Thrill of Victory

Alabama stays at the top of the SEC heap — for now

The Southeastern Conference’s Week 5 schedule is just a few days around the corner, which means it’s getting a bit easier to get a feel for what each squad has. Here’s my look at the SEC’s power rankings as most teams have now played four games, and everyone’s played at least three.

 1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The Crimson Tide were unimpressive in the opener at Virginia Tech, and mediocre again in a win over a bad Colorado State team, and it’s got to be a bit concerning that Alabama can’t run the ball effectively. Then again, ‘Bama showed up big in its one huge game, a win at Texas A&M. It’s obvious that the Crimson Tide isn’t playing at the same level of the last couple seasons’ teams, but on the other hand, who can? The Ole Miss game should be telling: if Alabama struggles, then it may be more than just a case of ‘Bama playing down to expectations.

 2a. LSU (4-0, 1-0): The Tigers had the Auburn game in hand pretty much from start to finish, and I like what I’m seeing on both sides of the ball. But LSU hasn’t played anyone near Georgia’s caliber, and that’s what’s up this weekend.

 2b. Georgia (2-1, 1-0): As I recently said, I’m not sure which of Georgia or LSU I like better, and it really doesn’t matter right now since the teams play this weekend. I’ll dive in a bit deeper on each this weekend when I make my picks.

4. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1): The more I see the Gamecocks, the more they grow on me. I like Steve Spurrier’s ball-control offense, led by two really good running backs in Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, and quarterback Connor Shaw’s ability to generate big plays. There are some defensive issues, but Carolina’s young and will get better as the year progresses.

5. Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1): The Aggies still haven’t shown me a lick on defense; I like complete teams and that limits their ceiling in my rankings. However, I’m the first to acknowledge that the Aggie offense may be good enough that it won’t matter. Arkansas is up this weekend, and we’ll probably learn more about the Razorbacks than we will the Aggies.

6. Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0): The Rebels had a week off after their thrashing of Texas in Austin. People are going to have issues with my putting them ahead of Florida, but the more I see of each, the more I believe I’ve got it right.

7. Florida (2-1, 1-0): The Gators’ worst nightmare — a season-ending injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel — came true on Saturday. Still, the Gators had too many athletes to where Tennessee wasn’t a problem. Junior Tyler Murphy came on and got his first real collegiate playing time, throwing for 134 yards and rushing for 54. But the Tennessee defense isn’t a great test for Murphy, and neither will Kentucky be this weekend. Throw in what may be a serious injury to future first-round defensive lineman Dominique Easley, and the Gators could be in some trouble.SEC Football

8. Missouri (3-0, 0-0): This is where the picture gets murky, and I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in Missouri at this spot because of a dreadful schedule thus far and a weak defense. However, the offense continues to look great and a two-touchdown road win at Indiana counts for a little something. Every other team from here down has some serious issues, so I can at least justify the Tigers here for now.

9. Arkansas (3-1, 0-0): The Razorbacks darn-near went to Rutgers and got a good win over the Scarlet Knights even without starting quarterback Brandon Allen. I’d like to see the Razorbacks beat somebody before I buy in, but there are some indications that Arkansas could at least be solid on both sides of the ball.

10. Auburn (3-1, 1-0): At face value, losing by 14 in Baton Rouge isn’t bad. However, Auburn has major issues at defensive back and at quarterback, and LSU was in control from start to finish. The Tigers have a long way to go before getting back to the top half of the league, but should have enough “gimme” games left to squeak into a bowl game.

11. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1): The only thing that really shocked me over the weekend was the Bulldogs absolute whipping (62-7) over a Troy team that some thought could be primed to upset MSU. Has ‘State found something in dual-threat QB Dak Prescott? Stay tuned.

 12. Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2): For the record, I think VU will get things headed back in a better direction starting this weekend, and the entire complexion of Vandy’s season could have easily been changed had the Commodores corralled Jeff Scott in the final two minutes of the opener. Had that happened, it would have been difficult to put the ‘Dores any lower than seventh. But it didn’t happen, and Vandy really hasn’t looked great since the first half of that Ole Miss game. This poll is about what you’ve done, and in terms of style points, VU may be the most disappointing team in the league to date as compared to what we expected.

 13. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1): The Vols are what we thought they were — a team without the elite athletes of the top-half-of-the-league teams. The worst news for UT may be that it’s pretty much stuck with Justin Worley at quarterback after Nathan Peterson (who, if he’d been any more of a disaster on Saturday, might have had a hurricane named for him) looks to be finished due to injury.

 14. Kentucky (1-2, 0-0): It’s difficult to rank the ‘Cats anywhere than at the bottom. UK has looked decent at times, but I want to see more. The Wildcats can take a small step with a respectable showing in Gainesville this weekend even if they don’t win.