SEC Power Rankings
After watching the first week of the college football season, I have complied my power rankings for the 14 teams in the SEC. A lot of the teams had impressive performances, so ranking them from top to bottom is going to be harder than it may seem. But I’ll do my best. Please comment, whether you agree or disagree. I always like to hear what people have to say.
This should not be a surprise. The number two team in the country easily handled number eight Michigan in Jerry’s World on Saturday night 41-14, flexing their own defensive muscles as well as showing the superiority of the SEC. AJ McCarron showed tremendous poise as he led the Crimson Tide offense to three first quarter touchdowns, two of which he threw. Another player who emerged from the game was freshman running back T.J. Yeldon, who led the Tide with 111 rushing yards on just 11 carries and a touchdown. Yeldon showed a running style similar to last year’s starter Trent Richardson, which I’m sure has Alabama fan thrilled. The defense was as good as you’d expect a Nick Saban defense to be, forcing three interceptions and allowing only 269 total yards. Alabama will be facing Western Kentucky this weekend before going on the road against the Arkansas Razorbacks in what should be a fantastic game.
I still feel like LSU will win the national championship. But Saturday was not a great day for the Tigers compared to the Crimson Tide, which is why they fall to number two on this list. Offensively, the running game was on fire. Kenny Hilliard ran for two scores on 141 yards, and Alfred Blue added 123 yards on 16 carries. Zach Mettenberger didn’t play as well as I was expecting him to, but he still got the job done for the defending SEC champions. LSU will play Washington, my Pac-12 darkhorse, as home this weekend.
The Razorbacks opened up the John L. Smith era with a victory over Jacksonville State in a decisive fashion. Tyler Wilson unloaded on the Gamecocks, throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Knile Davis looked decent in his return from injury, and the Razorbacks defense stiffened up in the second half after a rough first half. I was really impressed with the Razorbacks in this game, despite the fact that they got off to a slow start on offense. Expect Arkansas to really push Alabama in their September 15th meeting.
Georgia’s opening game against Buffalo got me a little nervous for a while. Not that I thought the Bulldogs would lose, but I didn’t like the way they were playing. The Georgia defense that was so impressive last year allowed Buffalo to stay in the game for too long. They also allowed 199 rushing yards, which is way too much for a team that will be facing great rushing attacks all year against teams like South Carolina, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and so on. The offense looked pretty good though. Aaron Murray avoided that huge mistake, and Todd Gurley made an impressive debut as a running back. This team has a long way to go, and only a short time to do it with a road trip to Columbia, Missouri, coming up. This weekend’s game against the Missouri Tigers should tell us a lot about where Georgia is compared to the rest of the SEC.
I will say I though the biggest surprise of the weekend was the Tennessee defense. A lot of the questions surrounding the Vols coming in to the year were about the defense, and I thought the unit rose to the occasion against NC State on Friday night. They did a great job making Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon feel uncomfortable, forcing him to throw four interceptions compared to one touchdown. Tyler Bray was also very impressive, passing for 333 yards and two scores. The rushing game for the Vols also showed some life, with 191 total yards as a whole from those who ran with the ball. The first weekend was a great showing for the team coached by Derek Dooley, and things can only go forward. A September 15th matchup against rival Florida will be a big indicator on whether or not Tennessee is going to contend for the SEC East title.
6. South Carolina
Marcus Lattimore was fantastic in his return, rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. However, three major things about the Gamecocks’ Thursday night 17-13 victory over Vanderbilt. The first was that South Carolina went through a period from 11:44 to go in the second quarter to 11:25 left in the game where they really didn’t do much on offense. If Spurrier wants to win an SEC championship, he needs his offense to not go through dry spells. Speaking off offense, the passing game needs to step up more. The South Carolina quarterbacks were only able to get 67 yards in the air all game, an average of only 4.5 yards per pass. Lastly, I am worried about the injury to Connor Shaw. Shaw appeared to injure his shoulder in the first half, yet he came back in the middle of the third quarter and led the Gamecocks on the game winning touchdown drive. However, it was reported today from South Carolina that Shaw is going to miss practices and that he can barely lift his arm. South Carolina needs Connor Shaw to win, and I doubt that the Gamecocks will be able to reach their ultimate goal without him.
Florida is another team that has a lot it needs to improve. The Gators watched in the first half as Bowling Green scored first and shut down their initial offensive efforts. This game, which the home team Gators won 27-14, was much to close for an SEC team in Top 25, or even in the upper tier of the league. Mike Gillislee looked great, but the rest of the team looked rusty. Florida has a big road game this weekend against Texas A&M, and then follows that with an away test against Tennessee. Those two games will expose Florida as what they are: a team with expectations that they can’t match.
8. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs crushed Jackson State in their opener 56-9, and Tyler Russell showed tremendous poise throwing for 185 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs running game also picked right back up where it left off last year, with 202 total yards on the ground. The win against Jackson State is all well and good, but now they look ahead to a game at home against Auburn. This is a game that they always find a way to lose, whether they should have or not. If Mississippi State wants to become an elite team, they need to get over the hump and finally beat the Tigers.
Missouri kind of underwhelmed me in their 62-10 win over SE Louisiana. I thought that James Franklin underperformed, with only 131 passing yards and 39 rushing yards. The defense for Missouri played extremely well, and now the SEC new boys can look ahead to a game against Georgia that will be one of the most important games in school history for them. Missouri will need more production from James Franklin if they want to pull off the upset.
10. Texas A&M
It’s tough to judge a team that hasn’t played yet. The Aggies sat at home opening weekend after Hurricane Isaac postponed their matchup against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport to October 13th, so now the new guys on campus will open the season will the mighty Florida Gators. This is not the news A&M was looking for, considering the Florida game will be the debut for a new coach, quarterback, and defensive coordinator. A lot of people believe that the Aggies will either win big or go home this year, and this opening matchup could go a long way in deciding how the A&M season will play out.
Despite the loss, I really liked how the Commodores played against South Carolina on Thursday night. They showed great resiliency after falling behind ten points early in the second quarter. The defense showed great play recognition as the game went along, and Jordan Rodgers played a smart game as a passer. Vandy has a chance this weekend at Northwestern to pick up their first win of the year.
I never bought in to the “upset bid” against Clemson. I think that the Auburn defense played better than I expected in terms of keeping the offense in the game. I thought Kiehl Frazier played very poorly, and also that the Auburn defense gave up way to many rushing yards to feel comfortable going into a matchup against a Mississippi State team that prides itself on its running game.
13. Ole Miss
Only because they won. And their win wasn’t even a great one. Bo Wallace played well, but the defense did not have a very good first half. The Rebels need to continue to steadily improve offensively and defensively in the first year under Hugh Freeze.
The ‘Cats looked awful against Louisville. Just plain awful. Teddy Bridgewater for Louisville only threw two incompletions all games, and the Cardinals ran all over the Kentucky defense. The Wildcats offense showed promise, but they struggled to keep drives going when they needed to the most. Joker Phillips needs to turn this season around if he hopes to stay around himself next season.
So that’s my take from Week 1. The rankings will shift as the season progresses, so stay tuned.