To wit, if all 14 SEC teams have strong running back corps, it’s possible to finish 14th yet still be strong at the position. Conversely, in a poor year for offensive linemen, a team could have a very weak line yet still grab 11 points for a second-place finish among its peers.

 

Taking a brief subjective look, this season appears to be a rather weak one for running backs and defensive line, while there appear to be an overabundance of strong, experienced wide receivers.

 

As always, take this research for what it really is – entertainment.

 

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