Upset Saturday waylaid a number of highly-ranked SEC teams last weekend. Florida, Georgia, LSU, S0uth Carolina and Texas A&M all lost. Missouri won. Won big. Surprisingly big over a ranked foe. Tennessee got up off the deck for the first time in 19 contests against ranked opponents. Ole Miss went from the infirmary to the win column in shocking fashion. Vanderbilt revived its bowl hopes. And Auburn announced its presence on the national scene.
So with all that commotion, how do our MrSEC.com Power Rankings look as we speed into Week Nine? Our weekly four-category breakdown of the league is below. As usual, we assign each team to a different category based on what that team’s done to date and what we believe its actual ceiling to be. Inside those categories, the teams are listed alphabetically.
Naturally, there’s been some shuffling from last week to this. Matter of fact, we’ve never had more shuffling in our rankings. Find out if your favorite team rose or fell below…
National Title Contender
Alabama (7-0 overall, 4-0 SEC) — Last week’s bloodshed left the SEC with just one prime contender for the BCS title. Alabama has last five games by a combined score of 201-16. That’s victory by an average score of 40-3. This week the Tide get a visit from old rival Tennessee, but odds are it will be yet another Bama blowout. The problem with judging Nick Saban’s club by its recent success is that the combined record of UA’s last five opponents is just 11-24. Next weekend will bring a visit from 6-2 LSU. Then we’ll learn just how much Alabama has progressed from its wide open 49-42 win over Texas A&M on September 14th. For now, Bama stands alone as the SEC’s best chance for an eighth straight national crown.
Top 25 Contender
Auburn (6-1 overall, 3-1 SEC) — Gus Malzahn said after his team’s win at Texas A&M that the Tigers still haven’t arrived. Maybe not, but beating Johnny Manziel on the road should serve notice that it’s at least time to switch off electronic devices and put seats and tray tables back into their upright positions. AU’s remaining schedule consists of FAU, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers figure to be favored in each of those games but the last one. And in case you haven’t noticed, Nick Marshall is becoming more than just a running quarterback.
LSU (6-2 overall, 3-2 SEC) — Last week the Tigers were breathing rarefied air alongside Alabama. A 27-24 upset loss at Ole Miss led to their tumble down our chart. LSU allowed 500+ yards of offense to the Rebels, but that could have been just a one-game glitch. More troubling is the recent play of Zach Mettenberger. The senior QB had completed 68% of his passes for 15 scores and just two interceptions through six games. The last two weeks his numbers have dropped to 56% completions, one touchdown and three INTs. The Tigers need to improve on defense and they need for Mettenberger to recapture his early-season form.
Missouri (7-0 overall, 3-0 SEC) — Wow. If there’s a surprise team in the SEC this year it’s the bunch from Columbia. Which is more impressive: The 7-0 record? The big win at Georgia? Or the bigger win at home against what had been a good Florida defense? Whatever stands out to you, there’s no doubt that Gary Pinkel is in line for Coach of the Year honors if his team continues to surprise. But Mizzou’s not out of the woods yet. They lead the East Division by two games, but they still have dates with South Carolina (Saturday), Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. There are still some potential stumbling blocks on MU’s route to Atlanta.
South Carolina (5-2 overall, 5-2 SEC) — The Gamecocks were expected to compete for the SEC championship. They were viewed as a darkhorse contender for the BCS title, too. But here we are at Week Nine and the Gamecocks are needing a miracle to even reach the Georgia Dome as division champs. Unlike Georgia and Florida, the Cocks really can’t crow (get it?) about their injuries. Connor Shaw did go down in the final minutes of last week’s loss at Tennessee, but USC was having offensive troubles before his knee sprain. Dylan Thompson will start at QB tomorrow at Missouri. It’s make or break time for Carolina.
Texas A&M (5-2 overall, 2-2 SEC) — The Aggie offense is something to behold. The Aggie defense is something to pity. Kevin Sumlin’s squad is either 13th or 14th in SEC scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense. Until that side of the ball improves — and at this point there’s nothing to suggest it will improve — Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and crew will have to continue to carry A&M. But Manziel banged up his shoulder in last week’s loss to Auburn and no one knows how much or how well he’ll play on Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Florida (4-3 overall, 3-2 SEC) — No one in Gainesville is going to accept excuses for the Gators’ poor play of late, but that doesn’t mean the injury excuse isn’t legitimate. Florida has had at least eight players go down with season-ending injuries. Among them the team’s starting quarterback, Jeff Driskel, and the team’s best defender, D-tackle Dominique Easley. UF’s offense looked so-so even before the injuries hit. The Gator defense, however, was leading the SEC in most categories just two weeks ago. But back-to-back losses at LSU and Missouri have changed all that. Suddenly the reptiles are getting pushed around on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Georgia (4-3 overall, 3-2 SEC) — Georgia’s is living out Tony Bennett’s 1953 classic “Rags To Riches,” only in reverse. We’ve documented the Bulldogs’ injuries on the offensive side of the ball and the impact those losses have had on production in other spots on this site. So here, we’ll talk about a youthful defense that’s failed to grow up, at least so far. The Bulldogs should get Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back for next week’s traditional Jacksonville clash with Florida. Both teams are enjoying a much-needed breather this weekend.
Ole Miss (4-3 overall, 2-3 SEC) — And speaking of thinned out ranks, the Ole Miss Rebels pulled one of the league’s most surprising upsets a week ago. Despite half of UM’s defensive starters being banged up or out of action, the Rebs still snapped a three-game losing skid with a heroic homefield takedown of longtime rival, LSU. Statistically-speaking, Mississippi is does not wow in any area. But as a team they remain dangerous. Both the Bayou Bengals and the Texas Longhorns have learned that lesson in 2013.
Tennessee (4-3 overall, 1-2 SEC) — The Volunteers don’t look deep or talented… mainly because they’re not. They do, however, look well-coached. Butch Jones’ squad has shown improvement in each of the last two weeks, succumbing in overtime to Georgia and toppling a South Carolina squad that had been on a roll prior to arriving in Knoxville. Their performances haven’t been pretty, but the Vols seem to have enjoy the roll of grinder. UT has already played Oregon, Florida, Georgia and Carolina. Next up is Alabama followed by Missouri and Auburn. They’ll need to keep right on grinding if they’re going to achieve bowl eligibility.
Vanderbilt (4-3 overall, 1-3 SEC) — If ever there was a season-saving win, the Commodores captured it on Saturday. The Dores were 0-3 in the SEC. They’d not beaten a good team all season long. It didn’t matter. James Franklin’s team turned in its best defensive performance of the season in holding Georgia to 27 points on just 221 yards. A perfect fake field goal call worked for a touchdown and backup quarterback Patton Robinette played well enough to secure a VU victory after starter Austyn Carta-Samuels appeared to injure his left knee. Robinette will get
is expected to get the starter’s nod at Texas A&M this weekend.
Arkansas (3-5 overall, 0-4 SEC) — The Razorbacks have lost five consecutive games. It’s the first time that’s happened during Bret Bielema’s career. The first-year coach’s Hogs have been barbecued in each of the last three weeks: 30-10 by Florida, 51-7 by Carolina and 52-0 by Alabama last Saturday. Arkansas has a week to regroup before hosting Auburn. Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU are still on the schedule as well. The more one looks at it, the more that UA/MSU battle in Fayetteville is looking like a fight to stay out of the West Division cellar.
Kentucky (1-5 overall, 0-3 SEC) — Is there any hope for Kentucky? And by that we mean hope in 2013? Mark Stoops is doing fine work on the recruiting trail, but the Cats just look outgunned and outclassed against SEC foes. After a week off, UK travels to Starkville tonight. Win there and things could start looking up. But another loss is probably in the cards and that means… it’s almost hoops season in the Bluegrass State.
Mississippi State (3-3 overall, 0-2 SEC) — Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs narrowly avoided a homefield upset to Bowling Green their last time out. Instead, they enter tonight’s contest in familiar fashion with three wins over patsies and three losses to good teams. State’s long-term goals are up for debate — push for championships or find satisfaction in six wins and a bowl bid every year — but a loss at home to Kentucky would most assuredly not sit well with the cowbell-clanging masses.