Our weekly SEC Debate series among SDS staff members continues with a question concerning the perceived SEC favorite at this point of the season.


Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Auburn

There’s a major caveat to this answer in that it’s still early in the season. Most of these teams (cough alabamamississippistate cough) have played glorified preseasons. The Tigers, though, are the defending SEC champions. With apologies to Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn’s offensive system could be the best in the conference. Auburn has beaten the spread an astounding 13 consecutive games. We’ll know more Thursday night, but Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M each have played a lackluster game. Auburn hasn’t.

Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS): Mizzou

No one is going to pick Maty Mauk and the Tigers, so I will after learning my lesson on dismissing Gary Pinkel last fall. I’ve watched almost every snap during the defending East Division champions’ first three games and I’m convinced Mizzou is actually better on offense than it was last season. Marcus Murphy is one of college football’s — not just the SEC’s — most underrated players and Russell Hansbrough has the talent to become an elite back. Mauk’s early success as the full-time starter is well-documented but it’s the play of the Tigers’ front seven that has really impressed me. Shane Ray, Lucas Vincent and Markus Golden are statistical monsters and rarely miss tackles when given opportunity. Questions linger at the back end, but no SEC team is without flaws — at least thus far — in my opinion. Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team might be more talented, but the sample size is smaller and I need to see more.

Jon Cooper (@JonSDS): Auburn

The SEC doesn’t have one team that has truly passed the eye test in every area. The perception is the SEC is weaker than normal, but if you look around college football, there’s not one dominant team. Every team has flaws. I said it before the season, and I’ll say it again: Auburn has the conference’s best overall team with the best overall offensive weapon in play caller and coach Gus Malzahn. Until proven otherwise, I’m going with Auburn. The Tigers have shown they are dominant in the running game, and there’s enough to be excited about on defense with a unit that should gel as the season progress. Yes, I know there are better defenses and Texas A&M has the more explosive offense, but I’ll take Malzahn over Sumlin any day. The secondary is the biggest concern through two games, but the front seven played really well against Arkansas’ nasty running game in the second half. Now, navigating the brutal schedule is another topic entirely.

Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Texas A&M

Three weeks into a new college football season, Texas A&M has passed the eye test to the highest degree of any team in the SEC. Plenty of teams from throughout the conference have proven themselves to be national powers early in the year, but none have made that statement as loudly as the Aggies. Most people expected Texas A&M to take a big step backward following the departures of Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans to the NFL (all three were first round draft picks), but if anything, A&M actually looks like a more complete team this year than it was last year. Kenny Hill may not be the dynamic playmaker Manziel was at the quarterback position, but he runs Kevin Sumlin’s offense at a higher level, making the Aggies’ offense one of the most explosive in the nation. The SEC West will be a gauntlet over the coming weeks, with five of seven teams currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Many of those teams were expected to contend for a bid to the inaugural College Football Playoff, but A&M was not one of those teams. What the Aggies did on opening night in South Carolina put the nation on watch. What it has done the last two weeks has only furthered its case as a powerhouse program in the SEC. The eye tests tells me A&M is the conference’s best team through three weeks.

Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Texas A&M

With South Carolina defeating what seemed to be the best team in the SEC East, the Aggies season opening win seems all the more impressive. A&M has yet to be challenged thus far and looks more complete on both sides of the football. Kenny Hill has fared extremely well through three games and should continue to show progress moving forward. However, the verdict will truly be shown one the Aggies take on a tough SEC West schedule.

Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): Texas A&M

Their offense has been virtually unstoppable in the first three weeks of the season as Kenny Hill just keeps on rolling. Several of their skill players have been very explosive as well. Defensively, they may not be tops in the SEC, but with some budding stars in Myles Garrett and Armani Watts, along with a great supporting cast as well. We’ll see how they handle teams like Alabama and LSU down the line, but for now I think they have looked the best thus far.

Brett Weisband (@WeisbandSDS): Texas A&M

The Aggies already have the most impressive conference win in the SEC, and they’re the only team to blow out all three of their opponents. Even though they played a subpar game against Rice, they still won by four TDs. Kenny Hill piloting Kevin Sumlin’s offense is a thing of beauty, and their efficiency on offense has been outstanding. The only question is their defense, but they held South Carolina in check and have only allowed 13 points since.

Jordan Cox (@Jordan_Cox): Auburn

To me, Auburn has been the most complete team relative to who we thought they were in the preseason. We’ll know a lot more about them after Thursday night at Kansas State. Alabama fans and analysts are still calling for Jacob Coker to be the starter, when Blake Sims has clearly run the offense better, and Amari Cooper is the only real playmaker being targeted. Georgia has been a roller coaster. They were considered a contender in the East, but not better than South Carolina. They beat Clemson and rocket up everyone’s polls and then lose in Columbia. Texas A&M has surprised but has only played one quality opponent. The Auburn offense has not missed a beat from last season’s record-setting production and the defense is continuing to show improvement. Gus Malzahn and his staff week-by-week continue to show just how great of coaches they are.