SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

It usually takes fours games of a season to learn enough about a team to be able to form an accurate ranking.  Now let’s look at the SEC from top to bottom, starting with the defending national champions and 4-0 Alabama Crimson Tide.

  1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0) – This is the most obvious choice in the entire list.  The Crimson Tide rank first in the SEC in scoring offense and defense, putting up 39.5 points per game, while only allowing 9.8 points.  They showcase the top running back tandem in the conference lead by 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and sophomore sensation Trent Richardson.  Also, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, quarterback Greg McElroy simply doesn’t lose.  He has not lost a game he has started since the eighth grade.
  2. Auburn (4-0, 2-0) – Led by transfer quarterback and former Florida Gator Cam Newton, Auburn has the SEC’s top rushing offense, averaging 278 yards per game.  Newton leads the team, and conference in rushing with 485 yards in just four games.  And while he is not lighting up the passing game in yardage, he does have the highest pass efficiency, with a 182.5.
  3. Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) – Head and shoulders above all other SEC pass offenses, Arkansas is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Ryan Mallett.  Mallett is seen by many scouts as a dominant force and easy first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  He leads the conference in passing offense, averaging 359.5 yards per game, which is over 120 yards more than Kentucky’s Mike Hartline who sits in second.  Arkansas pushed Alabama to the limit last Saturday, but Mallett’s three interceptions kept the Razorbacks from closing it out.
  4. Florida (4-0, 2-0) – The story with the Gators’ season centers on quarterback John Brantley replacing the legend of Tim Tebow.  Unfortunately for him, he is not sitting at the top of statistics like Tebow did.  Brantley is currently eighth in the SEC in passing yards with 700, and tied for fourth with six passing touchdowns.  But another quarterback story has emerged, that of freshman Trey Burton, who was responsible for six touchdowns against Kentucky this weekend.  Burton also played some receiver, where he had five catches for 37 yards and one of his touchdowns.
  5. LSU (4-0, 2-0) – While they have not been impressive in the eyeball test, LSU has established a setting in the top five teams of the SEC with quality wins and a stout defensive performance.  The Bayou Bengals are ranked second in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing only 12 points per game and first in total defense, allowing just 254 yards per game.  They may not be dazzling, but wins over North Carolina, Mississippi State and West Virginia cannot be overlooked.   Their road to Atlanta (or back to Atlanta if you count the game with North Carolina) only gets tougher as they travel to Florida and Auburn, and face Alabama at home before the trip to rival Arkansas to close out the regular season.
  6. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) – The Gamecocks have been impressive for the first 15 quarters of the season.  However, the fourth quarter in Auburn was, in a word, embarrassing.  Junior quarterback Stephen Garcia lost two fumbles and was replaced by freshman Connor Shaw.  Shaw then proceeded to throw two interceptions, both of which were caused by his inexperience in the SEC.  Inconsistency in the offensive line didn’t help matters either.  However, the bright side for Carolina is their young core of talent, including the freshman phenom running back Marcus Lattimore and the SEC’s leader in receptions and receiving yards Alshon Jeffery.  If they can toughen up in the trenches, the Gamecocks could push Florida for the top spot in the East.
  7. Kentucky (3-1, 0-1) – Even after a 48-14 thrashing by Florida, Kentucky sits high in my power rankings.  They have two of the more dynamic offensive players in the SEC, running back Derrick Locke and wide receiver Randall Cobb.  The duo combines for 586 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, as well as Cobb’s 227 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.  While Kentucky hasn’t played a particularly difficult schedule, they have taken down rival Louisville and beat opponents Western Kentucky and Akron by a combined score of 110-38.
  8. Mississippi State (2-2, 1-2) – Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are a little better than most people, including myself expected.  They took Auburn to the end in week two, but fell short by just three points.  This was followed with another loss, this time at the hands of LSU.  However, they came roaring back with a 24-12 win over the Georgia Bulldogs.  This win gives them a few power points in my book.  While they won’t compete for the West crown, they will play spoiler down the road.  Don’t be surprised by a few upsets in conference play from the Bulldogs.
  9. Georgia (1-3, 0-3) – The loss of wide receiver AJ Green has hurt Georgia.  We can all agree on that.  However, I am a firm believer that losing one player (except a veteran, proven winner at quarterback) cannot cost a good team three wins.  Losing a skill position player shouldn’t be a reason for losses.  By that, I mean Georgia is not a very good team.  They newly inputted 3-4 defense has been serviceable, but nothing stellar.  Quarterback Aaron Murray has had a good season, but can’t do everything on his own.  The rushing offense, the bread and butter of Georgia every year, is tenth in the SEC with only 124.2 yards per game.  Georgia, once thought to compete for the SEC East, has dropped to having to fight for a bowl bid.
  10. Vanderbilt (1-2, 1-1) – The Commodores are an improved team.  But the loss of Coach Bobby Johnson didn’t help the progression, from a leadership perspective.  Vanderbilt will fight for a bowl bid with Tennessee and Georgia, and could make it on the shoulders of running back Warren Norman.  He is tenth in the SEC in rushing, averaging just 75 yards per game.  However, he is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.  If Vanderbilt can stay stern on defense and avoid having to air the ball out, Norman could lead them to a 7 win season and a respectable bowl bid.
  11. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) – We all expected Tennessee to be un-Tennessee-like in 2010.  But not one expected this.  The Volunteers hosted Pac-10 Elite Oregon in week two and held up with them for the first half.  But the second half featured an offensive “nuke” by Oregon, scoring 35 unanswered points (45 going back to the end of the first half).  However, the story of the season was what happened this past weekend in the disappointing win, if there is such a thing, over UAB.  It took overtime and a miracle catch for Tennessee to drop the Blazers, a team that should have been demolished in Neyland Stadium.  Tennessee will be lucky to pull out a six win season in 2010, as they still have trips to LSU, Georgia and South Carolina, as well as home games with Alabama and Kentucky, all which I think they will lose.
  12. Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1) – This one was a little simple for me too.  The bottom line is this:  you can’t be an SEC powerhouse and lose to an FCS opponent, Jacksonville State and yearly bottom-of-the-barrel SEC team Vanderbilt AT HOME.  As surprising as the loss to Jacksonville State was, the Vanderbilt loss was officially a blowout (loss by 14 or more points).  Because of this, the Rebels have dropped to dead last.  Even the addition of expected Heisman contender quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss hasn’t proven a single thing to me.  The two wins over Tulane and Fresno State mean next to nothing when compared to the two glaring home losses.
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