SEC football pre-bowl game power rankings


Max Schneider, Associate Sports Editor

As the season nears its end, it’s safe to say the SEC is no longer the best conference in college football.

That title goes to the Big Ten. The SEC does have 11 teams that are bowl eligible, but this conference has become a slew of good-but-not-great teams looking up at Alabama. With shootouts and upsets around college football this weekend, the tides have turned in this week’s power rankings.

Well, maybe every team but the Tide.

  1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

Alabama erased all “War Eagle” cries throughout the state of Alabama with a decisive win in the Iron Bowl over Auburn. Alabama is the only Power Five conference team that remains undefeated, and it looks poised to repeat as national champion behind the best defense in the country and stellar quarterback play from freshman Jalen Hurts. This team isn’t talked about much as one of the great teams in college football history, but if it can run the table, Nick Saban’s bunch would cement itself in that conversation.

  1. LSU (Last week: 2)

No Leonard Fournette, no problem for the Tigers. LSU had no trouble running all over Texas A&M in College Station last week behind Derrius Guice, who did his best Fournette impression with 37 carries for 285 yards and four touchdowns. LSU had a rough start to the season, but it’s hit its stride as of late and may earn itself a berth in a prestigious bowl game.

  1. Auburn (Last week: 3)

Well, that’s not the end to the season that Auburn was looking for. The past four weeks have included an unimpressive win over Vanderbilt at home, a loss to Georgia in which they failed to convert even one first down in the second half, a win against Alabama A&M (woohoo!) and a loss to the Crimson Tide in a game where they never had a chance. They hang on to the No. 3 spot this week, however, and they might have hung on to a Sugar Bowl appearance.

  1. Florida (Last week: 5)

After Florida lost handily to Florida State for the fourth straight year, the Gators move up a spot in this week’s rankings. Huh? How can that be? Well, maybe it’s because Texas A&M, which was ahead of them, played even worse and the four teams below them lost as well. Or maybe it’s because we just feel bad that they have to get blown out by Alabama on Saturday.

  1. Kentucky (Last week: 10)

I guess the “there’s always basketball season” jokes have to stop here. Kentucky pulled off the upset of the week when it knocked off future Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and 11th-ranked Louisville, bumping it up five spots in our rankings this week, guaranteeing the Wildcats a winning record for the first time since 2009.

  1. Vanderbilt (Last week: 14)

Sitting at 4-6 with matchups against Ole Miss and Tennessee approaching and coming off a bad loss to Missouri, the prospects of a bowl berth looked bleak for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Fans wanted more from Derek Mason. They wanted more from Kyle Shurmur. And boy did those two answer the bell. Shurmur looked like Peyton Manning at home against the Volunteers, sparking alumnus Skip Bayless to call him “NFL-worthy.” Mason danced his way through the last two minutes of the game, proclaiming “This is our state.” The viral video of Vanderbilt’s fraternity brothers dancing to Rocky Top on replay as Tennessee fans headed home was the icing on the cake.

  1. Tennessee (Last week: 6)

It looks like the Butch Jones era in Tennessee might be coming to an end. Tennessee’s defense was nowhere to be found this past Saturday in Nashville, as the Vols gave up 45 points and over 600 total yards to a Vanderbilt offense that struggled all season long. They couldn’t capitalize on quarterback Josh Dobbs’s 91 percent completion percentage and 340 passing yards either, and their Sugar Bowl hopes were crushed in the process.

  1. Texas A&M (Last week: 4)

It feels like forever ago that the Aggies were 7-1 and holding the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Aggies have now lost three of their last four and four of their last six, hardly a way to end the season. The biggest hole in this A&M squad has been its defense, giving up 54 points this past week, and coach Kevin Sumlin will be heading into next season unimproved and with another new quarterback.

  1. Georgia (Last week: 8)

So the Kirby Smart project wasn’t so smart after all. The Bulldogs have one signature win this season, coming two weeks ago at home against Auburn, while watching former head coach Mark Richt put up a better record at Miami. Georgia is coming off a one-point loss to Georgia Tech after allowing a busted reverse pass to turn into a rushing touchdown in what was a weak showing from quarterback Jacob Eason. The bright spot was Sony Michel’s rushing for 170 yards as he looks to fill the shoes of Nick Chubb should Chubb choose to depart.

  1.  Mississippi State (Last week: 11)

After what was a rough season for Mississippi State, Bulldogs fans had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. It started on Thursday when they watched former MSU quarterback Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to their 10th straight win and continued Saturday as they absolutely dominated in-state rival Ole Miss behind 457 yards on the ground. Nick Fitzgerald might not be the second coming of Dak Prescott, but the sophomore out of Georgia has that kind of dual-threat ability, rushing for 258 yards and two touchdowns this past Saturday. State might not be headed to a bowl game, but it can find some consolation in finding its quarterback of the not-too-distant future.

  1.  Arkansas (Last week: 9)

Arkansas has been the picture of inconsistency this year. In fact, it hasn’t won two games in a row since September 17. However, there was a bit of consistency in its inconsistent nature. The Hogs would win one week, then get blown out the next, then win big the next week, then get blown out after that, and etc. This time it ended with a disappointing loss to Missouri, the team with the worst record in the conference.

  1.  Missouri (Last week: 13)

Speaking of the team with the worst record in the SEC, somehow Missouri isn’t last, and maybe this is the product of recency bias after defeating Arkansas and Vanderbilt in two of its last three games. Yes, Missouri is bad, but its offense has been very impressive. Drew Lock leads the conference in passing yards, and Missouri is the only team in the SEC with a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.

  1.  Ole Miss (Last week: 7)

Through two weeks, everyone thought Ole Miss was the best 1-2 team in the country. After six weeks, they were the best 3-3 team in the country. After eight, they were the best 3-5 team in history. It took an entire season, but we finally figured it out. The Rebels just aren’t good. There’s no excuse for it.

Sure, they played a tough schedule. Sure, Chad Kelly missed the last three games, but this was never a good defense, as it routinely allowed SEC offenses to score in the 30s and 40s against it. Shea Patterson gives Rebel Nation a glimmer of hope next season, as his game strongly resembles that of Johnny Manziel.

  1.  South Carolina (Last week: 12)

If you forget the 56-7 loss to Clemson on Saturday, South Carolina didn’t have a bad week. It upset Syracuse in basketball for a huge non-conference win. Apparently the team at the bottom of the rankings has to be the butt of a basketball joke, as Kentucky knows all too well.

But really, South Carolina does not have a quarterback. Not one bit. Six players have thrown passes for the Gamecocks this year, none eclipsing 1,100 yards on the season. In fact, the three that aren’t actually quarterbacks are the ones with the most success, as a wide receiver, tight end and running back have combined to go 4-of-4 for 90 yards and a touchdown. Maybe they don’t need a quarterback after all.