South Carolina was 11 when UT beat them and Georgia was 15 when Vandy Beat them. UT probably will be favored, but only because it is in Knoxville TN. If they play Auburn like they did against Missouri, even that could change
There’s one month to go in the SEC regular season and the wheat, as they say, is being separated from the chaff. As is our usual Thursday custom, below we tell you who exactly we believe to be wheat and who we believe to be chaff.
There’s been plenty of movement this week. A total of four teams have slud (tip o’ the cap to Dizzy Dean) up or down our chart this week.
So here now are our latest MrSEC.com Power Rankings. We assign each team in the SEC to one of four different categories, from BCS title contender to SEC cellar dweller. Our rankings are based upon two things — what each team has accomplished so far and what we believe each team’s ceiling to be at this moment. (All schools within a category are alphabetized.)
National Title Contender
Alabama (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC) — The Crimson Tide boast two really good wins over Virginia Tech and Texas A&M. Those games were played back in September. Saturday Bama will lace ‘em up for what’s become the SEC’s premier rivalry in recent years. If Bama gets past LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium, they should cruise into the Iron Bowl undefeated with a BCS title shot on the line. Now, this Tide team doesn’t look as powerful as last year’s squad, but that’s like saying “The Godfather Part II” is a tad shy of “The Godfather.” You’re picking some serious nits at that point.
Auburn (8-1 overall, 4-1 SEC) — Moving up a slot are Gus Malzahn’s Tigers. They, too, have a win over A&M under their belts. They’re as hot as any team in the country right now and have piled up five consecutive victories. Their only loss came at LSU back in mid-September. It’s been a few weeks since anyone’s shared our top category with Bama, but Auburn should be favored against Tennessee and Georgia in its next two games. Win those and AU could face UA for the West Division title, an SEC Championship Game berth, and a potential spot in the BCS title game.
Top 25 Contender
Georgia (5-3 overall, 4-2 SEC) — Another team jumping up a category. UGA’s third win in a row over Florida snapped a two-game losing streak for the 2013 Bulldogs. The Silver Britches are still alive for the East Division crown, though they’ll need some help. There are two losable games still on Georgia’s schedule: Auburn and Georgia Tech. Lose one and fans might accept a four-loss season considering the spate of injuries Georgia has faced. Lose both and there’ll be no spinning a five-loss regular season.
LSU (7-2 overall, 3-2 SEC) — With two losses the Tigers are out of the national title picture. Their SEC hopes are probably doomed as well. Still a win at Alabama this weekend would vault the Tigers back into BCS at-large contention. Having lost the vast majority of its defense coming into the season, that’d be a pretty good body of work come mid-November. Don’t sleep on Les Miles’ team on Saturday night, either.
Missouri (8-1 overall, 4-1 SEC) — Should or shouldn’t the one-loss Tigers be considered national title contenders? We say no — not yet at least — because Mizzou is still set to play two tough SEC games before year’s end. Gary Pinkel’s squad will have to travel to Ole Miss and then host Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel at home in the season’s final two weeks. We believe the Tigers are for real, but 11-1 seems a bit out of reach.
Ole Miss (5-3 overall, 2-3 SEC) — Hugh Freeze’s team climbed a spot this week without even playing. How? Well, it’s that whole “ceiling” thing. Ole Miss will finish the season against Arkansas (beatable), Troy, Missouri (tough, but at home) and Mississippi State (with the Egg Bowl to be played in Starkville this year). On paper it looks like one more loss for the Rebels. If Mississippi finishes 8-4 and gives Mizzou a fight, the Rebs could squeak into the top 25 polls.
South Carolina (7-2 overall, 5-2 SEC) — How much would Carolina like to have a do-over against Tennessee? If not for that 23-21 last-second loss on the road, the Cocks would be riding a seven-game win streak and ranked in the top 10. Instead, USC will look for its third win in a row when it hosts Florida next weekend. Steve Spurrier’s club is still in the mix — if Missouri loses again — for just its second SEC title game appearance ever.
Texas A&M (7-2 overall, 3-2 SEC) — In many ways, Johnny Manziel has been better in 2013 than he was in 2012. Pretty impressive considering every team he’s faced has schemed for a year trying to stop him. Unfortunately, the Aggies’ defense couldn’t do much stopping this season, either. And, no, we weren’t impressed with the D’s efforts against UTEP and a Vanderbilt squad giving a redshirt freshman his first start. Look at A&M’s offense and you’ll pencil in Kevin Sumlin’s bunch for 10 wins. Consider the Ags’ defense and you realize that four losses are still a possibility.
Florida (4-4 overall, 3-3 SEC) — Well, isn’t this a lonely category this week? Everyone else has either risen or fallen, leaving the Gators all by their lonesome at .500 overall and .500 in the SEC. Florida needs two wins to become bowl eligible. They’ll be heavily favored against Georgia Southern. And they’ll be solid underdogs at South Carolina and against #2 Florida State. If things play out as one would expect, that leaves this weekend’s game with Vandy as a must-win game for the Gators. And you better believe a loss would crank up the heat on Will Muschamp’s seat.
Arkansas (0-5 overall, 3-5 SEC) — Ugly. A first-year quarterback who’s played through pain. A one-dimensional offense. A defense that’s not strong enough and not healthy enough to win games. Add it up and you’ve got a six-game losing streak with Ole Miss, MSU and LSU left to play. The Hogs could conceivably lose their last nine games and finish 3-9. No one would have guessed that when they reached 3-0 back in September.
Kentucky (2-6 overall, 0-4 SEC) — My, how the Wildcats needed last week’s breather of a win over Alabama State. While a pair of receivers did leave with injuries, at least quarterback Jalen Whitlow managed to make it through the contest in one piece. Mark Stoops’ troops will be underdogs in all four of their remaining games against Missouri, Vandy, Georgia and Tennessee. On the bright side, it’s basketball season… and Cat fans can even spend the next couple of months talking football recruiting.
Mississippi State (4-4 overall, 1-3 SEC) — Say this for Mississippi State: You know what you’re gonna get when you watch them play. They’ve beaten Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green and Kentucky. And they’ve lost to every ranked team and every SEC West team they’ve faced. Wash, rinse, repeat. On a sidenote, here’s hoping quarterback Dak Prescott finishes the season strong after losing his mother to cancer this week.
Tennessee (4-5 overall, 1-4 SEC) — Dropping a slot this week are Butch Jones’ Volunteers. Like Kentucky there’s just not enough depth to do much damage in the SEC. The Vols are right on the line between bowl contender (they need to nab two wins out of Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky) and basement contender (one win in the SEC). At this juncture, we erred on the cellar side of things because UT has been clocked 76-13 in its last two games (on the road against top 10 foes, to be fair).
Vanderbilt (4-4 overall, 1-4 SEC) — The Commodores’ position is very similar to that of their cross-state rival. In need of two more victories, James Franklin will need to pocket two wins from his team’s last four games — at Florida, against Kentucky, at Tennessee and against Wake Forest. Anything from 8-4 to 4-8 is possible, which makes us think 6-6 is most likely. From a mood standpoint, the Dores can’t have been helped by the renewed media attention that’s been focused on the program’s recent rape scandal this week.