The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

SEC Power Rankings Week One: Football is back at last

Where do the Commodores rank in the SEC ladder?
Emma Stapleton
Photo by Emma Stapleton

Football fans, the wait is over.  This past weekend the NCAA opened play with one of the SEC’s best teams, the Florida Gators, in action against Miami.  And this coming weekend, the other 13 SEC teams will kickoff their seasons. So, it’s that time of year once again: here are The Vanderbilt Hustler’s preseason SEC Power Rankings.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (#2)

There is not much to say here.  Alabama is coming off of their fourth straight NCAA Championship appearance and has high hopes for this year as well.  Junior quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa is at the top of nearly every preseason Heisman Trophy list and his favorite target, wide receiver Jerry Juedy, is in store for a big year as well.  Alabama will take on Duke Week One in Atlanta.

2. Georgia Bulldogs (#3)

Georgia failed to make the College Football Playoff last season after a heartbreaking loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, but the Bulldogs will certainly bounce back this season.  With quarterback Jake Fromm continuing to improve and running back D’Andre Swift coming off a breakout campaign, expect this offense to be seriously dynamic. The Bulldogs will travel to Nashville to open the season against Vanderbilt.

3. LSU Tigers (#6)

LSU has continued to trend positively over the past four years, reaching as high as fourth in the AP poll last season.  This year, with heightened expectations and seven returning starters on offense, the Tigers should be a force within the SEC.  Senior quarterback Joe Burrow is coming off of a very productive season and knows what it takes to succeed in the SEC. LSU will host Georgia Southern Week One in Baton Rouge.

4. Florida Gators (#8)

Coming in at number four in our power rankings (and 8th overall in the country) are the Florida Gators.  Florida is 1-0 already this season, but did not show much during it’s Week One battle with Miami. The game was sloppy and despite ten sacks from their defense, the Gators did not look sharp.  However, 1-0 is 1-0 and this team is still very deserving of a top five position within our rankings.

5. Texas A&M Aggies (#12)

Jimbo Fisher has high hopes for his group as he enters his second season as head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies.  Junior quarterback Kellen Mond has a veteran group of receivers to work with and the Aggies should be able to build off of a successful 9-4 campaign last year.  On paper, this team has plenty of talent, but the Aggies are in for a brutal schedule. They will take on Texas State this Thursday night to open their season before running the gauntlet.

6. Auburn Tigers (#16)

Week One: Auburn vs. Oregon.  This should be the best game of the week.  Auburn has the potential to be one of the best teams in the country, but their success may be dictated by a true freshman starting quarterback.  Reigning Alabama Mr. Football, Bo Nixon, will be the second true freshman starting quarterback in Auburn history. But Nixon will have plenty of help on both sides of the ball.  The Tigers are deep up front on defense and have a talented backfield, highlighted by sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow.

7. Mississippi State Bulldogs

This Mississippi State team may be one of the most interesting in the SEC.  Second year head coach Joe Moorehead poached Penn State transfer quarterback Tommy Stevens who will start Week One for the Bulldogs.  He is a dual threat weapon under center and with three returnees to the offensive line, he should have great success in an uptempo, run heavy offense.  The Bulldogs will begin a rather favorable schedule on Saturday when they clash with Louisiana-Lafayette.

8. Missouri Tigers

The big storyline for Missouri this season will be how well Kelly Bryant replaces now Denver Bronco Drew Lock.  The Clemson transfer will take over at quarterback for Barry Odom’s team and with the weapons around him, this offense should have no problem putting up points.  Mizzou is coming off of an 8-5 season, and with one of the easier schedules in the SEC, they might be poised to build on that success if they can make up for some serious losses on the defensive side of the ball.  The Tigers will start the season on the road against Wyoming.

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina has been rather average over the past three seasons and that trend is likely to continue this year.  The Gamecocks lost dynamic wide receiver Deebo Samuel to the draft and returning quarterback Jake Bentley is solid but not special.  They play an extrmely difficult schedule, drawing Alabama from the SEC West, and will open on the road against UNC.

10. Vanderbilt Commodores

Hunter Long
Photo by Hunter Long

And this week, the Vanderbilt Commodores, (after a completely objective staff debate), crack the Hustler’s Top Ten SEC teams.  As all Vandy fans know, this year is about the “Big Three” and who can get them the ball. There are serious concerns on defense, but if either Riley Neal or Deuce Wallace can be solid at quarterback, this offense has a chance to put up points in bunches.  The Commodores start to the season is one of the toughest in college football have a brutal schedule, but on paper, there is enough talent to compete going forward. Vanderbilt will have a huge test with Georgia Week One in Nashville.

11. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers are coming off of another disappointing season in which Vanderbilt crushed their bowl hopes just after Thanksgiving.  This year, Tennessee fans seem to be more optimistic. The talent level has probably increased from last year, but there are plenty of question marks.  Their success may hinge upon quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s development. Last season, he showed flashes, but whether he takes another step forward is still to be determined.  Tennessee will play Georgia State Week 1 in Knoxville.

12. Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats will likely take a large step back this year, hence their current ranking.  They lost their two best players (and two of their best players in recent history) in running back Benny Snell and linebacker Josh Allen and their offense will have many new parts this season.  Despite a 10-3 record last season, this Kentucky team does not appear as promising. The Cats open with Toledo in Lexington.

13. Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss seems to be in a rebuilding stage.  After a 5-7 season last year, the Rebels lost wide receivers DK Metcalf, Damarkus Lodge, and AJ Brown as well as quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. While they do have some young talent, their issue will be inexperience, starting at quarterback with a redshirt freshman in Matt Corral.  The Rebels travel to Memphis for a game against the Tigers on Saturday.

14. Arkansas Razorbacks

Rounding out our power rankings are the Arkansas Razorbacks.  After a 2-10 season, the Razorbacks probably cannot get any worse.  Defensively, the team has a couple players to watch including linebacker De’jon Harris and defensive lineman McTelvin Agim.  But other than these two, it may be a rough season for the Hogs who begin the year with a home contest against Portland State.

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About the Contributors
Justin Hershey
Justin Hershey, Former Sports Editor
Justin Hershey ('22) was Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Deputy Sports Editor and Lead Sports Analyst. He majored in human and organizational development with minors in business and economics. In addition to writing, he hosts The Hustler Sports 30 Podcast, enjoys playing golf and is waiting for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers to complete The Process. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected]    
Emma Stapleton, Former Author
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