We take our weekly look at the offensive and defensive player of the year races in the SEC and also take our first look at the coach of the year race.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton: He’s going to be hard to beat if he keeps this up. The 6-6, 250-pound Newton has accounted for 21 touchdowns and is leading the SEC in rushing with 672 yards through six games.
2. Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: In reality, he doesn’t have a position, which is part of what makes him so good. Cobb has accounted for 13 touchdowns -- four receiving, three rushing, three passing and one on a punt return.
3. South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery: Nobody’s been able to cover him yet. The 6-4, 230-pound sophomore is averaging 125 receiving yards per game, which is nearly 45 yards more than the No. 2 guy listed among the SEC leaders.
4. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: He’s improved his completion percentage from a year ago (.693) and leads the SEC with 1,748 passing yards and 13 touchdown passes. He’s on track to throw 30 touchdowns for the second straight year.
5. Alabama running back Mark Ingram: Even though he missed the first two games while recovering from knee surgery, Ingram has come back strong to average 99 rushing yards and score six touchdowns. He’s been relatively quiet the last two games.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis: Coming off a dominant performance against Florida in which he had 4.5 tackles for loss, Nevis has been a nightmare to block all season. He leads all SEC interior linemen with 33 total tackles and is tied for second among all players in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (5).
2. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley: He’s running a close race with Nevis for that top spot and may eventually get it. Easily one of the most improved players in the league, Fairley leads the SEC in tackles for loss (12.5) and is tied with Nevis for second in sacks (5).
3. Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston: One of the best pass-rushers in the league, Houston leads the SEC with six sacks and has 10 solo tackles for loss, which is second only to Fairley.
4. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson: His greatest value is that he takes one whole side of the field away and can match up with anybody. Peterson has two interceptions. He’s also blocked a field goal and returned two punts for touchdowns.
5. Florida safety Ahmad Black: In a talented Florida secondary, Black has been the top playmaker. His 33 solo tackles rank him second in the SEC, and he also has three interceptions.
Coach of the Year
1. Auburn’s Gene Chizik: He has the Tigers 6-0, ranked in the Top 10, and they’re winning the close games, always a sign of good coaching.
2. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier: His play-calling against Alabama was circa 1996. He was a step ahead the entire game and kept the Crimson Tide’s attacking defense off balance.
3. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen: The Bulldogs are the most improved team at the midway point, and give Mullen props for hiring defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
4. Alabama’s Nick Saban: Prior to last weekend, the Crimson Tide were being hailed as the best team in the country and the most physical team. That’s despite missing nine defensive starters from a year ago.
5. LSU’s Les Miles: Yes, clock management nearly cost the Tigers against Tennessee. Again. And, yes, his own fans were ready to run him out of town. But the guy is fearless when it comes to making calls. His team plays hard, and the Tigers also happen to be unbeaten.