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SEC Power Rankings 1.4

A predictable precedence was set early in the SEC schedule as Georgia and Alabama seem to be on a collision course yet again

Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

What felt like a promising week of top-15 conference matchups dissolved quickly into a pair of laughers. Alabama and Georgia are the cream of the SEC, but where does everyone else fall this week?

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

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

Last Game: 30-28 win vs. UConn
Record: 2-3 (0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 14 (-)

Only the real sickos were watching this game, but, to everyone’s surprise, it turned out to be one of the better games of week five. Vandy and UConn are bottom of the barrel in the FBS, but matching them up against each other proved to be a treat to all who tuned in. This doesn’t change much for Vandy. They’re still far and away the worst team in the SEC, but they deserve happiness, too, and a last-second field goal by Joseph Bulovas provided exactly that. It all comes crashing back down to reality this week as the Commodores head to The Swamp to be gator bait.

Next Game: 10/9 @ 20 Florida

13. South Carolina Gamecocks

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

Last Game: 23-14 win vs. Troy
Record: 3-2 (0-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 13 (-)

Another week, another unimpressive win from South Carolina. Luke Doty is very inexperienced, but he played mostly well in this game. However, they struggle mightily to score. Only Vanderbilt is worse in the SEC in terms of scoring. South Carolina’s 23 points were just over their game average of 22.4 per game.

Defensively, South Carolina has been mostly good this year. They’ve allowed over 20 points just once, against Georgia, and can we even hold that against them? They’re the biggest reason the Gamecocks are hovering above .500 and not a one or two-win team. Surely they would appreciate some points in return from the offense.

South Carolina will head to Knoxville this week to take on a surging Tennessee squad coming off an emphatic win over Missouri.

Next Game: 10/9 @ Tennessee

12. Missouri Tigers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Tennessee at Missouri Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Game: 62-24 loss vs. Tennessee
Record: 2-3 (0-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (↓1)

Sheesh, Mizzou. This was, by far, the worst performance of the week. Losing by almost 40 against Tennessee is bad but at home? Have you no shame, Missouri? This is the worst rushing defense in the FBS, and Tennessee gashed them for 458 yards on the ground. FOUR FIFTY-EIGHT! They’re giving up 307 rushing yards per game now, the worst in the FBS by over 40 yards. Tennessee averaged 7.8 yards per carry, and to make it worse, Hendon Hooker averaged 11.8 through the air.

Offensively, Connor Bazelak struggled, but you can’t blame him for the spot the defense put him in. Having to try and force a lot down the field following an early 28-3 deficit, he didn’t find any level of consistency whatsoever. Another thing this defense affects is the ability of Missouri’s prime playmaker, Tyler Badie, to get the ball in his hands. Trailing like they were, they weren’t running a ton, and when they did, it wasn’t particularly effective.

A lot has to change defensively, but with how it’s been going, this overall feels like a lost year because of that side of the ball.

Next Game: 10/9 vs. North Texas

11. LSU Tigers

Syndication: The Daily Advertiser SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last Game: 24-19 loss vs. 22 Auburn
Record: 3-2 (1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (↓4)

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, LSU finds themselves back in the bottom five in the power rankings following a heartbreaking loss to Auburn in a game they led almost the whole way. LSU went into half leading 22nd ranked Auburn 13-10, and the defense was dominating Auburn’s offense off the ball. However, the defense was hung out to dry in the second half. LSU totaled just two third-quarter field goals in the second half, and despite the defense holding strong for most of the half, they gave up a touchdown on a 92-yard drive, and then a Max Johnson interception set Auburn up with a short field for the game-winning drive.

We are slowly but surely finding out who LSU is, and it’s not pretty. Max Johnson has solid numbers, but he has proven to be wildly inconsistent, and their lack of run game does nothing to help him. Kayshon Boutte is their most consistent player, and despite the offensive struggles, he still totaled 127 yards receiving and another touchdown. He is a special talent, amongst the best in the nation, and keeping LSU’s reputation as WRU well intact.

LSU once again struggled on the ground. Corey Kiner and Tyrion Davis-Price combined for 40 yards on five carries each, posting a pedestrian four yards per carry. They rank 13th in the SEC and 128th in the nation in rushing. Gone are the days of Leonard Fournette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Nearing the halfway point, we’re starting to get an idea of what each team’s identities are, so saying they should correct the run till you’re blue in the face just won’t be the answer. They’re going to live and die by the left arm of Max Johnson, and I just don’t know if he’s the guy you want at the helm of an air raid attack.

Next Game: 10/9 @ 16 Kentucky

10. Texas A&M Aggies

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 26-22 loss vs. Mississippi State
Record: 3-2 (0-2)
AP Top 25: Unranked (previously 15)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (↓4)

Oh, do things look bad in College Station. Ever since the injury to Haynes King, A&M has become an offensive disaster. Aside from a 34 point outburst against lowly New Mexico, the Aggies offense has scored 42 points in games against Colorado, Arkansas, and Mississippi State. You can pretty much see all of their struggles within the play of Zach Calzada. He has not been good since taking over, throwing four picks to just five touchdowns. His 5.2 adjusted yards per attempt is second-worst among starting QBs in the SEC; only Ken Seals at 4.7 is lower.

Defensively, A&M has a good unit that has shown to be susceptible to big plays at times. Their secondary was in for a long day against Mississippi State due to the air raid. If running the football was a religion, Mike Leach is an atheist. The secondary did a serviceable job, holding the explosive offense to just 26 points, so putting any blame on them for this abysmal stretch would be foolish.

A&M is doing the opposite of what they needed to be doing heading into Alabama, and they are staring three consecutive losses directly in the eyes. Until they get Haynes King back, and there’s still no definite timeline on his situation, they have a long road in front of them.

Next Game: 10/9 vs. 1 Alabama

9. Mississippi State Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 26-22 win @ Texas A&M
Record: 3-2 (1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (↑1)

Well well well...who saw this coming? Considering A&M’s offensive ineptitude, we all should have, but the Bulldogs went on the road and knocked off the 15th ranked team in the nation.

Mississippi State has all but abandoned the run, rushing just 11 times between Dillon Johnson and Jo’quavious Marks. However, this is the way Mike Leach likes it. It’s nothing new. From Graham Harrell to Gardner Minshew now to Will Rogers, he is going to ride the right arms of his QBs until the end.

This was a massive win for Mississippi State regardless of how over-ranked A&M may have been. Going into College Station is nothing to scoff at, and Will Rogers is settling in comfortably into Mike Leach’s air raid attack. His 14 touchdowns to just a pair of interceptions are about as ideal of a TD:INT ratio as you could want. Rogers has attempted 121 passes the past two games, and he leads the nation in pass attempts. He’s also completing over 75 percent of his throws which is remarkably efficient all things considered.

The Bulldogs get to enjoy this win as they have a bye this week before hosting the top-ranked Crimson Tide the week after.

Next Game: 10/16 vs. 1 Alabama

8. Tennessee Volunteers

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last Game: 62-24 win @ Missouri
Record: 3-2 (1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (↑1)

Tennessee beat Missouri on its home turf soundly, totaling 683 total yards of offense, 458 of those on the ground. Missouri has the nation’s worst rushing defense, and Tennessee’s backs ran through holes the size of small ponds. Tennessee had three players rush for 70-plus yards: Tiyon Evans, Hendon Hooker, and Len’Neth Whitehead. Evans ran for 156 and three touchdowns, including this 92 yarder early on to put the Vols up 21-3 early.

Hooker had a tremendous day, leaving no doubt whose offense this is. He threw for 225 yards on 19 attempts for a trio of touchdowns, good for 15.0 adjusted yards per attempt. Hooker added another 80 yards and a score on the ground, giving him over 300 total yards and four scores for the day. This offense looks vastly more comfortable with Hooker under center, and though they could only get that for a half against Florida, they put together a complete game of dominance here.

As for the defense, playing with such a huge lead allowed them to pin their ears back. They totaled a sack to go with eight tackles for loss and a handful of pressures. Things look up for the Vols. They get a great chance to keep the momentum rolling as they take on a struggling South Carolina squad this week before hosting Ole Miss.

Next Game: 10/9 vs. South Carolina

7. Florida Gators

NCAA Football: Florida at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 20-13 loss @ Kentucky
Record: 3-2 (1-2)
AP Top 25: 20 (↓10)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (↓3)

15 penalties, 115 yards. Florida’s first road test was an absolute catastrophe in every facet on offense. The defense held Will Levis to 87 yards passing and kept a powerful Wildcat ground attack under 150 yards. Allowing just 224 total yards should be a recipe for a win, but the Gator offense gave it all right back.

Emory Jones has been the favorite punching bag when Florida’s offense falters, but going from third-and-short to third-and-long due to false starts or holding calls is going to kill any drive for any team. That happened on three different occasions. That line made it so hard for Jones, who was already fighting against Dan Mullen’s play-calling, and that is simply unacceptable.

They host Vanderbilt next week, so they’ll be 4-2 heading to Death Valley to take on LSU. DEFCON-2 with the QB situation. Anthony Richardson needs more snaps.

Next Game: 10/6 vs. Vanderbilt

6. Auburn Tigers

NCAA Football: Auburn at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 24-19 win @ LSU
Record: 4-1 (1-0)
AP Top 25: 18 (↑4)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (↑2)

Going into Death Valley and emerging with a win no matter how hard they tried to lose the game is a huge deal for Auburn. Before Saturday, they had not won at Tiger Stadium since 1999, going 0-10 since. That being said, I still do not believe in this team whatsoever. Bo Nix made some insane, Bo Nix plays, but overall, he was still Bo Nix. He struggled to find any consistency through the air, but he did make this play.

This offense looked as uninspired as usual, and their streak of scoring less than 30 points against Power-5 teams stretches to six games.

Let’s say something nice about Auburn, I mean they did win the game. The defense is for real, their third-down efficiency is a shade under 35%, and they kept LSU right around there, only allowing them to convert six times on 17 third downs. LSU is not a good running team, and Auburn held them to 33 yards rushing. That being said, Auburn boasts a top 10 rushing defense in the country.

They also got after Max Johnson, sacking him three times and making the sophomore uncomfortable on multiple occasions. All in all, the defense will continue to keep them in games against teams not named Georgia or Alabama. The problem? They play them both this year.

Next Game: 10/9 vs. 2 Georgia

5. Kentucky Wildcats

NCAA Football: Florida at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 20-13 win vs. 10 Florida
Record: 5-0 (3-0)
AP Top 25: 16 (previously unranked)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (↑2)

It can’t be understated how massive this victory is for Kentucky. It doesn’t matter how ugly it was. The Wildcats were a touchdown underdog at home against Florida, and the crowd in Lexington was going crazy. 15 penalties were called on the Gators, many in large part to the crowd noise.

Kentucky’s defense was outstanding in this one. They didn’t give Emory Jones many easy throws, and they held the nation’s best rushing attack to under 200 yards for the first time all season. The emergence of this defense to go with a stout rushing attack has made for a great pairing. It’s the biggest reason this team is still unbeaten heading to the halfway point of the season.

As for Will Levis, the struggles continued. He completed just seven of his 17 attempts for a mere 87 yards. Wherever that passing attack was the first three games, it is a distant memory now. This didn’t stop Wan’Dale Robinson from being one of the top receivers in the nation though. Despite Levis’ struggles, Robinson still accounted for 75% of the receiving yards and scored another long touchdown, and this one was all him.

Robinson continues to be amongst the best and most exciting players in college football.

The Wildcats welcome LSU to Lexington next, a battle of opposites on offense as of late.

Next Game: 10/9 vs. LSU

4. Ole Miss Rebels

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 42-21 loss @ 1 Alabama
Record: 3-1 (0-1)
AP Top 25: 17 (↓5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-)

Got your popcorn ready? Okay, good. Ole Miss lied to us all. They were outmatched, out-coached, and outmanned, all things we knew they would be, but guilty as charged, we as a people bought into Lane Kiffin. We should have known better.

Alabama was up 28-0 at the half, and when Ole Miss’ high octane offense decided to wake up, it was far too late. Kiffin promised us Fast and Furious and we got Tokyo Drift. Don’t let the outcome fool you though, Ole Miss is still really good. They’re just not close to Alabama.

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 37-0 @ 2 Georgia
Record: 4-1 (1-1)
AP Top 25: 13 (↓5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (-)

Much like Ole Miss, Arkansas was entirely outmatched. This conference has so many fun matchups every week, but as we’ve certainly learned, they don’t involve Alabama and Georgia. There is such disparity between the 12 other teams in the SEC and Alabama and Georgia. We were told it was a down year in the conference when it’s just the top two programs have no level of competition except each other.

Arkansas is very good, and despite getting blanked here which is embarrassing, they have so much to play for this year. Sam Pittman has made amazing progress with this program, and the weapons this offense possesses make them one of the more fun teams in the nation.

1B. Georgia Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 37-0 win vs. 8 Arkansas
Record: 5-0 (3-0)
AP Top 25: 2 (-)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (↑1)

Georgia moves into a tie for first with Alabama in the power rankings and the reason why is simple. I honestly thought Arkansas, with how dominant they’ve been in the trenches, would give Georgia some problems early on. They didn’t. Arkansas has one of the best offensive lines in the country, and it never even mattered. Georgia has the best defense in the country by a HUGE margin. We are looking at, in this era of an air raid, spread offenses where it seems like a record is being broken once a week, one of the best defenses potentially ever.

Nakobe Dean has emerged as one of the nation’s premier defenders and a future first-rounder.

This defense overall is stacked with star-studded, future first- and second-rounders like Dean, Nolan Smith, Lewis Cine, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, etc. They’re loaded, and they are aggressive to the ball. Their pass rush is fantastic, and their run defense is among the best in the nation. They’re not just the only team on the level of Alabama, they’re about equals.

Next Game: 10/9 @ 18 Auburn

1A. Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game: 42-21 win vs. 12 Ole Miss
Record: 5-0 (2-0)
AP Top 25: 1 (-)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (-)

Alabama is good, confirmed. The Crimson Tide defense took Matt Corral’s Heisman hopes and crushed them into dust. This was never a game, hell, it was never even fun. This, much like the game, is going to be short and sweet. Bryce Young is winning the Heisman, and Alabama only has one parallel at this point, and that’s Georgia.

Next Game: 10/9 @ Texas A&M