SEC Power Rankings Week Three

Seth Pollock, 23 Sports

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

1.Alabama-

The Tide led Colorado State only 24-10 at half at yet the game was never in doubt. If you’re looking for more of that kind of excitement, Bama plays Vandy next week.

2.Mississippi State-

What Dan Mullen has accomplished is truly incredible. We’ve reached the point where we can be sure that anointing him second best coach in the league isn’t a product of Dak Prescott. After a down year that wasn’t really that down, the Bulldogs are back. Behind four total touchdowns from Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State beat LSU by more than the combined point totals of LSU’s four losses last year and set Fitzgerald up as a possible Heisman candidate. For as long as Saban’s at Alabama division supremacy is gonna take a special season plus a good bit of luck, but there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t compete for a New Year’s Six game. Which sets up…

3.Georgia-

…A really fun game next week in Athens. The hype was gonna be there for whoever won UGA-Notre Dame. UGA came away on top by a point, so they get the hype. Next week should give us a chance to see if the Bulldogs are for real or if their win over the Fighting Irish was as irrelevant as Texas’ last year.

4.Florida-

Jim McElwain got a much needed win in exciting fashion on Saturday with  Feleipe Franks finding Tyrie Cleveland in the end zone to avoid overtime.That win stops the Gators, who are still down nine suspended players, from reaching full on apocalyptic panic quite yet. Now, a loss in Lexington next week could bring it all back. But if the Gators can pull out more nail-biting victories like last Saturday, they could be well on their way to reaching their season goal of another trip to Atlanta to be pummeled by Alabama.

5.Auburn-

Auburn needed more time than you would have expected to put away Mercer last Saturday. While the game was never in too much doubt, the fact remains that with less than five minutes left the Tigers were only up by one score. To be fair to Auburn, turnovers are the great equalizer and the Tigers had to overcome five while Mercer didn’t have a single one. Yardage wise, the game was closer to what you would expect, with Auburn outgaining the Bears 510 to 246. Still, last week’s game can’t inspire too much confidence if you’re an Auburn fan. Luckily for the Tigers, they get another chance to tune up at Missouri before facing Mississippi State.

6.Vanderbilt-

The Commodores might have had the biggest win of the week among SEC teams, beating 18th ranked Kansas State 14-7 in Nashville. Through three games Vandy has allowed just 13 points, and Kyle Shurmur has been competent enough. In a weak east, they could be a dark horse.

7.Kentucky-

It’s still early in the year, but with a win in Columbia, South Carolina, Wildcat fans would be forgiven for thinking this is finally the year Mark Stoops’ recruiting pays off and the Cats start to win big. A win over Florida next week could signal a crazy, fun year for the division.

8.Tennessee-

That was certainly a Butch Jones way to lose. It’s easy to second guess Tennessee’s coverage at the end of that game because, well, the final play happened the way it did. But I’ll take a contrarian view: It’s still early, and Butch and Co. already have one big win on the season. They lost a game on the very last play on the road at the team favored to win the division. There’s no reason to count the Vols out yet.

9.LSU-

The good news for the Tigers is that Saturday’s loss is only one loss, and it counts only as much as any of their four losses last year. But this one certainly felt more damning. It’s almost like LSU is starting to realize that firing your national championship winning head coach and replacing him with his defensive line coach, who had a 3-21 SEC record in his previous stop as head coach, isn’t a good idea.

10.South Carolina-

Three games into the season, it is clear what the Gamecocks must do: They must work to gain as few yards and give up as many yards as possible. Week one against NC State: Wolfpack 504 yards, Gamecocks 246 yards. Gamecocks 35, Wolfpack 28. Week two against Missouri: Tigers 423 yards, Gamecocks 359 yards. Gamecocks 30, Tigers 13. Last week against Kentucky: Gamecocks 358 yards, Wildcats 353 yards. Wildcats 23, Gamecocks 13. If they can implement this strategy optimally and get negative yardage the rest of the year the rest of the league doesn’t have a chance. And watch out, Clemson!

11.Arkansas-

The Razorbacks had the week off, presumably so head coach Bret Bielema could further ponder the implications of the fidget spinner on his mortal being.

Next week’s game in Jerryworld against Texas A&M is massive for both Bielema and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. But the game has more upside and less downside for Bielema. Bielema is just 26-27 at Arkansas, 10-22 in conference, and the Razorbacks have lost three of their last four going back to last season. The 21 point home loss to TCU did not inspire confidence. At the same time, Bielema could gain back a lot of momentum with a win next week. He’s 0-4 against the Aggies, so a victory could be a start to convincing the fan base the Hogs are finally turning the corner. More importantly, it would keep the players on board. If they lose, it’s nothing they haven’t done before, and they have enough winnable games left on their schedule that at least a bowl trip is still likely. And with Bielema’s buyout at $15.4 million through the end of the calendar year, he shouldn’t feel too much heat from Jeff Long. As for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin…

12.Texas A&M-

…This feels like a must win. He’s 4-0 against the Hogs and Bielema at Texas A&M and losing this one would only advance the narrative that the sky is falling. Needing more than a half to pull ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette for good didn’t help make the fans any less restless either.

You want a reason for optimism if you’re an Aggie fan? The first half of the UCLA game. I’m dead serious. The Aggies went into The Rose Bowl against a talented team and dominated for a half. The Aggies actually beat the spread for the entire game. By five and half points. Whatever happened in the second half, the first half showed the Aggies have potential. The challenge for Kevin Sumlin is making sure he doesn’t lose his team. A win against Arkansas would be a great sign that he hasn’t yet.

13.Ole Miss-

You know it’s been a rough week when losing to Cal isn’t the most concerning part. Interim head coach Matt Luke missed a day of practice to be in Cincinnati for Mississippi’s meeting with the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions, where the Rebels’ 21 alleged recruiting violations were discussed.

It’s gonna be a long year in Oxford.

A prediction, though: Ole Miss will beat a team they aren’t supposed to beat this year. This team has too much talent not to be in some games against good teams. There’s no reason this team can’t pull one of those games out. If nothing else, at least they aren’t…

14.Missouri-

…Missouri. Pre-season, this team had sky high expectations. Maybe Drew Lock finally had the situational awareness to go with that massive arm. Damarea Crockett looked like a beast by the end of last year. The defense really couldn’t be any worse, and having Barry Odom more involved could only be a good thing. Dan Wolken of the USA Today picked them to win the east.

Mizzou isn’t winning the east.

Year two wasn’t supposed to be do or die for Barry Odom. Three weeks in, that’s changed. Week one against Missouri State showed the defense was still leaky at best. Week two against South Carolina showed the offense wasn’t immune to problems of its own, but that the defense had the ability to at least slow an SEC offense. Week three against Purdue didn’t show leaks. It showed that the program is completely broken. The players seemed not to care very much and the result was arguably worse than any in Gary Pinkel’s 15 years.

At this point it seems unlikely Barry Odom can fix it. He might not be an awful head coach, but there comes a tipping point when negative momentum within a program is insurmountable. Players stop caring as much, recruits won’t touch the situation with a ten foot pole, and the stadium has the atmosphere of a morgue. For Missouri, Saturday was that tipping point.