Week Three of the football season is in the books — man, it moves fast — and the overall picture is coming into better focus. Below, you’ll find MrSEC.com’s official power rankings in which we’ve placed the SEC’s 14 teams into four different categories.
As always, these rankings are based upon on how well teams are currently playing, what we’ve seen from them to date, and what we believe their ceilings to be.
That said, here are this week’s power rankings…
National Title Contender
Alabama (3-0) — The Crimson Tide are frighteningly/surprisingly good for a squad that lost so many A-list defensive talents to the NFL in April. Right now, whose program appears to be more of an unstoppable force: Nick Saban’s Alabama football program or John Calipari’s Kentucky basketball program? They’re both juggernauts.
LSU (3-0) — Another week, another blowout win. The Tigers really haven’t been tested to date and that includes a beatdown of what’s expected to be a decent Washington team two weeks ago. Odds are the Tigers and Tide will both be undefeated and ranked 1-2 when Bama arrives in Baton Rouge early in November.
Georgia (3-0) — The Bulldogs are ranked fifth in one poll and sixth in the other. Still, they’re not to the level of Alabama or LSU at this point and it seems that just something — just a little something — is still yet to be brought to the surface. The Dawgs are a good team… a very good team. But they’re not quite a great team just yet.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (3-0) – The Gators and Will Muschamp proved last weekend — for the second week in a row — that they now know how to make good second-half adjustments. While many of UF’s big plays on Saturday can be attributed to a particularly porous Tennessee defense, there’s no debating the rapid development of quarterback Jeff Driskel. He might not have been able to pull away from Jacoby Brissett in offseason practices, but Driskel’s certainly proving to be a A+ gameday player.
Mississippi State (3-0) – The Bulldogs are unbeaten and have a chance of making it all the way to 7-0 before facing Alabama. That puts State in our Top 25 category. But MSU’s wins have come against Jackson State (FCS), Auburn (bad), and Troy (in a too-close-for-comfort win on Saturday). We don’t know whether to buy State or just its creampuff schedule.
Missouri (2-1) – The Tigers got a big win on Saturday night without starting quarterback James Franklin. But it wasn’t easy. If Franklin’s shoulder will allow him to get back in the lineup and stay on the field the rest of the way, Mizzou could be a Top 25 team. If Franklin’s injury haunts him all season, then its likely Missouri will fall into the next category down.
South Carolina (3-0) – Who are these guys? Yes, the defense is outstanding, but the offense has been all over the map. When QB Connor Shaw went down against Vanderbilt, Marcus Lattimore’s ground attack took over. The next week, Dylan Thompson grabbed the starting quarterback gig and the Cocks looked like a Fun ‘N Gun pass-first team. Then last weekend, Carolina rolled over UAB with Shaw and Thompson both playing. But like Mississippi State, are the Cocks really great or just a product of an easy early schedule? If we could see USC’s offense perform the same way two weeks in a row, we might be able to move Steve Spurrier’s club up a category. But for now, we’ll keep them at the high end of the Top 25 category.
Bowl Game Contender
Arkansas (1-2) – Yep, even though the Razorbacks appear to be on the verge of a Chernobyl-style meltdown, Tyler Wilson can make a big, big difference for this squad. There won’t be any championships to win — not with that defense — but the Hogs can still have a decent year and go bowling if their quarterback stays healthy and if John L. Smith can keep his players from quitting on him. Arkansas was in our Top 25 category last week.
Tennessee (2-1) – The not-ready-for-primetime players showed on Saturday that they’re probably going to be just what we thought they’d be at the season’s start: A seven- or eight-win team that is carried by quarterback Tyler Bray, has a lackluster run game, and will struggle with big plays as it switches from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Like Arkansas, the Vols dropped a level in this week’s rankings.
Texas A&M (1-1) — The Aggies were expected to be a team that leaned heavily on a solid offensive line and a deep stable of running backs led by Christine Michael. Instead, the Aggies have been driven by the arm and legs of redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. If he can keep improving, A&M can compete for a bowl in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in College Station. If the O-line starts to live up to expectations it would help matters further.
Auburn (1-2) – Cue the hate mail from Auburn fans, but the Tigers just don’t look good right now. If not for a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half on Saturday, Gene Chizik’s bunch could easily have lost to Louisiana-Monroe and fallen to 0-3 overall. If Auburn played in the SEC East, we’d list them as a bowl contender (as we did last week). But three weeks in, we look at their SEC West schedule and foresee the Tigers battling Ole Miss to stay out of the cellar.
Kentucky (1-2) — The Wildcats can’t stop the run. Not against Louisville, Kent State or Western Kentucky. Knowing that, Maxwell Smith can’t throw four interceptions — even when he’s asked to pass 60 times as he was over the weekend. And judging by how things have gone against the U of L and WKU, it’s probably a good thing Joker Phillips didn’t put in-state Transylvania on the Wildcats’ schedule.
Ole Miss (2-1) – Welcome back to Earth, Rebels. After a spirited start to the 2012 campaign, Texas provided a cold splash of reality on Saturday night. Bo Wallace and Hugh Freeze have impressed us overall, but the roster’s just too darn bad to expect much more than a sixth- or seventh-place finish in the West Division.
Vanderbilt (1-2) — The Commodores unveiled a new quarterback last week and coach James Franklin says his team’s season started with last week’s win. That’s right, he’s literally acting as if his team’s losses to Carolina and Northwestern did not occur. But a 58-0 win over the smallest school in FCS football — the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College — doesn’t impress us. For now it looks like the loser of UK/Vandy will wind up in the East basement.