Three weeks have gone by in the SEC season and we’re starting to see trends emerging. Teams streaking, teams slumping, and teams somewhere in between. My goal here is to give an idea and understanding of how your favorite team is doing relative to the rest of the conference. We will go through this together weekly with myself giving you two lists. The first one, Weekly Power Rankings, is how teams have performed up to this point in the season, while my second list will show my predictions for how each team will ultimately finish in conference play. I will, of course, provide short detailed points as to my rationale for each spot. Expect fluid movement week to week, especially in the weekly power rankings list, because as intuitive and knowledgeable as I may be, not everyone can be correct 100% of the time (as much as my dad may like to believe he is).
1. Georgia (3-0) – Head Coach (HC): Kirby Smart
Offensive Coordinator (OC): Todd Monken – Defensive Coordinator (DC): Dan Lanning
Georgia has the best resume by far to this point in the season. They’ve dominated in their wins in all three games, including against Tennessee and Auburn. They’re only giving up 237 yards per game on defense and watching the film makes it appear that they have 15 players on the field at all times. There are hardly any holes to exploit for a team with some of the best athletes and schemes in college football. Lanning is earning his paycheck. Meanwhile, the offense is doing exactly what’s needed to get the job done. They boast a +1.7 net yard per play (YPP) differential, while Stetson Bennett has a 5:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. I said at the end of last season they'd win it all this year (before the offseason QB debacle) so I may be biased about this team's potential. Not likely. Next week will determine their regular season.
2. Alabama (3-0) – HC: Nick Saban
OC: Steve Sarkisian – DC: Pete Golding
Alabama will be rolling into the Georgia game next week 3-0, with their most convincing win being the 52-24 rout of Texas A&M. The Tide’s defense is the worst they’ve been since Saban arrived and revived their program and Pete Golding is officially the least liked person in the whole state. Most recently, they allowed 7.5 YPP and gave up 647 yards of total offense. Yes, Alabama allowed that. That isn’t to say their offense hasn’t been as impressive. Their defense has been unimpressive, though. After three games they’re averaging 560 yards per game (YPG), 8.7 YPP, and 51 PPG. Unreal. So far, Mac Jones is filling Tua’s shoes, but I have doubts the offense will be anywhere near as successful against Georgia next week. We’ll see.
3. Texas A&M (2-1) – HC: Jimbo Fisher
OC: Darrell Dickey – DC: Mike Elko
A&M had a ho-hum first week versus Vandy, terrible defensive outing against Alabama, and played surprisingly well against Florida. As the season’s progressed, we’ve seen their offense become more and more competent. Kellen Mond made some huge plays last week and they’re also averaging 5.4 yards per rush. Moving forward you have to believe in their offense until proven otherwise.
However, defensively, they’ve had their ups and downs. Alabama and Florida have two of the best offenses in the country though, and even still they’re only allowing 3.4 yards per rush. That said, their secondary has major concerns, allowing a 71.6% completion percentage and 299 passing yards per game. Next week against a slumping Mississippi State should be a clarifying game to decide if A&M should be taken seriously going forward.
4. Florida (2-1) – HC: Dan Mullen
OC: Brian Johnson – DC: Todd Grantham
Florida’s offense has been dominating in a way they haven’t seen since the Tebow days. Kyle Trask continues to add to his Heisman resumé and we’re yet to see if a team can stop, or even contain, this offense that’s converting 57.1% of their third downs. The only concern on this side of the ball is creating plays and yards on the ground (other than Ole Miss) as this will likely haunt them down the road.
Amazingly, their defense is allowing a greater percentage of third down conversions at 58.7% of the time. They’re giving up 6.3 YPP and 495 YPG to their opponents this year. I’d argue that A&M and Ole Miss have two top 5 offenses in the SEC, so some inflation is to be expected. The experienced DC Grantham will have to come up with a way to fix these issues if Florida wants to find themselves in the SEC Championship discussions at the end of the year.
5. Tennessee (2-1) – HC: Jeremy Pruitt
OC: Jim Chaney – DC: Derrick Ansley
Tennessee is ahead of Auburn here solely based off the fact that I believe they put up a better game against Georgia. Don’t let the last game fool you, Tennessee does in fact have a top offensive line in the country, but the Vols always get busted by the Bulldogs defensive front seven. They’ll also be incapable of making the leap in SEC standings they desire until they get better quarterback play. With that said, the young but talented receiving corps along with the one-two punch of Eric Gray and Ty Chandler in the backfield should propel them to more wins.
Going into the Georgia game, the defense was only allowing 3 yards per rush and are definitely capable of great things. They do an overall good job of getting off the field when needed and haven’t allowed more than 65% completions or 290 yards through the air on the season. They have great playmakers, good size up front, and a DC who’s more than capable of creating schemes proficient at stopping opposing offenses.
6. Auburn (2-1) – HC: Guz Malzahn
OC: Chad Morris – DC: Kevin Steele
Let’s be clear: Auburn should’ve lost last week but got bailed out by the refs. Regardless, they’re our last team 2-1 on the list so that’s how they have this spot. So far, Bo Nix still hasn’t lived up to expectations of improving upon last year’s performance. On the plus side, they finally got their run game going against a team good against the run going into the game. They possess a middle of the road third down conversion percentage and haven’t performed great so far, yet they still possess the blueprint to be a successful team.
It appears Auburn will be relying on their defense to win games until they can get the offense rolling. They’re sufficient against the run, which is great, but they haven’t been able to stop opposing quarterbacks enough to this point. And even if you take the Georgia game away, they’ve still been outgained by inferior teams. That shouldn’t happen. This is a team capable of righting the ship, but we’ve still yet to see if they will or won’t.
7. Ole Miss (1-2) – HC: Lane Kiffin
OC: Jeff Lebby – DC: Durkin/Partridge
Kiffin knew what he signed up for when he joined the SEC again, but man, they’ve had arguably the toughest first three games of anyone in the conference. The top two offenses and one of the better defenses and still putting up numbers is impressive. Any Ole Miss fan should be ecstatic to be 1-2 right now. To this point they’re third in yards per game, ninth in third down conversion percentage, and fifth in passing yards per game in the country. Video. Game. Numbers. They’re only averaging 4.1 yards per rush, but I expect that number to rise throughout the season. All aboard the Lane Train offense.
Okay, so remember everything great that was just mentioned about their offense? It’s almost the exact same but in reverse on defense. They returned production from last year, but they’ve been completely incapable of putting things together as a cohesive unit. To this point they’ve allowed 641 YARDS PER GAME TO OPPOSING TEAMS. 641. Let that sink in. It’s almost impossible to be that bad. Luckily for the team, Matt Corral and company will be able to keep them competitive, but changes must be made on the defensive side for things for Ole Miss to be great.
8. Kentucky (1-2) – HC: Mark Stoops
OC: Eddie Gran – DC: Brad White
Kentucky is a missed extra point in overtime against Ole Miss from potentially being 2-1 right now. Stoops’ game plan is to run through opponents rather than around them, and against poorer defenses, that will work. To this point they’ve run the ball 51 more times than they’ve thrown and it’s no secret this is the Wildcats’ bread and butter. Unfortunately for them, though, this really caps their potential against teams with a strong front seven. Additionally, they’re less than middle of the road when it comes getting to the red zone and scoring touchdowns when they get there.
Defensively, they’re a pretty stout team. They just had 6 interceptions against Mississippi State, but it’s they’re only game so far forcing a turnover. Furthermore, they’re only allowing 3.1 yards per rush to other teams. They also excel at getting off the field, being 18th in the country in stopping teams on third down. Their next game against Tennessee will be a deciding factor in predicting how they perform the rest of the season.
9. Missouri (1-2) – HC: Eliah Drinkwitz
OC: N/A – DC: Ryan Walters
Missouri just beat LSU in a shootout of a game where we finally got to see Connor Bazelak from the beginning to the end, and he excelled. 406 yards and 4 touchdowns are extremely impressive in your first start, even if it’s on an LSU defense in a down year. They’ve only been getting outgained by 0.1 YPP this year and I believe people are sleeping on a team with potentially the best one-two punch in college football. Drinkwitz knows offense, and Missouri could have some exciting games this year.
They’re a bit inconsistent on the defensive end of things. The Tigers only have one takeaway on the year and don’t really shine in any facet defensively. I think moving forward, they need to establish their identity as a run stopping defense that can look to eventually perform better against the pass as well.
10. Arkansas (1-2) – HC: Sam Pittman
OC: Kendal Briles – DC: Barry Odom
I don’t know if it’s just me, but this Arkansas team has been the most surprising thus far. Briles was part of those incredible Baylor offenses and Odom’s resume as a DC speaks for itself. And Sam Pittman in his first head coaching role has far exceeded expectations, in a situation where his team should be 2-1 after their first three games (Auburn got bailed out by the refs last week in case you missed it). What’s interesting about Arkansas is that Pittman’s expertise is offensive lines and I’d argue their O-line is the area with the most faults. Feleipe Franks as the experience transfer QB has worked in the system thus far, but there is an obviously low ceiling for him in that role.
The 2019 Arkansas team was notoriously bad on defense, finishing 124th out of 130 in scoring out of every FBS team and giving up more than 30 points in every game but two. This year so far? 33rd out of 76 teams, giving up 10 less points per game. This is a bend but don’t break defense, as they are top 10 in the country in red zone defense.
11. Mississippi State (1-2) – HC: Mike Leach
OC: Mike Leach – DC: Zach Arnett
‘Til the day I die, I’ll love Mike Leach and maintain that he’s an offensive genius. That said, playcalling and scheming only gets you so far when K..J. Costello is your quarterback. Since the LSU game they’ve had 29 drives resulting in two touchdowns and 14 turnovers. Almost unfathomable. A team averaging almost 450 YPG with a stellar defense and talented skill position players now sits at 1-2 thanks to their quarterback. Listen, If we were playing flag football and given 10 seconds to throw, I’d probably pick him all day, but that isn’t the case. And the slightest amount of pressure throws him off his game, which is really unfortunate because the Bulldogs pass protection is not very good at all. Keep the system, throw out the quarterback.
I’m a huge fan of this State defense going forward. It took 84 plays for LSU to eclipse 400 yards and even then, they still forced two turnovers in that one. Their run defense thus far is probably the best they’ve ever had, allowing just 2.1 yards per rush. They possess a top 15 third down defense and top 10 sack percentage. And probably the most amazing stat is they still own a top 15 defense in opponents PPG even though they’re offense has surrendered the ball 14 times. This team has the most potential to improve going forward in my opinion, but it all comes down to the offense straightening out their struggles.
12. South Carolina (1-2) – HC: Will Muschamp
OC: Mike Bobo – DC: Travaris Robinson
Colin Hill transferred from Colorado State to be with his former coach Mike Bobo at South Carolina. So far, it’s been the most mediocre tandem since Allen Iverson teamed up with Melo and the Nuggets. They’re having a rough time opening up the offense due to the lack of a run game and only being able to count on Shi Smith in the pass game. I believe they’ll continue to be mid-tier on that side of the ball going forward, especially against teams with a secondary capable of locking in on Shi. They’ll need Sophomore Kevin Harris to be a consistent threat out of the backfield for them to be competitive offensively moving forward.
Travaris Robinson has the defense clicking for the most part this season, having yet to allow 400 yards in a game. They’re only allowing 3.2 yards per rush and do an exceptional job at getting off the field, limiting opponents to a 19.35% conversion rate on third downs. This, as I’m sure you guessed, places them top 10 nationally in opponent plays per game, allowing them to stay fresh on defense. Robinson does a great job getting his team prepared every week and has improved the defense drastically since he first arrived.
13. LSU (1-2) – HC: Ed Orgeron
OC: Steve Ensminger – DC: Bo Pelini
What is going on in Baton Rouge? If you take away the Vanderbilt game (who might not even be an FBS team anymore) this team is averaging 5.95 YPP while giving up 8.45 YPP. LSU, the defending national champs. Yes, them. They’re incapable of running the ball and if Myles Brennan faces significant pressure, you can go ahead and assume something terrible is going to happen. They’ve still been able to achieve over 400 yards in every outing this year, but that’s about all I have good to say about them.
The defense last year, against much greater offensive threats, only allowed 22 PPG. They’ve declined to the point of already allowing 32 PPG through three games. And it doesn’t get any easier from here. They’re terrible against the pass, mediocre against the run, and can’t get off the field. The only thing they have going for them is being #4 in the nation in takeaways per game. And I almost don’t want to count that considering Vanderbilt football essentially only exists as an idea and Mississippi State gives the ball away more often than Chick-Fil-A employees say, “my pleasure.”
14. Vanderbilt (0-3) – HC: Derek Mason
OC: Todd Fitch – DC: Ted Roof
Vanderbilt ends week 3 with, you guessed it, an 0-3 record. I almost didn’t even include a write-up for them because they honestly don’t even really deserve one… The Commodores had probably the best first 60 minutes in program history against A&M week 1 and things actually didn’t look bleak. Their OC Fitch was an integral part of La Tech’s success the few seasons prior, and he may be the man to turn around the ship. Just not this season. Let’s look into this. 3.9 YPP (worst in nation), 8.7 PPG (also worst in nation), and 2.9 yards per rush (3rd worst in SEC). If you’re Vanderbilt, now’s the time to experiment. Triple threat, air raid, heck, maybe even the wishbone. It doesn’t really even matter.
Ted Roof is one of the more experienced coaches in the SEC, and he’s fresh off a 12-1 season as Appalachian State’s DC. But he isn’t at App State anymore. The good news is Vanderbilt is one of the best in the country at getting their defense off the field. The bad news is that’s solely because teams are scoring almost at will, since the A&M game. Even that game, the Aggies fumbled three times and only scored 17 points, but they still amassed 372 yards in the game. Vanderbilt can’t stop the run or the pass and I don’t actually know what advice to give them going forward.
Written by Alex Hill