Week one is in the books which means it’s time for the weekly power rankings! The SEC got off to a dominant start in the inaugural week of the season with a pair of high profile, top 15 wins by the SEC’s elite with some stellar performances across the board. Let’s see how this extremely early edition of the power rankings shakes down.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores
Week One: 23-3 loss vs. ETSU
The antithesis of Alabama, the three-touchdown favorite Commodores got smacked around at home by East Tennessee State, 23-3. ETSU, a fringe top-25 FCS program, embarrassed Clark Lea and Vandy in his coaching debut, forcing three turnovers, one of which you have to see to believe.
I regret to inform you that Vanderbilt has Vanderbilted here in the fourth quarter. ETSU scoops and takes it to the house.— Simon Gibbs (@SimonGibbs26) September 5, 2021
Oh. My. Goodness. pic.twitter.com/62eIn52s8V
Nothing has gone right for Vandy in what feels like years. And that’s because it’s been years. This is their eleventh loss in a row, they didn’t win a game last year, and their last win? It was against East Tennessee State in 2019. Clark Lea, I don’t think you’re in South Bend anymore.
Next Game: 9/11 @ Colorado State
13. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week One: 35-34 win vs. Louisiana Tech
Coming off a very disappointing 4-7 season a year ago, it looked like a lot of the same for most of this game for Mike Leach and the Bulldogs. After going up 14-0 early in the first quarter, Louisiana Tech stormed back with 34 unanswered points, leading 34-14 heading a few minutes into the fourth. All of a sudden, a switch flipped, and back came Mississippi State. They scored 21 consecutive points, including a late, game-winning touchdown pass from Will Rogers to Jaden Walley.
Perhaps 13 is a bit lower than Mississippi State should be, but their defense got gashed multiple times for big play touchdowns, and their pass protection is atrocious. This offense had multiple glimpses of breaking out, and it was immediately shut down by several pressures and a trio of sacks. Tech was predominantly sending three or four pass rushers all game, too. Rogers’ pick-six late in the third was a direct result of poor pass pro against a four man rush. It was as basic as it got, yet they struggled. We all know what a Mike Leach offense can do, but its achilles all year is going to be protecting Will Rogers.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. NC State
12. South Carolina Gamecocks
Week One: 46-0 win vs. Eastern Illinois
This game happened, that’s really about it. Eastern Illinois bad to the point where graduate assistant Zeb Noland was thrust into the starting quarterback spot last second and casually threw four touchdowns. ESU totaled just 109 yards. It felt like a scrimmage. I still don’t really know what South Carolina is going to show, but we’re going to find out soon. They’ll hit the road for two straight weeks, first to East Carolina before heading to Athens to take on Georgia.
Next Game: 9/11 @ East Carolina
11. Arkansas Razorbacks
Week One: 38-17 win vs. Rice
This game was much closer than 38-17 would lead you to believe. Arkansas blanked Rice in the fourth and scored three touchdowns to pull away, but this was a close game up until then. The Hogs defense really stepped up late, intercepting Wiley Green twice in the fourth quarter, both setting up touchdowns. It looked iffy early, but they got the job done late when they needed it most.
It was good to see KJ Jefferson really settle down in the second half. He’s an explosive, dynamic quarterback, and a lot of Arkansas’ success this year will hinge on his decision making through the air. He struggled with location and he tried to force a few throws that weren’t there in the first half, especially the sideline interception. If he can find some consistency passing, take what the defense gives him, and doesn’t try to make the big play every play, this offense could really take off, and they’ll get out of this 12 hole. Up next is soon-to-be SEC rival Texas. This is a team that I really like and they have all the ingredients needed to really take a big step forward, the SEC is just a gauntlet that I don’t know if they can withstand.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. 21 Texas
10. LSU Tigers
Week One: 38-27 loss @ UCLA
LSU’s trip to the Rose Bowl was a disaster. The offense, uninspired. The rushing attack, nonexistent. Somehow, however, those weren’t the worst of LSU’s problems. Through the air, Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 9 of his 16 attempts for 260 yards and three touchdowns. That’s over 16 yards per attempt...yikes. On the ground, Zach Charbonnet rushed for 117 yards at 10.6 yards a carry. Chunk play after chunk play squashed any chance LSU had at getting back into this game as UCLA never relinquished its lead from the second quarter on.
Pretty much the entire offseason, LSU was viewed as an enigma. No one knew what to expect from them coming off a .500 season in 2020 because of all the talent on the roster and the success the program had in its historic 2019 championship season, but they’ve now lost back to back season openers and have gone from the 16th ranked team in the nation to unranked altogether. There are some serious problems that LSU did not answer from a year ago, mainly the defense. If these aren’t addressed by the time SEC play kicks off, this could be a very long year for the Bayeux Bengals.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. McNeese State
9. Tennessee Volunteers
Week One: 38-6 win vs. Bowling Green
Following an incredible tenure at UCF, Josh Heupel is at Tennessee and things are looking up after week one’s rout of Bowling Green. Michigan transfer Joe Milton III brought a spark to the ground game for the Vols along with two 100 yard rushing performances by Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small.
The issue, however, is that Milton throwing the ball was, at best, less than desirable. Bowling Green is one of the worst teams in college football, and Milton struggled to air the ball out against them, an issue he also had at Michigan in his sparse playing time there. This team has a lot of potential, and the ground attack is dynamic, but if the struggles through the air continue, Milton could be holding this team back. Milton and Tennessee will face their first real challenge this weekend as they take on Pitt.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Pitt
8. Missouri Tigers
Week One: 34-24 win vs. Central Michigan
The rushing attack was in full effect for Mizzou, carrying them to victory against Central Michigan. Tyler Badie racked up 203 yards on the ground and another 40 through the air, scoring twice and leading the charge. Connor Bazelak looked serviceable throwing the ball, and though it was a three point game at half and a one possession game deep into the fourth, Missouri felt in control throughout.
I want to highlight Missouri’s defense. Their run defense was not great, getting gashed multiple times, and that’s really what kept Central Michigan in this game, but the pass defense and pass rush were stellar. They totaled nine sacks on the day to go along with a pair of picks, completely neutralizing the Chippewas’ passing attack. Rice transfer Blaze Alldredge tallied six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks to lead the defense. There’s a lot of optimism surrounding this team, but this week will be its first big test as they travel to Lexington to take on a surging Kentucky squad.
Next Game: 9/11 @ Kentucky
7. Auburn Tigers
Week One: 60-10 win vs. Akron
Similar to South Carolina, this game is not a needle mover at all. Akron is now 1-18 since the start of 2019 and are probably the worst team in the FBS. Auburn with Bo Nix under center have failed to move the needle for the past two seasons. It reminds me of the old fool me once saying, and I won’t be fooled again by Nix or Auburn. However, Auburn is freshly into the latest AP Top 25 rankings at 25, so clearly many have bought in at least a bit.
The biggest question from last year to now was the defense. Yes they looked good against Akron, but the SEC was a firework factory of big time offenses last year, and they all feasted on Auburn. This team doesn’t move me much at all, but with Harsin running the operations now, maybe they can turn a corner, and the matchup at Happy Valley against Penn State in two weeks will dictate their season trajectory.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Alabama State
6. Kentucky Wildcats
Week One: 45-10 win vs. UL-Monroe
Kentucky looked dominant against the woeful Louisiana-Monroe, and given how many questions they had surrounding the offense and how Penn State transfer and hometown boy Will Levis would do leading the team, they got off to a great start. Levis looked great, throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and Josh Ali and Wan’Dale Robinson look like studs on the outside. Robinson, who is from Kentucky, was a key transfer from Nebraska, and adding him along with Levis will look to reap huge benefits for 2020s worst SEC passing offense.
Started the season with a victory to build on.— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 4, 2021
Kentucky 45, ULM 10. #ForTheTeam pic.twitter.com/bCY5HA1acL
I so badly wanted to put Kentucky at five, but UL-Monroe, like Akron and Bowling Green before them on here, are one of the worst teams in the country. They haven’t won a game since beating Coastal Carolina in 2019, so being over-reactionary on the Wildcats probably wouldn’t be best. That being said, Kentucky went out of its way to improve on the SEC’s worst passing offense a season ago and it’s already proven to be vastly better. We’ve touched on Levis and Robinson, but it all started with the hire of Liam Coen, a limb off the sprouting Sean McVay tree, as the team’s offensive coordinator. The litmus test for this team will come this week against Missouri. It’ll show what level of the conference this team is on.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Missouri
5. Florida Gators
Week One: 35-14 win vs. Florida Atlantic
The 13th ranked Gators did what they were expected to do against FAU, beating them soundly from start to finish. However, more questions than answers popped up surrounding the Florida offense after the game. It’s rough to lose a QB like Kyle Trask who broke basically every school record to exist last season, but losing him, Ka’Darius Toney, and Kyle Pitts is a hard obstacle to overcome, and the growing pains are visible.
Emory Jones, who has been tasked with taking over for Trask, did not look good whatsoever throwing the ball. He threw for 113 yards at just 4.2 yards per attempt with a touchdown on a screen pass and a pair of interceptions to go with it. In his rear view, however, is Anthony Richardson. He didn’t dazzle throwing the ball either, but he only had eight attempts. What he did do, though, is rush for 160 yards on just seven attempts, providing a lot of spark that Jones could not.
How the hell are you supposed to stop this pic.twitter.com/Cu6qQyrrss— Ben Murphy WTSP (@BenMurphyTV) September 5, 2021
A budding QB controversy in The Swamp is probably not what Dan Mullen wants — Mullen famously said Jones could make throws that Trask could not and is adamantly sticking with him as QB1 — but it’s what he’s got. Richardson broke off a handful of huge runs, and it’s going to be really hard to keep his explosiveness off the field for too long. Both are going to provide explosive plays, but if they can’t find a consistent air attack, this team is going to be severely limited.
Next Game: 9/11 @ USF
4. Ole Miss Rebels
Week One: 43-24 win vs. Louisville
Damn did Ole Miss look good week one. Despite missing head coach Lane Kiffin for this game due to COVID, Ole Miss laid waste to Louisville, dominating in every facet of this game. Matt Corral continues to rocket up the Heisman watch as well as draft boards, throwing for 381 yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts. Snoop Conner tallied two touchdowns on the ground for the Rebels, including this demolition of Louisville defensive back, Chandler Jones.
Damn, Snoop. That man has a family. pic.twitter.com/tdldwOUaYz— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 7, 2021
As well as Corral played, and he played very well, he wasn’t even the star of this game. That belongs to the defense.
In 2020, Ole Miss’ defense was 118th out of 128 schools in points allowed per game (38.3). They had to rectify this in order to have any success this year. This game was a huge step forward for that group. They didn’t allow their first points until a third quarter field goal, and that was due to a short field off a long kickoff return. They did a great containing the very dynamic Malik Cunningham, limiting him to just 279 total yards of offense and a very inefficient game throwing the ball. Ole Miss finds itself at 20 in the latest AP Poll, and if this defensive unit can just be good enough to pair with their highly explosive offense, their ceiling could be 10 wins.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Austin Peay
3. Texas A&M Aggies
Week One: 41-10 win vs. Kent State
This game was 10-3 at half. A&M looked dreadful offensively, stalling out drives with turnovers deep into Kent State territory. Thankfully for them, they figured it out in the second half. Off the back of Leon O’Neal’s pick-six, the defense steered the ship for the Aggies, leading to a decisive win over the Golden Flashes. O’Neal had two interceptions on the day.
Pick 6️⃣ !!@WakeEmUp9 #GigEm pic.twitter.com/y7KxmM8IYb— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) September 5, 2021
Redshirt freshman Haynes King had a very rocky game. He showed flashes of good downfield passing, but those three interceptions are hard to avoid on the stat sheet. The benefit for him is that he won’t face much competition over the next month, but his play must clean up in order for them to be competitive against Alabama in October.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Colorado
2. Georgia Bulldogs
Week One: 10-3 win vs. 2 Clemson
A defensive battle ensued in the premiere matchup of the opening week. We all knew Georgia’s defense was going to be its anchor in 2021, but WOW...I don’t think anyone saw this coming. DJ Uiagalelei was under duress all night long as Nakobe Dean led a pass rush that sacked him seven times. Christopher Smith’s pick-six of Uiagalelei was the only touchdown in this game. Smith was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week.
- in all its glory #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/ZPn4yOHdho— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 7, 2021
This stellar UGA defense held Clemson to a meek 180 total yards. It was one of the more impressive defensive performances from a team that wasn’t Alabama this century.
The lone question mark is the offense, but Clemson boasts a great defense as well. They definitely have a lot to prove, but you can’t help but be wowed by Georgia. It felt like Alabama would have a stranglehold on the top spot in the SEC all year, and they still might, but Georgia is making it awfully congested early, and the Bulldogs have a fairly light schedule this year. Georgia now claims the number two ranking in the country.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. UAB
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Week One: 44-13 win vs. 13 Miami (FL)
Here we have it. The anticlimactic end to the power rankings. It’s still Alabama’s world, and we’re still living in it, begrudgingly or not. Bryce Young looks like the real deal, and honestly, did we expect any different? He threw for 344 yards on 38 attempts and four touchdowns and was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
.@_Bryce_Young throwin’— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) September 4, 2021
The defense dominated from start to finish in this one. They completely shut down D’Eriq King, forcing a trio of turnovers against the ‘Canes. Will Anderson Jr. was a dominant force while the secondary played off the pressure Alabama’s front seven generated. There is one downfall, however, as fifth-year senior Christopher Allen sustained a foot fracture in the game, and Saban confirmed it will require surgery. With Allen missing the duration of the season, Alabama will call on its vast linebacker depth to fill Allen’s spot off the edge. Drew Sanders and potentially even young freshman Dallas Turner are possible fill-ins.
All that being said, Alabama is by far the nation’s best team in this early part of the year, and the questions of who will join alongside John Metchie III fill the shoes of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are quickly being answered in the form of Jameson Williams. This offense may not be historic, but it’s damn sure explosive. As long as both Alabama and Georgia stay the course, we could be in for a treat in the SEC Championship game.
Next Game: 9/11 vs. Mercer