I think going forward for these weekly articles my plan is to do a more commentary-based write-up. It will probably be something along the lines of listing the teams’ current strengths and weaknesses into what they’ve accomplished so far in the year. That’s an important point, because these power rankings are only based on accolades, not which teams I believe are better. I will, however, always put my forecasted SEC regular season predictions at the end of every article. This article will also provide a special treat for you folks, because it will include my first ever rant about the Tennessee Volunteers program’s current state of affairs (I’m unashamedly biased towards them and have strong feelings towards their current situation).
1. Alabama (4-0) (UP 1) – Head Coach (HC): Nick Saban
Offensive Coordinator (OC): Steve Sarkisian – Defensive Coordinator (DC): Pete Golding
Alabama is now 4-0 on the season with wins over the second and third best teams in the SEC. To this point, it appears their offense will be able to outscore any team regardless of how many points their defense allows. They’re winning games by an average of 20 points a game, and they’re second in the nation in scoring. Their offensive stats week-in-and-week-out are unparalleled and we can just about cast them into the SEC Championship game right now. Mac Jones and company are more than enough firepower to get the job done against any team (seeing as they just hung 41 on the best defensive team in college football).
2. Georgia (3-1) (DN 1) – HC: Kirby Smart
OC: Todd Monken – DC: Dan Lanning
I almost don’t want to fault Georgia on that loss against Alabama, because it’s becoming almost evident that Saban is immortal and will never lose to a former assistant. I have Georgia over Texas A&M here, because they still fared better against Alabama than the Aggies did. Regardless of what you just saw last game, their defense is still ridiculously good and deserve the credit for the job they’ve done this season. However, Stetson Bennett did not do nearly enough to get the job done against teams that have the size and strength on the interior that Alabama and other top tier teams possess. He had more balls swatted down at the line of scrimmage last week than my second-grade cousin had shots blocked against me one-on-one in basketball. It’s clearly their weak spot this season, and it’s difficult to believe a 5’10”, 180-pound quarterback could lead them to a championship-type season this year.
3. Texas A&M (3-1) (No Change) – HC: Jimbo Fisher
OC: Darrell Dickey – DC: Mike Elko
Scrolling through the twitterverse this weekend, I stumbled across somebody tweeting something positive (imagine that) about Texas A&M’s likelihood/potential to make it to the College Football Playoff (CFP) this year. Certainly, challenges lie ahead, but I’d argue they have the easiest remaining schedule of any SEC team. All they must do is stay out of their own way and trust in the capabilities of an experienced and successful coach as well as their quarterback leader. IF they limit turnovers and work on improving their third down defense, all they’d need to do is maintain their current offensive output and they shouldn’t run into any problems.
4. Florida (2-1) (No Change) – HC: Dan Mullen
OC: Brian Johnson – DC: Todd Grantham
Florida will not have played in 21 days when they go into their Halloween matchup against Mizzou. Florida fans can only hope this doesn’t throw off their offensive momentum and chemistry after such a long break. It will, on the other hand, probably provide their defense a great upper hand moving forward to get much needed reps in to improve what could be described as a lackluster start for that end of the field. They have many things to work on on that side of the ball, and if they’re able to become about 5-10% more efficient on defense, I don’t see them struggling to beat anyone but Georgia for the remainder of the regular season. Trust in Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts to lead the offense going forward, and hope their defense improves just enough to make more stops against the better offensive teams.
5. Kentucky (2-2) (UP 5) – HC: Bob Stoops
OC: Eddie Gran – DC: Brad White
Kentucky is coming off a statement win against Tennessee, but they didn’t do it in the kind of way you’d expect. They beat Tennessee 34-7 last week and only outgained the Vols by seven yards. They still aren’t able to garner the yards offensively they’d prefer to create, but their defense has been tremendous. They’ve forced 9 interceptions and a fumble (three pick sixes) over their last two games as their secondary has been playing phenomenally. I don’t believe their turnovers forced per game is maintainable or practical, but they’re still doing great work on third downs both offensively and defensively. It’s just unfortunate for them that they’re still yet to face off against Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. It doesn’t get any easier from here.
6. Arkansas (2-2) (or 3-1) (UP 4) – HC: Sam Pittman
OC: Kendal Briles – DC: Barry Odom
Arkansas has been playing incredible ball this year. Absolutely remarkable considering what this team was a year ago. Today of last year, they sat at 1-5 against FBS teams, and got the brakes beat off of them by Auburn, 51-10. This offense is not going to be anything good this year, but Barry Odom is proving himself once again to be one of the best DCs in college football. They’ve forced 13 turnovers so far, own one of the best third down defenses, and do great defensively in the red zone. They still won’t be able to get a whole lot done though behind Feleipe Franks and a line that produces an average of 2.6 yards per carry (YPC) this season. Seriously, averaging 3.1 YPC against Ole Miss, of all teams, should be criminal. I’m expecting a lot of low scoring affairs for this team unless the offense lights a spark.
7. Tennessee (2-2) (DN 2) – HC: Jeremy Pruitt
OC: Jim Chaney – DC: Derrick Ansley
Okay, this is what we are all here for… The most anticipated section of the article. I honestly don’t even really know where to begin other than by saying that we Tennessee fans are all disappointed. I tried to say that I was mad, but then I remember the numbness as I watched Guarantano throw his second pick six. I was as numb as my fingers used to be as a kid running around late December playing hide and go seek in shorts and a t-shirt in 20-degree weather at midnight. I felt nothing. It’s the first time I can remember that feeling coming over me watching Tennessee sports. And then they brought out J.T. Shrout as the backup and I immediately turned to one of my roommates and said, “oh no, he’s actually worse.” Then JT proceeds to throw a pick his first play. And then, as if the despair couldn’t be any more unbearable, THEY BRING GUARANTANO BACK OUT ONTO THE FIELD.
Before the season, if you would’ve polled 100 UT fans about what their biggest concern was going into the season, 98 rational fans would’ve immediately blurted out the name Guarantano. So how could this coaching staff not realize what a ridiculous mistake it is to try and believe in him to win big games this season. And then back him up with J.T. Shrout? The whole thing is indefensible. Put out Maurer or your greatest investment yet in Harrison Bailey and let them make young quarterback mistakes that your tenth-year quarterback is going to make anyway. Let them learn and experience that so we can rely on them in the future (or now, preferably) so that we don’t have to endure the insufferableness of our current predicament. I actually don’t have anything remotely nice to say about anything else in that game aside from Henry To’o To’o and Eric Gray going out there and playing ball. I don’t want to see #2 play another snap in a Tennessee uniform again.
8. South Carolina (2-2) (UP 4) – HC: Will Muschamp
OC: Mike Bobo – DC: Travaris Robinson
The only reason South Carolina is behind UT is because of their head to head matchup loss. I’d argue though, that the Gamecocks have certainly been trending in the right direction, and although they might not get as many wins as they wish this season, I don’t believe they’ll be losing near as bad as they were last year. They have chances to beat LSU, Ole Miss, and Missouri still to get their season to 5-5. Their third down defense and great passing defense (aside from their first game) should provide them a solid foundation to set up on and propel them forward.
9. Auburn (2-2) (or 1-3) (DN 3) – HC: Gus Malzahn
OC: Chad Morris – DC: Kevin Steele
Auburn has regressed quite a bit since last year, mostly on the offensive side of things. They don’t get enough passing yards for the amount of times they drop back, Bo Nix is having trouble seeing the field, and their only strength is the ability to run the football relatively well. Fortunately, Tank Bigsby is a stud and is going to eat up Ole Miss’ defense next week. You can only hope for the rest of the team, though, that this week’s lucky draw against the worst defense in the SEC will give them some confidence as they’ve struggled to perform so far. Additionally, their third down defense is second worst in the SEC so they aren’t even stopping teams nearly as much as they were last year. As easy of a matchup as it is for their offense, their defense will be tested greatly to stop the potent Ole Miss attack.
10. Missouri (1-2) (DN 1) – HC: Eliah Drinkwitz
OC: N/A – DC: Ryan Walters
With the postponement of the Vanderbilt game comes a bittersweet conundrum. On one hand, Missouri will be missing out on an easy win. On the other hand, they get to record and work out the kinks offensively and defensively. They’ll be matching up against a Kentucky team whose defensive is blisteringly hot and is riding high after a blowout win over their rival, Tennessee. It’ll be a tough contest and provide many challenges, including to see how their freshman quarterback performs, as well as to see if they’re able to thwart Kentucky’s rushing attempts. So far, they’ve also performed well converting third downs and scoring in the redzone. Let’s see how Drinkwitz gameplans and prepares his team off a bye.
11. Ole Miss (1-3) (DN 4) – HC: Lane Kiffin
OC: Jeff Lebby – DC: Durkin/Partridge
Matt Corral up until last week had been on a roll. He was the integral reason the offense was putting up video game numbers. However, the Lane Train and company hit a roadblock in the form of the Arkansas Razorbacks defense. The Razorbacks picked off 6 passes and I believe they set the tone early with the early goal line stop on Mississippi’s first drive. The game wasn’t full of bad news though, as the Rebels defense finally proved they were capable of not giving up 200 yards on the ground every game. It didn’t really amount to a whole lot for them though as the Razorbacks still amassed almost 400 yards of offense and 33 points. The defense will be challenged once again next week to one of the best teams in the run game, the Auburn Tigers.
12. Mississippi State (1-3) (DN 1) – HC: Mike Leach
OC: Mike Leach – DC: Zach Arnett
It doesn’t matter how stout your defense is, when your quarterback play is that of the Mississippi State bulldogs, you’re going to have tremendous troubles trying to win games. Last week they only gave the ball away twice and yet their offense still only managed to find the endzone once. For as successful as their defense has been and looked, the offense has outclassed them on the opposite end. Receivers are dropping balls, the o-line isn’t protecting the quarterbacks, and the quarterbacks aren’t good at making good decisions under duress. The good news is that they get a bye this week. The bad news is that they come back against Alabama. Let’s hope Leach can salvage anything from this season.
13. LSU (1-2) (No Change) – HC: Ed Orgeron
OC: Steve Ensminger – DC: Bo Pelini
LSU is coming off their Florida game postponement into a home game matchup against the Gamecocks. This will be a game of an unstoppable object meeting an immovable force as LSU’s pass offense, which is one of the best, will square off against one of the best pass defenses. On the defensive side of the ball for LSU, they have a lot to show improvement on as they also rank last in passing yards allowed and have an exploitable third down defense. We also need to see improved offensive line play so that Myles Brennan can stay protected and to get the rushing game going more.
14. Vanderbilt (0-3) (No Change) – HC: Derek Mason
OC: Todd Fitch – DC: Ted Roof
The good news is Vanderbilt didn’t lose last week. Even though they didn’t play. But I guess there isn’t really bad news seeing as that’s all you can ask for out of this team. They’re one of the few teams that will have an extended break in between games, which sees them on a 21-day hiatus. Maybe they will actually be able to change things around and show signs of improvement in literally any area. They come back against an Ole Miss team on Halloween, so it may actually provide them with a chance to find the end zone a few times. I don’t really have anything else to say about them, other than that I’m sure their only goal this season is to at least come out victorious at least once this season. Godspeed, Vanderbilt.
End of Season Predictions
These standings are extremely volatile four weeks through the season and there’s bound to be even more fluctuations in the coming few weeks as well. The 3-7 seed in the SEC West is completely wide open and it’s week-to-week trying to determine how they’ll shake out. I would also argue that 3-6 is kind of the same in the East, but I think Kentucky has the edge so far on the other teams there. I am, however, confident in the top two for East and West, though Georgia and Florida’s matchup soon is intriguing. Every team on this list, except for probably Vanderbilt, has a shot to propel themselves forward with the talent they contain on their respective rosters. That said, here’s my new predictions for how the season shakes out:
Written by Alex Hill