This was mostly a week of tune-up games, but there were a few big-time non-conference matchups and some big movers in this weeks power rankings.
Last Game: 24-21 win @ Colorado State
Last Week’s Ranking: 14 (-)
THE STREAK IS OVER! At long last, Vanderbilt’s 11 game, nearly two year losing streak, is over. A hard fought 24-21 win over Colorado State gave Clark Lea his first win as Vandy’s head coach.
For a lot of the first half, it was typical Vandy. They started with a pair of three-and-outs and crossed the 50 yard line just once prior to a Ken Seals to Chris Pierce Jr. 20 yard touchdown with 48 seconds left in the half. This cut Colorado State’s 14-0 lead in half, and the second half was all Commodores.
Tied at 21 with 21 seconds left, Vandy kicker Joseph Bulovas made the biggest kick of his life, and Vanderbilt defeated Colorado State.
The kick heard 'round the Rocky Mountains pic.twitter.com/LU5T2QDWBL— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) September 13, 2021
Obviously this doesn’t change much for Vandy within the SEC, but it was nice to see them get this massive boulder off their shoulder.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Stanford
Last Game: 20-17 win @ East Carolina
Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (↓1)
South Carolina is 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2017, but wins over FCS Eastern Illinois and a low-tier AAC team in East Carolina are not enough to really move them up in the list, and with Mississippi State’s performance against NC State, they actually move down here.
The Gamecocks defense got gashed early on a first play, 75 yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Tyler Snead to Jsi Hatfield. Yes you read that right. After two of the unluckiest turnovers of the year on back to back possessions, South Carolina trailed 14-0. The Gamecocks would pull it together enough in the second half with the help of some horrendous QB play from East Carolina’s Holton Ahlers.
Though South Carolina didn’t look that good in the second half, the Pirates’ miscues gave them more than enough chances to get back into the game and eventually win with a last-second field goal.
The Gamecocks offense totaled just 320 yards against a pretty mediocre defense. The aforementioned ECU QB Holton Ahlers was 11/24 for 77 yards and two interceptions. He posted a 3.9 QBR. And this was a three point, eek-it-out win for South Carolina. While a win is a win, this was as ugly of one as you’ll see. The Zeb Noland experience heads to Athens for a baptism against Georgia next week.
Next Game: 9/18 @ 2 Georgia
Last Game: 41-34 loss vs. Pitt
Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (↓3)
This one stings for the Vols.
Tennessee could have so much promise as a program, but they are hopelessly lost right now because of their quarterback play. Before he left the game due to injury, Joe Milton was not good. This has been the theme over the first two weeks, and really his entire career when he’s gotten a shot. Hendon Hooker stepped in and did a serviceable job and ran the ball very well, but passing-wise, he struggled too, including an interception with under five minutes left in the game that really wrapped this one up.
Both players struggle mightily with pocket presence despite both being very mobile, and it has proven to be a huge issue in both games this season. On top of that, the secondary struggled immensely in this game. Kenny Pickett sliced them up all day long to the tune of 285 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Every time Tennessee would have Pitt on the ropes, the secondary had no answer. QB play and the secondary are the two biggest areas in need of addressing if Tennessee wants to put together a respectable season in-conference.
Last Game: 24-10 win vs. NC State
Last Week’s Ranking: 13 (↑2)
This was an impressive win by Mike Leach’s squad, and it was led by the defense. NC State was stymied on the ground. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. both tallied 100-yard games last week. That duo combined for 16 carries and 50 yards and a fumble lost. A tremendous effort by Mississippi State.
The pass rush was on its game, too. They sacked Devin Leary four times with nine total pressures, forcing some really bad throws that somehow didn’t result in turnovers. This was a decisive, dominant performance by this Bulldog defense.
Offensively, it’s about what you expect from a Mike Leach team. This team flat out cannot run the football at all. Dillon Johnson and Jo’quavious Marks combined for 12 carries for 27 yards. Johnson did, however, excel in the passing attack, leading the team in receiving with 70 yards. There is no balance to this offense, and though Leach’s scheme historically has been like this, the SEC has defenses far and wide better than anything Leach has faced in the Big 12 and PAC 12. On a positive note, the pass protection was much improved from its poor performance a week ago, and Will Rogers looked pretty solid and played a mistake-free game. Up next is Memphis, so expect some points to be put up. This could be the classic Mike Leach game we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
Next Game: 9/18 @ Memphis
10. LSU Tigers
Last Game: 34-7 win vs. McNeese State
Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (-)
It’s McNeese State. No questions were answered, nothing really at all proven about this team, but they got a win. They play another nothing game this week against Central Michigan before they begin SEC play against Mississippi State. They didn’t move the needle, so they don’t move in the rankings.
Last Game: 35-28 loss @ Kentucky
Record: 1-1 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (↓1)
For a lot of the first half, it looked like Kentucky would run away with this game. Missouri was down 21-7, and Kentucky was driving inside the red zone with under two minutes to play. Chris Rodriguez Jr. had a potential touchdown that turned into a fumble on the goal line, giving Mizzou the ball still down 14. Connor Bazelak would then lead the Tigers down the field, 80 yards on nine plays in just over a minute, and connect with his big wideout, Keke Chism, cutting Kentucky’s lead in half.
A 14 point swing in a minute saved Missouri’s chances in this game, and though their comeback would come up short, it turned a possible blowout into a must-watch game in the second half.
Bazelak would throw an INT to start the second half, and Kentucky’s offense capitalized on it with a touchdown, and the Tigers were once again playing catch-up all second half. Mizzou’s success on third down was imperative to them staying in this game, and folks, Tyler Badie is for real. He led the team in rushing and receiving, proving to be Missouri’s own Swiss army knife. He’s a special talent that helped elevate Connor Bazelak and kept Mizzou in this and even tied it at 28. But that brings us to the last point.
This team’s achilles heel is its defense. They got run all over last week against Central Michigan, and it was their downfall this week. Chris Rodriguez Jr. totaled 206 rushing yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns including the game-deciding score. Kentucky as a team ran for 340 yards. This can’t happen in any conference, let alone in the SEC. There’s a lot to figure out there, and they have to in order to have any hope at being competitive.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Southeast Missouri State
Last Game: 62-0 win vs. Alabama State
AP Top 25: 22
Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (↓1)
If you exclude the context of strength of opponents, no one in the SEC, maybe even the country, has been better than Auburn.
Okay, now we drop back down to reality. Auburn has won their first two games a combined 122-10 against Akron and Alabama State. Make of this what you will, it doesn’t change anything about them to me. There’s some serious talent on this team. Tank Bigsby is a workhorse in the backfield, and though Bo Nix has struggled since coming to Auburn, he looks more comfortable under this scheme. Again, yes, against virtually no defenses. They head to Happy Valley for their first real game this year, and it will provide a true indicator as to what this team is really about.
Next Game: 9/18 @ Penn State
Last Game: 42-20 win @ USF
AP Top 25: 11
Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (↓2)
Florida falls two spots this week, and the QB controversy at about a DEFCON-3 right now. Anthony Richardson once again outplayed, pretty emphatically this week, Emory Jones, and once again Dan Mullen is saying there is no QB controversy. Sure, Dan.
Richardson is a stick of dynamite just waiting to explode every single play. His first pass in this game was a 75 yard touchdown to Jacob Copeland. His second pass was a 41 yard touchdown to Copeland. Richardson threw for more yards than Jones on just three passes. He tallied 267 yards on just seven touches that called his number for three total TDs. That’s insane.
Jones played pretty well in the first half but fell flat in the second. He had a pair of ugly interceptions on back to back possessions, and against a better team, those become costly.
The entire state of Florida collectively gasped when Richardson came up limp following an 80 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Dan Mullen confirmed on Wednesday that Richardson will be just fine and has been practicing all week.
Richardson currently ranks 10th in the nation in rushing yards on just 11 attempts. He’s a potential Heisman candidate if he gets the starting job for Florida, but most importantly, he gives them their best chance to win. Maybe this week proves that to Mullen as Florida hosts top ranked Alabama.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. 1 Alabama
Last Game: 40-21 vs. 21 Texas
AP Top 25: 20
Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (↑5)
Here they are. This week’s biggest climber in all their glory. Arkansas got their biggest win in forever, and folks, they are for real. It starts in the trenches for the Hogs. Their offensive line enforces their will, and their powerful rushing attack has established this team’s identity. Arkansas ran for 333 yards, and four different Razorbacks scored on the ground.
KJ Jefferson was nearly mistake-free, his lone mistake being a rather unlucky interception early in the second half. Otherwise, he played very well.
The star of this game was the Hogs’ defense. They dominated Texas up front from whistle to whistle, sacking Texas three times and shutting down the Longhorn running game. Texas ran the ball totaled 138 rushing yards on 3.4 yards per attempt. It was a statement win for Sam Pittman and Arkansas. Texas may want to reconsider this SEC move. Georgia Southern is next for the Razorbacks, but that game is followed by four consecutive ranked matchups, the first three all on the road.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Georgia Southern
Last Game: 10-7 win @ Colorado
AP Top 25: 7
Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (↓2)
Injuries plague Texas A&M this week as starting quarterback, Haynes King, suffered a fractured tibia and is done for the foreseeable future according to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Some are saying he may return around mid-October, but irregardless of his timetable, this is a major blow to a team with budding CFP aspirations.
Backup QB Zach Calzada came in and did not exactly set the world on fire, going 18/38 for 183 yards and a TD. A&M’s offense as a whole totaled just 288 total yards. This sets a really bad precedence for the coming weeks without Haynes King.
The biggest upside was the defense. We all know about this unit and how talented and aggressive they are, and they stepped up in a huge way when they needed to the most. King went down in the first quarter, and Colorado subsequently went up 7-0 shortly after. Those were the only points Colorado would score the rest of the way. The Aggies defense was consistently put in bad starting field position by its offense. A stop on fourth down inside the five, forcing long missed field goals, this defense did everything they could given the offense’s inability to create anything. Their effort finally paid off when Calzada found Isaiah Spiller for an 18 yard touchdown, avoiding a huge upset in Denver.
A&M has Arkansas coming up on the 25th and Alabama on October ninth. These aren’t games you want to be missing your leader on offense, but they obviously can’t control that. Calzada is going to need to step up in a big way.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. New Mexico
Last Game: 35-28 win vs. Missouri
Record: 2-0 (1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (↑2)
You can’t ask for a better start to SEC play if you’re Kentucky. The tone was set from the jump following a 64 yard run by Wan’Dale Robinson that led to a Chris Rodriguez Jr. touchdown run. The Wildcats ran wild on Missouri all night long, propelling them to victory despite blowing a two-touchdown lead.
Rodriguez totaled 206 yards and three scores on the ground while Will Levis went 11/18 for 179 yards, a touchdown and interception, making the offensive attack very balanced and explosive behind a very talented offensive line.
The weapons this team possesses are as good as you could ask for. Josh Ali and Chris Rodriguez Jr. are two key pieces that remain from a season ago on a team that struggled mightily on offense. Ali was the team’s leading receiver, and despite a quiet effort in this game, he’s already racked up a third of his receiving yards from a year ago in two games. Rodriguez was Kentucky’s best playmaker a year ago, and thus far, he already has a pair of 100 yard games this season, including this 206 yard outburst, and five total touchdowns. Both are finding it to be much easier this year on an offense that is exploding off the screen.
The transfer portal did wonders for the Wildcats. A pair of hometown guys, Will Levis and Wan’Dale Robinson, coming over from the Big Ten have found a spark together, and they have completely changed this offense. Both Ali and Robinson are in the top 30 in the FBS in yards per reception, and Robinson is in the top 20 for yards per game. Kentucky had a great line a year ago, and coupling that with how dynamic this offense is, Kentucky could be a fast riser here in a few weeks if they can pull an upset at home against Florida.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Chattanooga
Last Game: 54-17 win vs. Austin Peay
AP Top 25: 17
Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (↑1)
Ole Miss did what they were expected to do in their home opener, and they looked good doing it. Matt Corral racked up the touchdowns this week, throwing five along with 281 yards, as the Rebels rolled Austin Peay.
Things start to rev up now for Ole Miss as they welcome in a Tulane team that took Oklahoma to the wire before heading to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. We’re going to find out what this team is made of, but it looks really promising in Oxford.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Tulane
Last Game: 56-7 win vs. UAB
AP Top 25: 2
Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (-)
It was a decisive, in some ways perfect, performance by Georgia against UAB. JT Daniels was not active for this game due to injury, so Stetson Bennett stepped in, threw for 288 yards on 12 attempts and five touchdowns, and posted a perfect 100 QBR. This was supposed to be a dominant win, and Georgia ensured it was exactly that.
Georgia’s defense continues to impress. They’ve allowed 10 points and 354 total yards of offense in two games. That’s about as stingy as you can be.
The Dawgs welcome South Carolina to town for their first SEC game this season. We will have to wait and see who starts at quarterback with both Daniels and Bennett dealing with nagging injuries heading into Saturday.
Next Game: 9/18 vs. South Carolina
Last Game: 48-14 win vs. Mercer
AP Top 25: 1
Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (-)
This was a tune-up game for Alabama, nothing more. The best team in the country heads to The Swamp to take on Florida in a top-15 matchup. It will be the first big SEC test of Bryce Young’s early career.
Next Game: 9/18 @ 11 Florida