Thrill of Victory

A cloudy middle in Week 7 SEC power rankings

Following perhaps the best weekend of Southeastern Conference football all season, I’m ready with my post-Week 7 power rankings. As has been the case all season, the top and bottom teams remain the same, but with eight (eight!) teams now ranked in the Top 25, the middle is a real mess. Here’s my best attempt at sizing up the league, one to 14.

1. Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC): So much for this edition not being a dominant ‘Tide squad: UA has not out-scored opponents by an average of 38.8 to 11.3. That comes against a schedule that’s included a pair of Top 25 teams and another pretty good one in Ole Miss. By comparison, ‘Bama averaged 38.7 points and gave up 10.9 last year against a slate that featured four teams that finished in the rankings.

2. LSU (6-1, 3-1): Like Alabama, Tigers’ young talent seems to keep getting better as the season progresses. Don’t forget, that loss to Georgia came when the Bulldogs were healthy, and it could have gone either way.

3. South Carolina (5-1, 3-1): Don’t sleep on the Gamecocks. A 52-7 win at Arkansas served notice that Carolina (with a healthier Jadeveon Clowney) could be starting to play its best football.

4. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1): I have downgraded A&M all year because of their defense (or lack of one), but WOW, 287 points through six games? Yeah, it’s possible that Johnny Football and the Aggies just might be able to out-score people in shootouts all year, because there’s not a defense outside of the NFL that can stop these guys.

5. Missouri (6-0, 2-0): Yeah, Missouri hadn’t played much of anyone until Georgia, and obviously the Bulldogs are about as decimated with injuries to good players as you’ll find anywhere. But the Tigers are kind of an A&M Lite, but with a much better defense. The key now will be whether Mizzou can get along without star quarterback James Franklin, who’s done for the regular season with a shoulder injury.

6. Florida (4-2, 3-1): Speaking of decimated with injuries, the Gators are now without three of their best players — quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones and defensive end Dominique Easley — for the season. UF can still win some games with a fantastic defense that leads the SEC (235 yards per game) as it did last year, but the Gators aren’t as good as that team because last year’s elite special teams units have completely fallen off a cliff.

7. Georgia (4-2, 3-1): It’s really impossible to rank UGA with any degree of fairness given the injuries to All-American running back Todd Gurley, his backup Keith Marshall and three excellent receivers. The No. 7 ranking is really a snapshot at the moment that reflects that brutal reality; if the Bulldogs had stayed healthy, my guess is that they’d still occupy the No. 2 spot they’ve owned all year until now.

8. Auburn (5-1, 2-1): I’ve not been a big believer in the Tigers this year, because it’s hard to win games while consistently being out-gained (that happened twice in wins, and in two other wins, it was close) but they’re starting to win me over a bit. But the Tigers still have five wins, and there’s no way one could justify dropping them further. A nine-win regular season is a definite possibility.

9. Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3): People will take me to task for this, but I’ll say it again: Ole Miss is a good football team. The Rebels, just like last year, are also a very unlucky football team: an eight-point loss to an Auburn team they out-gained, and a three-point loss to an A&M team they led late.SEC Football

10. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2): The next four teams are a crapshoot, and I don’t feel at all confident about putting the Bulldogs here. But I do because of the five teams left, MSU leads them all in scoring margin (7.5) and yardage differential per game (plus-90).

11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2): Vols are being out-gained by 41 yards per game, but they won the games they should have won and looked improved last time out against Georgia two weekends ago.

12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3): Commodores are the league’s biggest disappointment so far not necessarily because they’ve lost three games, but because they really haven’t put together two great halves of football yet. VU really needs to beat Georgia this weekend, and it could have a chance given how banged-up the Bulldogs are.

13. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3): The Razorbacks had looked good the first few weeks under Bret Bielema, and a 12-point loss to A&M three weekends ago was encouraging at the time. But back-to-back blow-outs to Florida and South Carolina have exposed a weak offense that wasn’t even racking up big numbers against bad teams.

14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3): Wildcats got waxed by 41 at home against Alabama, and it could have been a lot worse had Alabama not handed UK the first quarter on a silver platter. UK currently ranks seventh by Rivals.com in recruiting, probably in no small part because smart recruits can see they’ll have a chance to play right away.