SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

By Brett Kaplan

This is the first edition of the SEC Power Rankings. Mostly, because it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had the time to do a quick write up. Well, rejoice because today and hopefully every Wednesday for the rest of the season, I will be giving you my power rankings for the Southeastern Conference:

1. LSU Tigers
Really could it be anyone else? Alabama maybe, but no team in the FBS challenged themselves more in the month of September than LSU. LSU opened on a neutral field and beat down the then number three Oregon Ducks. They received a brief respite when Northwestern State came to Death Valley, a game in which the Tigers’ practice squad could have won. But then, LSU gets a short week and plays Mississippi State on their home turf in Starkville. Starkville has always been a pretty tough place to play and this years Bulldog squad is very talented. Plus, at Davis Wade Stadium, you know the cowbells will be deafening. But LSU’s defense put on a dominating display and beat the 25th ranked Bulldog squad soundly. The very next week, albeit on a longer week, LSU traveled to West Virginia, the Big East favorite, and shellacked the Mountaineers on their home field. Not only is LSU number one in this season’s inaugural SEC power rankings, they should be number one in the entire country.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama is a team that has also coasted through the month. They played two interesting games and came away with decisive wins. Their first game against Kent State proved to be a blowout because their entire defense could play in the NFL today. Alabama coughed up five turnovers in a 41 point win. Their second game featured a matchup with Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions up at Beaver Stadium. Penn State came in ranked 23rd and really held their own through midway in the second quarter. Then the Crimson tide proved to be too much and won by 16. Next game, the North Texas Mean Green came into Bryant-Denny Stadium and never stood a chance. Despite losing the turnover battle again, the Tide’s defense proved to be strong, shutting out the Mean Green. Finally comes Alabama’s marquee win. In a highly anticipated matchup with then 14th ranked Arkansas, the Tide’s defense overmatched the Razorback offense. It was a battle of strength versus strength and the Crimson Tide finally started looking like the team that came into the season as preseason number two. Once again, their SEC power ranking should reflect their national ranking in my humble opinion.

3. Florida Gators
This may seem like blatant homerism, but a lot of SEC teams have struggled so far, and Florida has put teams away early and has never had a game in question. They have a dominating rush defense that will be tested by Trent Richardson and the Crimson Tide. Florida Atlantic, UAB, Tennessee, and Kentucky might not be the toughest teams in the nation, but the Gators have improved in every single game. After struggling mightily on offense last year, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis seems to be doing magic with the Florida offense. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have been incredible so far for the Gators, with Rainey being a darkhorse for the Heisman with his versatility. Believe it or not, but Florida has the number one ranked offense in the SEC. And it’s led by Demps and Rainey with the Gators averaging close to 260 rushing yards a game. We’ll know a lot more about these Gators come Saturday with the Showdown in the Swamp, but so far, so good for new head coach Will Muschamp.

4. South Carolina Gamecocks
This team is sort of an enigma. They came into the season with a lot of hype and as the favorite to win the SEC East. They’ve squeaked out games against Navy and Georgia, but have blown out East Carolina and Vanderbilt. In both of those blowouts, however, the Gamecocks were down to start the game. In fact, East Carolina held an advantage over them for the entire first half. Their defense has been giving up a ton of points (37 to East Carolina, 42 to Georgia) and their offense has struggled at times. But they’ve come away unscathed and with four wins, joining the three teams above them who are also undefeated. South Carolina should get a test from Auburn this week in a matchup between two blue chip running backs in Michael Dyer for Auburn and Marcus Lattimore for South Carolina.

5. Arkansas Razorbacks
This team put up some big numbers against cupcake competition and was exposed last week by Alabama’s smothering defense. Still, Arkansas might have their most talented team under head coach Bobby Petrino. Tyler Wilson is a good quarterback and I’m not sure there’s a better group of wide receivers to throw the ball to. WR/KR Joe Adams has been electrifying so far but they are stuggling to run the ball. Ronnie Wingo is a good back, but they’ve got to have more offensive balance to compete in the toughest division in college football, the SEC West. This team is at a crossroads. They can regroup and get back into the BCS bowl picture like they did last year after their loss to Alabama, or they can fold and go to the Cotton Bowl or some other lower tiered bowl. They’ll test their mettle this week against future SEC rival Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium.

6. Auburn Tigers
The defending national champions lost 18 starters from last years team, including their heart and soul, Cam Newton. It’s really shown. Auburn has not looked particularly impressive in any game this season. Their defense is atrocious. They needed last minute comebacks to beat Utah State and Mississippi State. They lost to an ACC team in Clemson that looks to be having a pretty good season. I guess there’s no harm there. Their winning streak couldn’t go on forever, especially with the way they were playing, and it ended at 17 games. They bounced back against an offensively challenged Florida Atlantic team and sit 1-0 in conference play. Hopefully this week’s matchup with South Carolina will give us some answers on both teams.

7. Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are 0-2 in SEC play, and struggled to pull out a win in overtime against Louisiana Tech, but they are a talented football team. They have offensive skill players that are dynamic in QB Chris Relf, RB Vick Ballard, and WR Chad Bumphis. They’ve had a tough start to SEC play, going to Jordan-Hare to face Auburn and hosting LSU. They showed a lot of guts against Auburn, coming back from a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter, only to be stuffed at the goal line to end the game. This team is building for a bright future and talent-wise, this is around where they should be. They’re most likely out of the SEC West race, but could prove to be spoilers for some other teams. This could be a dangerous team come November.

8. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia may only be 2-2, but I give them a lot of credit for going out and playing two tough opponents to start the season. They did get beat on basically their home turf by perennial BCS buster Boise State and lost a back and forth battle with South Carolina at Sanford Stadium. Since then, they’ve put away incredibly inferior teams in Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss. This team can still contend in the SEC East. Head coach Mark Richt brought in the “Dream Team” of the state’s players and so far RB Isaiah Crowell has been impressive. The month of October will be a very telling month for the Dawgs. They host Mississippi State Saturday, travel to Tennessee and Vanderbilt, then play in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against hated rival Florida. The biggest question is, does Mark Richt make it through the month?

9. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee is another team that’s young and has a lot of talent. They have a solid quarterback in Tyler Bray and a game breaking wide receiver in Da’Rick Rogers. Losing WR Justin Hunter for the year really hurts them a lot, however. And they need to find a running game so teams don’t just sit back and pounce on Bray. Their defense is not the typical defense you would expect from Tennessee. They start two true freshman at LB and are very young. The Vols were completely outmatched at the line of scrimmage by Florida in their lone loss, something that needs to get better if they want to contend in the East. Montana and Cincinnati aren’t exactly the best competition, but the Volunteers did take care of both of them handedly. They have another tuneup against Buffalo this week, then we’ll know more about this team when they host Georgia next week.

10. Vanderbilt Commodores
This is a team that I really tried to put higher. I really like what new head coach James Franklin is doing in Nashville. Their defense is constantly creating turnovers. But their offense needs a lot of work. It’s a good thing Franklin’s background is on the offensive side of the ball, because the ‘Dores certainly struggle there. Vandy took care of Elon in the opening game, then took a Big East school in Connecticut, and beat Ole Miss soundly. But then they ran into South Carolina, a team that has way more talent at this point then the Commodores. This program is heading in the right direction and don’t be surprised if you see them bowling come this winter.

11. Kentucky Wildcats
This team actually has a pretty good defense, led by lineback Danny Trevathan, but their offense is just putrid. They have no playmakers on offense and rank 90th or below in pretty much every offensive category. QB Morgan Newton has some talent and WR La’Rod King could grow into a special wide receiver. But this team needs to cut down on the drops and help Newton out. They start a true freshman at running back in Josh Clemons and he’s a talented runner. Joker Phillips is doing his best with his young team, but they needed comebacks against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan for their two wins and got beat by their mediocre in-state rival Louisville. And this past weekend, Florida flexed their muscles and pushed the Wildcats into the SEC East basement. If you’re a Kentucky fan, look at the bright side. Your offense has no way to go but up.

12. Ole Miss Rebels
This team has been awful pretty much all year. Their only win came against Southern Illinois in week two. They’ve lost hosting BYU, got shellacked at Vanderbilt, and couldn’t handle a visiting Georgia squad. This week, they travel to California to take on Fresno State. The road doesn’t get any easier, with the two games following that against Alabama and Arkansas. Head coach Houston Nutt has shown a regression in every season he’s been at the helm. This year, the Rebels could be looking at a two to three win season. If that happens, expect Nutt to be gone. Their November 5th showdown with Kentucky will prove who the worst team in the SEC is.

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