Week Five is in the books and there’s not a lot of shake-up in our Power Rankings this week. Two teams each slide up a category, but other than that… everyone stays the same.
As usual, we’ve placed each of the SEC’s 14 teams into one of four different categories. Inside those categories, the teams are listed alphabetically. This isn’t the standard 1-14 ranking that everyone else does because, uh, everyone else does that. We like to be different.
Our rankings are based upon how well teams are currently playing, what they’ve accomplished to date, and what we believe their ceilings to be.
So without further ado, here are this week’s MrSEC.com Power Rankings:
National Title Contender
Alabama (5-0) – Of the four teams in this category, Alabama probably had the easiest time with their foe last week, Ole Miss. But “easiest” didn’t mean truly easy. Texas rolled up 600 yards and 60+ points on the Rebels. Bama won 33-14 and had to settle for four field goals. The Crimson Tide defense had some trouble at times with Hugh Freeze’s hurry-up offense, t00. We believe Nick Saban’s club to be the best in the land, but the Tide didn’t look like it on Saturday night.
Georgia (5-0) – If the other teams in this category hadn’t had their own woes we’d have moved the Dawgs down a category this week. UGA gave up nearly 500 yards of offense in a 51-44 shootout win over a Tennessee team that’s not won an SEC game in regulation since November of 2010. Yes, the Vols have some good weapons on offense, but Georgia’s defense might not be equal to the sum of its parts. They have stars all over, but those stars sure manage to give up a lot of big plays every week. At least Aaron Murray and freshmen tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were on hand to finish of the Volunteers.
LSU (5-0) – Here’s all you need to know: LSU 38, Towson 22. That’s Towson of the FCS level, folks. Les Miles’ team continues to make bonehead mistakes on offense — fumbles and penalties by the bushel — that will cost them eventually if they don’t stop making them. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been fine, but he’s not been the savior many fans had been hoping for, either. LSU’s 12-10 ugly win over Auburn two weeks ago was supposed to be a blip on the radar, a wake-up call, or some other cliche that you can drop in here. But it wasn’t. The Tigers have some issues.
South Carolina (5-0) – Yet another SEC team ranked in the nation’s Top 10 that didn’t look the part last Saturday. The Gamecocks actually trailed Kentucky and a true freshman quarterback 17-7 at the half and the score could have been worse. Wisely, Steve Spurrier decided to let the legs of Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw take over in the second half and the Gamecocks zipped past the Wildcats as a result. But not one of the league’s top four teams played a sharp, complete game on Saturday… Carolina included.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (4-0) – The Gators “won” their open date by actually moving up into the Top 10 of the AP Poll this week. With LSU coming to town for a CBS clash on Saturday, we’re about to learn a lot more about Will Muschamp’s second UF squad. Can Jeff Driskel and Mike Gillislee put up yards and points against John Chavis’ defense? Is Florida’s rush defense good enough to slow LSU’s second-best-in-the-SEC tailback corps? From a statistics standpoint, LSU has the edge. But the Tigers haven’t been playing well of late. If UF gets the win on its home turf on Saturday, expect them to move up a category and steal LSU’s slot by this time next week.
Mississippi State (4-0) – The Bulldogs had last weekend off so we’re still left with the same questions we’ve had all year about Dan Mullen’s team. Are they good because they’ve played bad teams? Are they good because they rank #1 nationally in turnover margin (plus-13)? Are they getting turnovers because they’ve played bad teams? Or has feasting on cupcakes built the confidence of the squad and pushed them forward in Mullen’s rebuilding project? Don’t expect to find out for sure this week when they face yet another bad team in Kentucky.
Texas A&M (3-1) – Finally, one of the two risers in this week’s rankings. The Aggies have beaten three teams but we need to be honest about who they’ve played — SMU (1-3 with no wins over FBS teams), Arkansas (1-4 with no wins over FBS teams), and South Carolina State (a 2-3 FCS team). That’s right, A&M hasn’t beaten a team that’s beaten another FBS-level team. The one good foe the Ags did face was Florida and the Gators stifled them in the second half of that game to escape Kyle Field with a win. All that said, quarterback Johnny Manziel is putting up very special numbers. His arms and legs — he topped the 500-yard mark by himself on Saturday — and some newfound confidence might make TAMU a little more dangerous than we initially expected.
Bowl Game Contender
Missouri (3-2) – It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but the Tigers won what was probably a must-win game for their bowl hopes at UCF. Just as important, quarterback James Franklin played pretty well and that’s a necessity if Mizzou is going to reach bowl eligibility status this season. Over its next four games, Missouri will host Vanderbilt, Alabama and Kentucky before heading to new East “rival” Florida. Split those four games and Gary Pinkel’s squad will be 5-4 needing just one win against either Tennessee, Syracuse or Texas A&M to earn a postseason trip.
Ole Miss (3-2) – The Rebels are the only team to move up in our rankings after losing a ballgame. Of course, that loss was against the #1 team in the nation and it was expected Mississippi would be annihilated (as was the case against Texas). Instead, UM fought from whistle to whistle and even rolled off a couple of 70+ yard touchdown drives against the vaunted Alabama defense. The Rebs need three wins to go bowling and they still have contests with Auburn, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and arch-rival Mississippi State on the docket. If Freeze can get Ole Miss to a bowl game in his first season… he’ll deserve Coach of the Year honors in the SEC.
Tennessee (3-2) – So was the Volunteers’ high-scoring loss to Georgia a sign that UT is making progress under Derek Dooley? Or was it further evidence that he’s not the right man for the job? That depends on which Vol fan you ask as they all seem to have made up their minds on their third-year coach already. Tennessee is off this week and they will return to action in Starkville in two weeks. If the Vols can win that one, a bowl game and the survival of Dooley will become more likely. A loss and it will be tough for UT and Dooley to avoid a bowl- and career-killing tailspin. It’s a huge open date for a defense that needs some serious work.
Arkansas (1-4) – Speaking of defenses that need work. Arkansas ranks 116th nationally in scoring defense (allowing 40+ points per game), 121st in pass defense, and 120th in total defense. The Hog defenders aren’t getting a lot of help from their offense, though, as the Razorbacks have given the ball away 15 times through five games. UA is dead last out of 124 FBS teams in turnover margin with an astounding minus-13 figure. We stated as they headed into their game with Bama last month that if the Hogs lost they might collapse as they would have nothing of any meaning left to play for this season. Well, they lost (badly) and they’ve been collapsing ever since.
Auburn (1-3) – The Tigers had an open date this past Saturday and here’s hoping Scot Loeffler and crew were able to spend a lot of extra time with struggling quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Of the 14 starting quarterbacks in the SEC, Frazier ranks dead last in terms of yards per game (136.5) and quarterback rating. To put his 96.03 rating in perspective, no other SEC starter has a rating below 127.38. Until the Tigers can generate some sort of passing threat, teams will continue to focus on — and stymie — the AU ground game.
Kentucky (1-4) — Instead of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the UK band should play “Born Under A Bad Sign,” before Wildcat football games… ’cause if it wasn’t for bad luck, they wouldn’t have no luck at all. Quarterback Maxwell Smith — the player Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders had built their offense around — returned from a separated shoulder for all of two plays last week before suffering ligament damage to his ankle. Out indefinitely, the Cats — who’ve passed for just 183 yards total the last two weeks — will now turn the ball over to true freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Unless Towles fulfills Kentucky fans’ dreams by playing like “the next Tim Couch,” things look like they’re about to go from bad to worse in Lexington.
Vanderbilt (1-3) – The Commodores entered the 2012 campaign with some positive momentum and high hopes. A month into the season, they’re now at a crossroads. Saturday at Missouri they’ll face a team looking for its own first SEC win of the season. But will the Tigers take Vandy seriously or have their players grown up thinking of Vanderbilt as being just, well, Vanderbilt? If so, James Franklin’s Dores might have an easier shot at pulling off an upset that could be used to turn VU’s season around. For all Vandy fans’ desire for respect, it might benefit their team this week if Mizzou overlooked them.