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SEC Power Rankings 1.3

It’s a zoo in the SEC as the Hogs, Dawgs, and Gators headlined a great week of SEC matchups

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Arkansas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The first big week of SEC matchups brought some blowouts and thrillers, and once again Arkansas was the conference’s biggest winner. Let’s get to the rankings to see where your favorite team landed.

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 62-0 loss vs. Georgia
Record: 1-3 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 14 (-)

All I have to say is Vandy vs. UConn is integral viewing.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. UConn

13. South Carolina Gamecocks

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 16-10 loss vs. Kentucky
Record: 2-2 (0-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 13 (-)

Luke Doty got the starting nod for the Gamecocks, and he almost led a huge upset at home against Kentucky. South Carolina’s defense did a great job against Will Levis, as he had his worst game this season. However, they got run all over and couldn’t score points. That’s usually a pretty bad combination, and it proved to be just that.

Doty didn’t turn the ball over, but he didn’t really do much in this one. South Carolina struggled mightily on third down, converting just 3 of 12 opportunities, and fourth down wasn’t any kinder as they went 0-3. It’s hard to put any blame on Doty, however, because the only time they moved the ball was through the air. The Gamecocks have a very bad rushing attack, and this game evidenced that.

As a team, they ran the ball 26 times for 58 yards, good for 2.2 yards per carry. They had a single carry for 10 or more yards all game. It’s about as bad as it gets, and the stats back it up. South Carolina ranks 12th in the SEC in yards per carry (3.45), 11th in rushing yards per game (125.75), and dead last in rushing touchdowns with just one. Pairing this with a bottom-two passing game is as bad as it gets, and despite the defense performing very well across the board, it won’t be able to overcome its offensive ineptitude. Overall, it’s going to be a long year in Colombia.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. Troy

12. Tennessee Volunteers

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 38-14 loss @ 11 Florida
Record: 2-2 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (-)

It was a tale of two halves for the Vols. Tennessee hung tight with the Gators, in The Swamp no less, trailing by just three at half. Hendon Hooker played a superb first half of football, going 9-of-14 for 183 yards and two touchdowns including this beautiful 75-yard score to JaVonta Payton.

His 15.9 adjusted yards per attempt showed great efficiency and explosiveness as Tennessee had no trouble moving the ball against Florida. The Vols out-gained the Gators 261-213 in the first half as well.

Tennessee’s biggest issues in the first half were third down and penalties. They converted just once in five attempts, flushing away potential big drives, but they were hanging in there and outperforming a top-15 team in the country. However, what began to take the wind out of the sails of Tennessee was the final drive of the half. They put together a nice drive, overcoming a pair of false starts and getting within field goal range to tie the game, but Chase McGrath missed the kick, stalling the Vols’ momentum with it.

The Vols’ struggled to find footing offensively in the second half, and the Vols defense surrendered an opening drive touchdown to start the half. Tennessee’s subsequent drive stalled out following a turnover-on-downs, and sunk the ship. Heupel’s offense couldn’t maintain its momentum, and Hooker struggled mightily in the second half as they got shut out. Despite the offense getting blanked, it was far from the team’s biggest issue. That belongs to the Vols’ defense.

Tennessee’s defense ranks middle of the pack in passing yards per game and yards per attempt, but that’s largely because they’ve played Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech in two of four games. However, if you just single out Pitt and Florida, their stats against the pass are much closer to the bottom. They’ve allowed a combined 523 yards and six touchdowns in the two games as Kenny Pickett and Emory Jones (as well as a pair of trick play TDs on wide receiver passes) posed a vastly more formidable challenge than a MAC team and an in-state FCS school. Jones, who had struggled passing all season long, was as efficient as ever, as Tennessee struggled to even get pressure on him.

A lot has to change for Tennessee, and despite Hendon Hooker taking huge strides forward, the defense needs a lot of work. With winnable games coming up against South Carolina and Missouri, they have a chance to work out some kinks before facing a trio of formidable passing attacks in Ole Miss, Alabama, and Kentucky.

Next Game: 10/2 @ Missouri

11. Missouri Tigers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Missouri at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Game: 41/34 OT loss @ Boston College
Record: 2-2 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (↓1)

Much like Tennessee, Missouri’s achilles heel is its defense. Where Tennessee struggles against the pass, Mizzou can’t figure out the run. Boston College rushed for 275 yards and three scores at 5.6 yards a carry, gashing Missouri countless times. Boston College was on its backup quarterback, too, and despite knowing they’d be facing a run-first attack, Missouri still was outmatched. The Tigers defense ranks 129 out of 130 FBS schools in rushing yards per game, giving up over 269 yards every Saturday.

Their defense struggled against the pass as well, specifically on third down, allowing the Eagles to convert 10 of 16 third downs, multiple coming on downfield shots, gashing the Tiger secondary. Had Mizzou been able to get any stops whatsoever, they probably leave with a road win against a sneaky good Boston College team. Alas, that’s not what happened, and here we are, stuck talking about Missouri’s defensive woes instead of how good Tyler Badie is (oh yeah, he’s really good).

Missouri’s offense struggled to get big plays, but the ones they did came from Badie. This team desperately needs a spark, and it could be Ohio State transfer Mookie Cooper if they ever decide to get him prominent touches. Head coach Eli Drinkwitz stated this week at his weekly presser that he’s done Cooper a “disservice” bringing him back in such a limited role despite not fully being healed from a preseason foot injury.

Missouri is struggling on both sides of the ball. Offensively, to get explosive plays, and defensively, to stop them. We know Bazelak, Badie, and co. are more than capable, it’s just doing it consistently. The defense has some serious issues though, and aside from North Texas in two weeks, it’s SEC games from here on out. The gauntlet is set to begin, and Missouri could be in for a long October and November at this rate.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. Tennessee

10. Mississippi State Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 28-25 loss vs. LSU
Record: 2-2 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (↑1)

Mississippi State’s late game rally came up just short against LSU on Saturday. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot as often as the Bulldogs did and expect to be walking just fine. The mistakes piled up in the third quarter. After slowing down LSU’s offense enough to keep it a 7-3 game at half, LSU exploded for two long touchdowns against the Mississippi State secondary.

The first came off an RPO where the safety got pulled down to stop the run, leaving Emmanuel Forbes on an island with Kayshon Boutte. Forbes got left in the dust as Boutte scored from 64 yards out. The second came on completely blown coverage. There wasn’t a maroon jersey within 20 yards of Trey Palmer, and he walked in the rest of the way for a touchdown.

Will Rogers found Makai Polk wide open for a 29 yard touchdown as the third quarter wound down, closing the gap to 21-10 heading into the final 15. However, the plague that poisoned the defense in the third quarter continued to spread in the fourth.

This looked like it was taken straight out of Looney Tunes, and what makes it worse was that it came after a personal foul on Mississippi State on a punt. They went from getting the ball back with momentum to giving up seven, and though these would be LSU’s last points of the game, they were enough to hold off a late Bulldog comeback. While it was impressive seeing Mississippi State fight their way back, they couldn’t overcome their abundance of miscues. On a positive note, the Bulldogs cracked the century mark as a team on the ground for the first time all season!

Next Game: 10/2 @ 15 Texas A&M

9. Auburn Tigers

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser Jake Crandall via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last Game: 34-24 win vs. Georgia State
Record: 3-1
AP Top 25: 22 (↑1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (↓1)

If Auburn played an uglier game in this one, we would have to categorize it as a different sport entirely. Coming off a hard fought loss in Happy Valley, the Tigers had a chance to make a statement this week against an inferior opponent at home. However, the very opposite happened.

Auburn found themselves down 24-12, giving up 219 yards rushing in the first half and 142 of those to Tucker Gregg on just six carries. Offensively, Auburn ran the ball well as is the norm, but through the air they struggled. Bo Nix completed 11 of 22 attempts for 128 yards in the first half for a pedestrian 5.8 adjusted yards per attempt.

Auburn’s defense stepped up in a big way in the second half, pitching a shutout and keeping Auburn in this game. The special teams did as well, blocking a punt for a touchdown, cutting the lead to five.

Following the blocked punt touchdown, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin made the move to bring in backup quarterback TJ Finley to replace Bo Nix. It was a bold move, but one that needed to be made. Nix has struggled from the word go in his time at Auburn, and going 13/27 for 158 yards and no touchdowns while trailing a team from the Sun Belt appeared to have been the final straw. Though things did not immediately get better on the scoreboard with Finley in — Auburn went missed FG, punt, and then Tank Bigsby fumbled — they were moving the ball much better.

It all culminated in a 13 play, 98 yard drive with just over three minutes remaining in the game following a beautiful punt by Georgia State. Auburn totaled six plays of 10-plus yards on the drive, capping it off with an insane touchdown on fourth-and-9 from the 10 yard line.

Auburn’s defense would put a stamp on its tremendous second half, getting a pick-six with under 20 seconds left to seal the deal.

Wow. Auburn nearly dropped back to back games, and this one could’ve cratered the season. Big props to coach Harsin for making the switch because I don’t know if they win that game with Bo Nix. The offense has so much to clean up. This is a top 10 rushing offense in the country, but their passing attack is just dreadful. It ranks eleventh in the SEC in yards per attempt, and not having that to compliment a stout running game hurts them a lot. They should at least kick the tires on Finley and see how the LSU transfer does because Bo Nix has totally stagnated this program. We’ll see who gets the nod this week.

Next Game: 10/2 @ LSU

8. Kentucky Wildcats

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 16-10 win @ South Carolina
Record: 4-0 (2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (↓1)

If last week was “unfocused”, this week was just sloppy. Will Levis followed up his worst game of the season a week ago with another uninspiring outing, throwing another interception. Levis has now thrown a pick in each game this season. He tallied an abysmal 2.6 adjusted yards per attempt as a once explosive passing attack has dissolved completely before our eyes.

The ground attack as per usual was great as Chris Rodriguez Jr. crossed the century mark for the third time, rushing for 144 yards, and though he fumbled twice, Kentucky recovered both, but again...sloppy. Kavosiey Smoke scored the Wildcats’ lone touchdown on its opening drive of the game, running behind Kentucky’s big cats up front from 15 yards out.

Josh Ali added to the overall pungency of Kentucky’s offense, losing two fumbles on the wrong side of the 50. Thankfully for Kentucky, its stout defense held strong, forcing a pair of turnover-on-downs on each Gamecock drive following the fumbles, ultimately allowing the Wildcats to cling onto a win for dear life.

It’s a good thing Kentucky can run the ball because Will Levis’ wonderful start to the season feels like a distant memory after these last two weeks. They have gone from scoring 45 and 35 points in their first two games respectively, putting up over 500 yards of total offense in each game, to 28 and 16 points while hovering around 350 total yards in these most recent two games. Wan’Dale Robinson had been the lone remnant of consistency within the passing attack and even his numbers have tapered. They host tenth ranked Florida next week and will have to figure out its lockdown secondary. If they can find that passing attack they had the first two weeks, I still maintain hope for Kentucky’s chances of winning 8 or 9 games, but it doesn’t get any easier from here.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. 10 Florida

7. LSU Tigers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 LSU at Mississippi State Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Game: 28-25 win @ Mississippi State
Record: 3-1 (1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (↑1)

LSU moves up a pair of spots here, though it’s more to do with Auburn and Kentucky’s back to back poor showings. LSU did kick off its SEC schedule with a road win against Mississippi State, but they struggled to put together a full game, almost blowing it late.

Max Johnson is playing some really solid football right now, and this game was no different. His left arm was responsible for all four of LSU’s touchdowns, including this wide open score to Trey Palmer.

Three of Johnson’s four touchdowns were of 40 or more yards. That’s a lot of bad coverage. Kayshon Boutte was on the receiving end of two of the four scores, bringing his TD total to eight on the season, tied for first in the FBS.

Once again, though, LSU struggled to run the football. This game was a battle of the two worst rushing attacks in the SEC, and LSU certainly lived up to that. Tyrion Davis-Price, Corey Kiner, and Armoni Goodwin combined for 20 carries for 76 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Davis-Price had two carries of 10-plus yards in the first half. Those were the only plays on the ground to go for 10 or more yards all game long. LSU is now averaging 2.8 yards per carry as a team on the season. That is the second lowest mark of any team who plays a power-five schedule (Notre Dame at 2.3 is the lowest).

Defensively, LSU has been very good since its shellacking at the hands of UCLA. Though Will Rogers threw for 371 yards, it took 62 attempts to get there. Damone Clark took home SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors, racking up 15 tackles and a fumble recovery.

LSU staved off a late rally from Mississippi State, but there was a lot of upside shown here. The Bayou Bengals welcome a struggling Auburn squad to Death Valley this week in what should be a very interesting test for both squads. Their offenses are polar opposites of each other. Auburn thrives on the ground yet can’t move the ball through the air while LSU is essentially a full on air raid, abandoning the run almost altogether at times. LSU got run off the field at Jordan-Hare last year 48-11, and LSU transfer TJ Finley may be starting for Auburn, so Coach O is going to be out for some revenge.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. 22 Auburn

6. Texas A&M Aggies

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Southwest Classic - Texas A&M v Arkansas Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Game: 20-10 loss vs. Arkansas
Record: 3-1 (0-1)
AP Top 25: 15 (↓8)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (↓2)

It was a rough day for the Aggies in Arlington on Saturday. Finding themselves down 17-3 at halftime, their saving grace from a blowout was a third quarter injury to KJ Jefferson that sidelined the Arkansas QB for about the entire third quarter. Zach Calzada struggled mightily, throwing for 151 yards on 36 attempts and an interception. That’s a very poor 2.94 adjusted yards per attempt to go with a 29.9 QBR for anyone who’s counting. Calzada was also sacked three times as the Arkansas pass rush had him under duress all game.

A&M also struggled to get anything going on the ground aside from Isaiah Spiller’s 67 yard score. Aside from that score, Spiller and Devon Achane combined for 16 carries for 52 yards, just 3.3 yards per carry.

As for defense, a normally good A&M defense got gashed by Arkansas’ potent rushing attack, and KJ Jefferson tore up the secondary through the air. The Aggies gave up 197 yards on the ground and 246 through the air, totaling to 443 yards of total offense against a defense that had given up about 240 through the first three weeks. A&M did a great job on third down, too, as Arkansas went just 3-13. It couldn’t prevent big plays, and that was its downfall. A&M gave up eight plays of 10-plus yards in the first half, two of which were 85 and 48 yard touchdowns. Holding a team on third down holds a lot less weight when they’re moving down the field at will regardless.

This was an incredibly frustrating game. A 67 yard touchdown doing half the legwork of A&M’s second half total yards is obviously bad, but it’s even worse when a chance to get back in the game is followed by wasted opportunities to close out the game. A&M trailed by seven following the score and went punt, interception, punt, turnover-on-downs on its final four drives. Obviously missing Haynes King plays a part, but who knows when they’ll get him back. They have to find some level of consistency on offense with an upcoming meeting with Alabama in two weeks.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. Mississippi State

5. Florida Gators

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last Game: 38-14 win vs. Tennessee
Record: 3-1 (1-1)
AP Top 25: 10 (↑1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (↑1)

Coming off a heartbreaking loss against Alabama, Florida appeared to be in another tight one against Tennessee as the Gators led the Vols 17-14 at half. However, that was the start and end to the suspense as Emory Jones and Florida’s nation-best running attack rolled like thunder over Tennessee in the second half.

The Gators started the second half with a beautiful 78 yard drive, capped off by this double pass for a touchdown to go up 10.

Florida’s stout defense shut out the Vols in the second half, leaving no doubt in this one.

This was by far Emory Jones’ best game. He was efficient and explosive, going 21/27 for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added 144 yards on the ground and played his first turnover-free game of the season. Florida was once again without Anthony Richardson, so seeing Jones play with this level of confidence has to make any Gator fan feel good. Florida travels to Lexington to face a tough Kentucky team, so it won’t be easy this week. Florida’s defense will have to be up to the task against a strong running attack as they enter a touchdown favorite.

Next Game: 10/2 @ Kentucky

4. Ole Miss Rebels

NCAA Football: Tulane at Mississippi Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: BYE
Record: 3-0
AP Top 25: 12 (↑1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (↓1)

Ole Miss drops a spot this week on a bye, and that’s all on Arkansas being the biggest surprise in college football this year, but don’t let it fool you, Ole Miss is legit. They’re going to give Alabama a fight on Saturday despite being a two-touchdown underdog, and that’s all thanks to the offense.

Matt Corral is deservedly atop everyone’s Heisman watchlist, but his production is just the half of it for this offense. Ole Miss currently holds the nation’s fourth best rushing attack, coming in just south of 300 yards per game (298.7). They do it by committee as well. It could be Corral, Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner or ultra-talented sophomore Henry Parrish Jr.

A big thing to watch for is who will step up in Jonathan Mingo’s absence as the Rebels’ second leading receiver will be out “indefinitely” with a broken foot.

This team has a seemingly ubiquitous amount of options to attack a defense, and that’s just what Lane Kiffin wants. If Corral is the engine that runs the train, Kiffin is its conductor, and this is a big time revenge game for Kiffin. It’s well documented how Nick Saban’s teams perform against his former assistants. They are 0-23 against the legendary coach, but Kiffin, who came close a year ago in a 63-48 loss, looks to become the first, and, my god, just imagine it was him.

The Ole Miss defense is going to have to come to play and pick up a few big stops if Ole Miss has any hopes to win. This unit is much improved from last year, and they’ve gotten better each game this season. If there were ever a team not named Georgia to take down Goliath, Ole Miss just might be David.

Next Game: 10/2 @ Alabama

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Arkansas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 20-10 win vs. Texas A&M
Record: 4-0 (1-0)
AP Top 25: 8 (↑8)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (↑2)

Sam Pittman now governs all of Texas. If momentum were measurable, no one has more of it than the Hogs. Though they won by 10, it never even felt that close. They dominated Texas A&M in the trenches all game long, a continued theme that has been the identity of the Razorbacks. They boast a top 10 rushing offense in the FBS and are top 15 in total defense despite a pair of top 15 matchups, allowing just over 263 yards a game.

KJ Jefferson has become a great leader and an even better quarterback for this offense. Despite missing almost the entire third quarter, he had his best game passing, throwing for 212 yards on just 15 attempts for two long touchdowns, including this deep bomb to Treylon Burks, a player whose star is on the rise in his own right.

Defensively, Arkansas played as well as you could ask for, shutting down a depleted A&M offense. They had Zach Calzada in the proverbial padded cell all day, and with the exception of Spiller’s long TD run, they shut down the Aggies altogether.

Tre’ Williams shined for the Razorback defense, tallying two clutch sacks to halt A&M drives. They continually pushed Calzada out of the pocket, forcing tough throws and long third downs. Arkansas along with Ole Miss have made what seemed to be a “down” year in the SEC as tough as usual, and both have tough matchups against the blue bloods of the conference this week. Arkansas is currently 1-0 on the hell stretch of its schedule, but its toughest test of the season comes today as they head to Athens to take on second-ranked Georgia.

Next Game: 10/2 @ 2 Georgia

2. Georgia Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 62-0 win @ Vanderbilt
Record: 4-0 (2-0)
AP Top 25: 2 (-)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (-)

Georgia did exactly what we all expected them to do to Vanderbilt. It was essentially a tune-up game heading into their showdown against a surging eighth ranked Arkansas squad, but they may be in trouble at the quarterback position.

Stetson Bennett, who has been dealing with back issues, would be set to start, and he has looked good this year in his limited snaps, but they’ve been against UAB and Vanderbilt. Bennett has been QB2 to JT Daniels ever since Bennett’s struggles last season, so this could be a significant thing to keep an eye on.

Aside from that, Georgia is playing as well as anyone in the country. The Bulldog defense is the best in the country, giving up 181 yards per game, by far the lowest mark in the nation. More importantly for this game, however, is that Georgia also has a top five rush defense in the FBS, and they’ll be facing an Arkansas team who is within the top 10 in rushing offense. It’s going to be quite the matchup on Saturday as this can’t-miss inter-division matchup co-headlines the weekend for the SEC.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. 8 Arkansas

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Alabama Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 63-14 win vs. Southern Miss
Record: 4-0 (1-0)
AP Top 25: 1 (-)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (-)

Alabama took care of business in its tune-up game before welcoming an explosive and unbeaten twelfth-ranked Ole Miss squad into Tuscaloosa this weekend. As much pub as Matt Corral has gotten, Bryce Young has been just as good. Though he threw his first interception against Southern Miss, he continued his dominance this season, and he looks to carry that over into Alabama’s second top-15 matchup in three weeks.

The talented Crimson Tide defense will have its hands full as Ole Miss’ rushing and passing attacks are amongst the best in the country. This defense vs. Matt Corral will be as good of a matchup as any this week. This is their toughest matchup thus far this season.

Next Game: 10/2 vs. 12 Ole Miss