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Tricks and treats of the SEC

The Daily Mississippian sports editor David Collier gives the biggest tricks (disappointments) and treats (surprises) from the SEC in the first nine weeks of the season.
Thomas Graning/The Daily Mississippian

 
Trick: Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee
 
At the beginning of the season, who would have thought Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee would be where they are today? 
 
Arkansas, despite the firing of head coach Bobby Petrino, had high hopes for 2012, and some in Fayetteville were even thinking of the national championship. Reality set in after being upset by Louisiana-Monroe and blown out at Texas A&M, and all of sudden the Razorbacks are sitting at 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.
 
As for Auburn, no one was expecting anything great from it, but no one saw the miserable season that is happening now. The Tigers, who were picked to finish fourth in the SEC West in the SEC preseason media poll, are 1-7 and 0-6 in SEC play, with their lone win over that same Louisiana-Monroe team that beat Arkansas. If things continue to spiral in a downward manner, it could be the end of the Gene Chizik era at Auburn.
 
Tennessee was thought to be the surprise team in the SEC this season, and, really, who could blame them? Derek Dooley was looking to take some heat off of him in Knoxville, and the Volunteer offense was to be led by quarterback Tyler Bray. However, things have not gone as hoped for Tennessee, which is currently 3-4 and 0-4 in league play.
 
Treat: Florida Gators
 
They weren’t expected to be a bad team by any means, but no one could’ve predicted when the year began that the Florida Gators would sit at No. 2 in the BCS rankings at any time in 2012. Yes, they lost to rival Georgia in last weekend’s “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” But really, who could have expected this from the Gators in year two under Will Muschamp? 
 
Trick: Zach Mettenberger 
 
Heading into 2012, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the LSU program with quarterback Zach Mettenberger taking over for Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the LSU offense hasn’t seen the upgrade for which it had hoped. Mettenberger is averaging 177.4 yards per game through the air and has thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions, while the Tiger offense ranks eighth in the SEC in scoring offense and 12th in passing offense. 
 
Treat: Hugh Freeze, Kevin Sumlin 
 
Hugh Freeze and Kevin Sumlin have certainly made big impacts in their first seasons in the SEC.
 
Freeze has led Ole Miss to a 5-3 start, 2-2 in SEC play, and is just one win away from gaining bowl eligibility. Freeze inherited a mess from his predecessor Houston Nutt, but he has put all of that on his shoulders and has his team playing with the heart and determination it takes to win in the SEC.
 
Sumlin has also had a lot of success in year one at Texas A&M that wasn’t expected. He went to the Aggies from Houston, where he was known for his offensive machine. It hasn’t taken long to get that offense going in College Station, due in large part to the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who leads the SEC in total offense, averaging 376.1 total yards per game.
 
Trick: Mississippi State’s 7-0 start
 
Dan Mullen and the faithful down in Starkville are about as optimistic as a fan base can be, especially after starting the season 7-0 before a 38-7 drubbing to No. 1 Alabama this past weekend. The Bulldogs got off to a hot start in year four under Mullen, and the excitement built and built, despite a rather lackluster schedule. 
 
The combined record of the seven teams that Mississippi State has defeated is 20-36, and the combined record of their opponents in their three SEC wins is 0-16. Now, the real test begins as they have to face Texas A&M, LSU (road), Arkansas and Ole Miss (road) to end the season.
 
So while it’s still possible that the Bulldogs could put together some more wins and increase their bowl résumé, don’t be fooled by that 7-0 start and pay closer attention to how they play the next couple of weeks.
 
Treat: Alabama-LSU part three
 
For SEC fans, who doesn’t want to watch Alabama and LSU go at it again?
 
Last year’s regular-season battle in Tuscaloosa was as good as it gets for a defensive juggernaut in the SEC. The Tigers handed the Crimson Tide its lone loss of the season in a 9-6 loss in overtime. Alabama then got its revenge in a rematch in the BCS National Championship game that saw Alabama dominate on both sides of the ball and walk out with a 21-0 win. 
 
Now, we get part three this weekend when the two teams battle it out on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Crimson Tide looks better than it did a year ago, sitting at No. 1 in the BCS rankings with an 8-0 record, 5-0 in the SEC. The Tigers are ranked No. 5 in the BCS with a 7-1 mark and a 3-1 record in the conference.