Week Four is now behind us and we’ve got a few shake-ups in this week’s MrSEC.com Power Rankings. Below you’ll find that we’ve place each of the SEC’s 14 teams into one of four different categories.
Now, it’s amazing that we would have to explain this, but judging from the ugly emails we’ve received the last couple of weeks… we do. First, we aren’t ranking the teams 1-14. If we were, you’d see the numbers 1-14 beside the squads’ names. Second, if you notice, we list the teams alphabetically inside each category. So Vandy fans, before you start crying that we’ve ranked your team as the worst in the league, we haven’t. We’ve just lumped you into the bottom category along with Kentucky — K before V, ya see? — because at this moment we believe the loser of that game will finish on bottom of the SEC East. Four categories to rank the teams. All alphabetical within the categories.
For the 99.9% who already grasped that, we apologize that you had to sit through that last paragraph.
As always, these rankings are based upon how well teams are currently playing, what we’ve seen from them to date, and what we believe their ceilings to be.
So without further ado, this week’s Power Rankings:
National Title Contender
Alabama (4-0) – The Crimson Tide kicked another nonconference tomato can over the weekend. Now they’ll jump back into the SEC schedule with Ole Miss. After seeing what Texas did to the Rebels, it’s hard to imagine Bama having much trouble on Saturday. If there’s a better team in the country, we haven’t seen it. The Tide keeps right on rolling.
Georgia (4-0) – Yes, it was only Vanderbilt, but the Bulldogs took care of business with Sopranos-style coldness in Saturday’s 48-3 drubbing. UGA has put 40+ on the scoreboard in each of its first four games — anybody want Mike Bobo’s head right now? — and the Dawgs defense is expected to get starters Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo back on Saturday. Remember, this team has been whipping opponents with multiple starters missing games. How good might Georgia be when 100%?
LSU (4-0) – We’re going to chalk up last week’s two-point win over previously unimpressive Auburn as a product of a tough road environment at Jordan-Hare Stadium and some key mistakes — namely penalties and turnovers. But as good as the Tigers have looked at times, they continue to make those aforementioned key mistakes. Against a better team than Auburn, the Tigers might have fallen on Saturday.
South Carolina (4-0) – Now that was impressive. Carolina’s beatdown of Missouri showed us that Lorenzo Ward does indeed have a championship-caliber defense in Columbia (which is why USC moves up a category this week). The offense may not be consistent — one week it’s Marcus Lattimore running, the next its Dylan Thompson passing, the next its Connor Shaw passing — but USC has the weaponry to get the job done week after week. Against another title contender like Georgia or LSU, the Cocks might have to be more consistent and more balanced, but for now, leaning on a different offensive star each week is good enough.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (4-0) – Little more than two weeks ago, the Gators had sputtered through an ugly win over Bowling Green and were trailing Texas A&M at halftime of their SEC opener. Then Will Muschamp told his defenders to stop rushing Aggie QB Johnny Manziel and UF hasn’t looked back. We don’t view Florida as a contender for the national crown just yet, but if they keep on keepin’ on, you never know.
Mississippi State (4-0) – Another week, another unimpressive win over another unimpressive foe. Before any maroon-wearing fans send us emails, even Dan Mullen has said his team hasn’t played a complete game yet. After an open date this week, State will travel to Kentucky and then host a Tennessee team that to date hasn’t won an SEC game outside the Volunteer State under Derek Dooley. Toss in another pastry (MTSU) and the Dogs could be 7-0 before facing Alabama. Nice, but we need to see a big win over a good team before State moves up in our rankings.
Bowl Game Contender
Missouri (2-2) – So much for an offseason full of “disrespect” talk. The Tigers have played the two best teams in the East Division (on paper) and they’ve lost both games by 21 points. The Georgia game was closer than it appeared. The South Carolina game was worse than the final score indicated. Mizzou still has enough talent to bounce back and earn itself a bowl trip. But right about now in the Show-Me State, there are probably a lot of folks saying, “Oh, so that’s why everybody talks up the SEC.”
Tennessee (3-1) – Two weeks ago against Florida, the Vols failed to make the case that they are relevant again on the national football scene. Last week — as they struggled with Akron through three quarters — they almost became a national punchline. Still, UT has the look of a team that’s too talented for bad teams to upset and too flawed to upset the really good squads. A mid-level bowl after a seven- or eight-win campaign still appears to be the most likely scenario for Derek Dooley’s bunch.
Texas A&M (2-1) – Kevin Sumlin is off to a pretty good start in College Station. The Ags have poleaxed their two nonconference foes (even dumping 70 points on tiny South Carolina State) and they made a pretty good showing in their SEC opener against Florida. This week’s rivalry game with Arkansas would give us a better clue about the Aggies… if the Razorbacks weren’t coming apart at the seams. For now, we’ll pencil in TAMU as a bowl contender.
Arkansas (1-3) – The world is blaming John L. Smith for everything that’s gone wrong in Fayetteville because that’s the easiest thing to do. But while he may be captaining the ship, he didn’t build the thing. Bobby Petrino put together a defense and defensive staff that can’t stop anyone. And bad luck knocked Tyler Wilson out of two games. That said, it’s pretty clear this team has nothing to play for at this point and it’s highly unlikely they’ll rally ’round an interim coach. The only thing that could make this worse? Canning Smith now and appointing an interim for the interim. Just hold your nose, bear it, and pray that AD Jeff Long is already making back-channel connections with a good coach for next season, Hog fans.
Auburn (1-3) – The Tigers managed to hang with preseason West favorite LSU right down to the wire on Saturday, but we’re going to need to see more of that type play before moving AU up our board. Kiehl Frazier threw two more picks and the Auburn offense didn’t crack the 100-yard barrier passing or rushing. Now it sounds as if the coaching staff is fast-tracking Jonathan Wallace for more Wildcat action. Desperate times…
Kentucky (1-3) – Speaking of desperate times. UK is coming off back-to-back losses to Western Kentucky (in overtime) and Florida (by a 38-0 score). Over the next four weeks Joker Phillips’ team will have to tangle with South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Georgia. It’s entirely possible that the Cats might not win another game until Samford visits Commonwealth Stadium on November 17th.
Ole Miss (3-1) – If there’s been a pleasant surprise in the conference this year, the Rebels are it. They haven’t beaten anyone of note so far, but with the roster issues Hugh Freeze inherited, so what? 3-1 is still 3-1. Especially when you’re coming off of a 2-10 season. One more win and Ole Miss will double its win total from last season and match its victory tally from 2010. An eight-week stretch of SEC contests to close out the season will likely provide a cold dose of reality, but Freeze deserves credit for getting about as much out of his team as could be expected to this point.
Vanderbilt (1-3) – If James Franklin is to salvage the Commodore season, he’ll have to do so over the course of Vandy’s next three games. The Commodores travel to Missouri after an open date this weekend and the Tigers might be a bit down in the dumps mentally following two straight SEC losses. If VU can’t upset Mizzou, then it’s Florida next followed by Auburn. Both teams will visit Nashville. It’s conceivable that Vandy could still upset Missouri, Auburn and then top UMass to hit 4-4 by the end of October. But it’s not likely.