ATHENS, Ga. -- With No. 14 Georgia’s regular season at the halfway mark and the Bulldogs taking this weekend off, let’s take a look at the good and bad among their six remaining opponents:
1. Florida: Streaking Florida has been one of the biggest surprises in the SEC this season. After last weekend’s upset of defending conference champion LSU, the Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) catapulted to No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 and avoided a letdown at Vanderbilt.
In just his second season as the Gators’ coach, Will Muschamp seems to have the program back on the right track, thanks to a dominant defense that ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and 12th in total defense (284 yards per game).
The Gators will host South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) at The Swamp on Saturday, one week before they will face the Bulldogs in their annual showdown in Jacksonville, Fla.
2. Ole Miss: First-year coach Hugh Freeze has made Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2) a surprisingly relevant team in short order, after the program was in disarray at the end of the Houston Nutt era.
Mississippi entered Saturday's win over Auburn fourth in the SEC in total offense (439 ypg), fourth in rushing (213 ypg), fifth in passing (226 ypg) and eighth in scoring (31.3 ppg). The win was its first in an SEC game since beating Kentucky 42-35 on Oct. 2, 2010. In between, the Rebels lost 16 conference games.
Ole Miss actually played a decent game in losing 33-14 to Alabama and nearly picked off Texas A&M last weekend before falling 30-27. The win over the Tigers this weekend serves as confirmation that things are indeed moving in the right direction for Freeze's team.
3. Georgia Southern: The Eagles were ranked third in the FCS poll when they lost to the Citadel on a last-minute field goal in Week 2. Now ranked seventh, the Eagles (5-1, 4-1 SOCON) have recovered to move into a tie for first in the Southern Conference afgter defeating No. 4 Wofford 17-9.
Georgia Southern had entered the game averaging 437 yards rushing but was held in check by Wofford's defense. The Eagles will visit Athens in the Bulldogs' penultimate regular-season game.
1. Auburn: There is a reasonable argument to be made that Auburn is the worst team in the SEC this season. When was the last time that was the case?
The answer: 1980, when its 0-6 league mark tied with Vanderbilt for worst in the league. The last time it finished alone in last place was 1952.
Two seasons after winning the BCS championship with a dynamic Cam Newton-led offense, the Tigers entered Saturday's loss to Ole Miss ranked 117th nationally in scoring offense at 15.4 ppg. As hard as it might be to believe, considering how recently the Tigers won the national title, coach Gene Chizik has to be wondering whether he can survive if Auburn doesn’t turn things around in a hurry.
2. Kentucky: If any program in the league seems likely to steal the title as the SEC’s worst team away from Auburn, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats (1-5, 0-3) lost in overtime to Western Kentucky and followed with consecutive losses to Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State and, lastly, to a beleaguered Arkansas team on Saturday.
The good news for the Wildcats is that they actually led South Carolina at halftime and they kept things reasonably close against Mississippi State, which is 19th in this week’s AP poll.
This has hardly been a banner year for Kentucky football, however, as the Wildcats entered Saturday's loss ranked 13th in the SEC in both scoring offense (20.5 ppg) and scoring defense (30.2 ppg). That’s not a compelling indicator that sudden success is ahead.
3. Georgia Tech: Anytime a team axes one of its coordinators in the middle of the season, something is clearly going horribly wrong. Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson canned defensive coordinator Al Groh on Monday after Groh’s defense allowed an average of 46 points and 573 yards per game in its last three games -- all losses -- against Miami, Middle Tennessee and Clemson.
Tech (2-4, 1-3 ACC) has games remaining against five winning teams -- BYU (4-2), Maryland (3-2), North Carolina (4-2), Duke (5-1) and Georgia (5-1) -- in its last six games. That’s not a particularly promising sign for the Jackets, who are 4-9 dating to this point last season.
The Jackets continue to field a dominant rushing offense -- they are third nationally with 331 yards per game -- but the defense has been nothing short of putrid, and it doesn’t figure to get much better after switching coordinators at midseason.