SEC Power Rankings Week Four

Seth Pollock, 23 Sports

*NOTE: This power ranking isn’t necessarily just about ranking the best teams in the SEC 1-14. It’s also about who has and who hasn’t been impressive, and who is putting it together.

1.Alabama-

After a couple of games of seemingly being too bored to dominate, Alabama dominated a quality SEC team. Vanderbilt, who had just beaten a then ranked Kansas State team the week before was, as head coach Derek Mason said “outclassed.” The Tide outgained the Commodores 677 to 78 and had 38 first downs to Vandy’s 3. Just in case there was any question who the number one team in the nation was…

2.Georgia-

With their 31-3 win over Mississippi State, Georgia wins this week’s title of best SEC team not coached by Nick Saban! Congrats, Dawgs! This game was closer than the score indicates, but it was still a huge win for Georgia. If the Bulldogs put on a similar display this Saturday in Knoxville, there could start to be talk about an undefeated regular season. That would be a little premature for a team with games against Florida and Auburn still remaining, but so far it’s clear the Dawgs are the class of the east.

3.Auburn-

Auburn had a dominating performance in an SEC game for the first time since beating Arkansas 56-3 last October 22nd. Mizzou’s mistakes played a role, but Auburn still gets credit for being up 28-0 only 22 minutes in. Next week, the Tigers face a truer test in the form of Mississippi State. A win in that one would give Auburn a pretty strong claim to second best in the division.

4.Texas A&M-

Arkansas was a must win for Kevin Sumlin, and he won. The Aggies were the one overcoming a double digit deficit this week, (14 points isn’t quite 34, but a comeback is a comeback.) and an Armani Watts interception of Austin Allen sealed the deal. With this one out of the way, the next three weeks are gonna be very important for Kevin Sumlin. South Carolina, Alabama, and at Florida. A 2-1 record with a respectable performance against Alabama would go a long way to getting the fans on his side.

5.Florida-

For the second straight week, Florida wins one that could have easily gone the other way. But as much as this one could have gone the other way, it couldn’t have, because the Gators were playing Kentucky. And Florida always beats Kentucky. Like, 31 times in a row. Like, every year since 1987. So it was inevitable that with 43 ticks left on the clock Luke Del RIo would connect with Freddie Swain on third and one for a touchdown, leading to Eddie Pineiro’s kick to give the Gators the lead. And that over the next 37 seconds Kentucky would gain 36 yards to at least get a chance to win it. And that  Austin MacGinnis’s 57 yard field goal would fall just short as time expired. Because that’s what happens when Florida plays Kentucky.

6.Mississippi State-

A two pick performance by Nick Fitzgerald doomed the Bulldogs against the other Bulldogs in Athens. Overall, though, the score wasn’t as lopsided as the scored implied and MSU will have many other chances to prove they’re a real player in the SEC West. One very important one comes next week against Auburn.

7.Kentucky-

So. Close. Once. Again. Poor Wildcats. They’re Charlie Brown with the football against Florida. Every single time it feels like this will be the time. And then nope, just kidding. It’s happened three times alone during the Mark Stoops era. 2014, a questionable call in the first overtime helped lead the Gators to the win in three OTs. In 2015 Kentucky had three scoring chances that led only to three field goals, perfect for a 14-9 loss. And then on Saturday a 27-14 fourth quarter lead doesn’t withstand a late offensive push from the Gators. It’s okay Kentucky, you’ll get ‘em next year.

8.Arkansas-

Since Bret Bielema arrived in Fayetteville in 2012 the Hogs are 0-5 against Texas A&M, 0-4 against Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium, and 0-2 against Texas A&M in overtime. It’s one of the quirks of Bielema’s time there, along with the insane amount of close games the Razorbacks play. Beilema’s Hogs have played 16 games decided either by four points or overtime. They’re just 6-10 in those games. Bielema still has time to turn it around, but he’s gonna have to start winning more of the close games his teams seem to have a penchant for.

9.LSU-

Syracuse-LSU at Tiger Stadium isn’t supposed to be that close. It’s not supposed to be a two point game in the final seconds. Syracuse isn’t supposed to lose the yardage battle only 414-384, nor are they supposed to get six more first downs than the Tigers. And this isn’t supposed to happen two weeks after Syracuse loses to Middle Tennessee State.

This could be a long year for LSU.

10.Vanderbilt-

Poor Vandy. They really thought they had at least an outside shot coming in to the week. The good news is that this is just one loss. This should still be Derek Mason’s best team. Next week they have more of a reasonable chance to show their progress at Florida.

11.Tennessee-

UMass is 0-5 on the season. So far they’ve lost to Hawaii, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion, Temple, and now, Tennessee. Tennessee was the second closest of those games. Look, the Volunteers probably completely looked past UMass given that the game was sandwiched in between their emotionally draining loss to Florida and next week’s game against Georgia. Still, letting UMass stay in that one for as long as they did is an awful look for the Vols.

12.South Carolina-

South Carolina’s near loss to Louisiana Tech was a little more defensible given the how close Skip Holtz’s squad has come to knocking off Kansas State and Arkansas the last couple years. It took the Gamecocks almost every last tick to win this one, with Parker White’s 31 yard field goal with four seconds remaining capping off a 47 second 65 yard drive. South Carolina is gonna need to be better to beat Texas A&M on Saturday.

13.Ole Miss-

Ole Miss got the week off, a chance to rest up and prepare a little extra for their next opponent, Alabama.

Hey, it’s happened before.

14.Missouri-

Another week, another embarrassing performance for the Tigers. After this one, Barry Odom had a message.

“…I want to get one thing real straight, I’m going to win here, that’s going to happen, we will win. This is a turnaround, any way you slice it or dice or want to look at it, this is a turnaround process and unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I’m built for this because I’ve been in a whole heck of a lot of it my entire life.

“I want to go back to the year 1997 and ’98 when Larry Smith was here. His a** went and fought for 14 years and finally broke down the wall. OK? He did it. There were a lot of people that went and sacrificed and did a lot of things to get that turned around. But I was part of it. I was in the locker room. I saw it. I was a captain. I know what it takes. OK?

Fast forward. 2004. Everybody wanted to run Gary Pinkel out of town. That’s pretty damn foolish. Because all he’s done is become the winningest coach in program history. That was a turnaround. It took time. OK? That’s where we’re at. OK? It’s a turnaround. And I don’t like it. I want to win right now. But that’s not the hand I’m given. OK, we’re doing a lot of really good things in this program. Our kids are working extremely hard. We’re not winning games yet, but we will. I’m the man to go get it done, with this staff, with this team, with this program. There’s not anyone left standing after 2015 alright, I am. I know what it takes…”

Let’s dissect this a little bit.

First, Larry Smith. I assume when Odom says 14 years he means four years, the amount of time it took Smith to post a winning record at Mizzou. Smith inherited a program coming off ten straight losing seasons. Odom inherited a program coming off five AP top 25 finishes in the previous nine years. Of course, Smith was given legitimate chance to turn the program around, and after 3-8-1, 3-8, and 5-6 seasons he got the Tigers to back to back top 25 finishes with a 7-5 record in 1997 and a 8-4 record in 1998. Still, given that Smith was fired two years later after a 4-7 record in 1999 and a 3-8 record in 2000 I don’t know if he’s the best example of someone to as the optimistic result for having patience.

Pinkel inherited that program had gone 7-15 the previous two years. Odom is right that it wasn’t turned around immediately. Pinkel didn’t take the Tigers to a bowl game until year three and followed that up with a 5-6 campaign in 2004.

But Pinkel also never lost eight games in a season, as Odom did in year one, and as it looks like will be happening again this year. Pinkel never had back-to-back losses of 30 points or more, as Odom has had in the last two week’s games, both at home. And Pinkel didn’t fire one of his coordinators only 14 games in.

Moreover, Odom’s comments seem to blame Pinkel for the team’s lack of success. The hand he was given? Pinkel’s final three recruiting classes ranked 43rd, 37th and 25th in the nation. Odom inherited a star quarterback. And Odom was, as he says, at Pinkel’s side for the 2015 season. At a certain point, Odom is going to have to take ownership for the situation in Columbia.