It’s a first this year, and probably something that won’t happen again for a long time: despite the fact that everyone but Arkansas, Georgia and Florida played, my SEC power rankings stayed the same as they were after last week’s upset-filled schedule. Here’s how I’m breaking everyone down this week, and why:
1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): No one can argue that ‘Bama’s not head-and-shoulders above the rest of the SEC right now, as Tennessee would likely concur.
2. Missouri (7-1, 3-1): Tigers are one of just two one-loss SEC teams — and might be undefeated if they could just hit a simple short field goal.
3. LSU (7-2, 3-2): Yes, I have reservations about putting these Tigers ahead of the Tigers just behind them (though not so much the Tigers just in front of them, since they beat them head-to-head), especially after an uninspiring performance against Furman and a defense that we’ve probably overrated. But those two losses were close, and there’s still plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.
4. Auburn (7-1, 3-1): Tigers own the SEC’s best running game, and could potentially go 10-1 heading into that date with Georgia.
5. South Carolina (6-2, 4-2): Gamecocks got a great win over the Tigers (you still following me here?), but I need to see more week-to-week consistency before I can elevate them further.
6. Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2): Aggies defense finally showed up with a pick-6 and just 24 points allowed against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Oh yeah, and Johnny Football’s healthy again.
7. Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3): Rebels deserved a break from that meat-grinder schedule, which they got in a 45-point pounding of an awful Idaho team. Now, the Tigers (Missouri version) appear to be the only huge challenge left on the schedule.
8. Georgia (4-3, 3-2): Missouri’s loss throws the East potentially up for grabs again, and with a weekend off to get Todd Gurley healthy, Bulldogs have a chance to get right back in the mix with a win at Florida.
9. Florida (4-3, 3-2): It seems nobody thinks much of the Gators given their inept offense and all those injuries, but let’s not forget, UF still gives up well under 300 yards per game in an era where it seems there’s a touchdown every two minutes. That counts for something, though we’ll see if UF can play with heart through a brutal rest-of-the-season schedule.
10. Tennessee (4-4, 1-3): Vols ran into a buzz-saw in Tuscaloosa, have quarterback issues, and now get the additional gift of playing Missouri and Auburn teams in the next two weeks that are way tougher than anyone ever imagined in their wildest dreams before the the season started. But, Butch Jones’s teams play tough, and that makes anything possible.
11. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4): After our young friend Good Vanderbilt showed up the week before against Georgia, its nemesis Bad Vanderbilt, led by a freshman QB who was in over his head this time around, showed up against A&M. The key question for Vandy right now is whether senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is well enough to play again — if he is, ‘the Commodores have a shot in any of their remaining four games. If he’s not, then 6-6 and a bowl game might be an accomplishment.
12. Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2): The one constant for MSU has been that it got destroyed by good teams, but clobbered the bad ones it played. But following a one-point win over Bowling Green, MSU struggled just to get by lowly Kentucky at home, and that’s not good.
13. Arkansas (3-5, 0-4): Razorbacks were one of just two SEC teams, the other being the Tigers (er, LSU) to play the first eight weeks without a bye. After losing by a combined score of 134-17 the previous three weeks, it’s safe to say that Arkansas welcomed the break.
14. Kentucky (1-6, 0-4): Young Wildcats are bound to get better under Mark Stoops, and have been competitive in many of their games. A 6-point road loss at MSU, although I’m not high on the Bulldogs, may have been another positive step.