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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 Eight: Cancellations Galore

In a week that saw four of seven games postponed due to COVID-19 complications, there is not much change in this week’s Power Rankings.
Derek Mason and Kirby Smart after Vanderbilt’s contest against Georgia in 2019 (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Week Eight in the Southeastern Conference was a wild one. Not because of historic performances or shocking upsets, but instead due to the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A season-high four of seven contests—Alabama-LSU, Texas A&M-Tennessee,  Georgia-Missouri, Auburn-Mississippi State— were postponed by the SEC as a result of rising case counts within certain programs or through the continued quarantine of players. For those that did play, the scoring was plentiful and defense abysmal. 

With more teams returning to action this week, expect the fireworks to continue to fly. Here is where the 14 teams rank heading into Week Eight. 

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Stop us if you have heard this one before: the Crimson Tide are number one. Unfortunately, Alabama’s game vs LSU was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the LSU program. Despite the week off, expect Alabama to continue rolling. Nick Saban’s crew has steamrolled the competition while looking like the clear top team in the SEC. Quarterback Mac Jones is a Heisman Trophy Canidate, with his 78 percent completion percentage ranking second in the country, his passer rating third and his yards per passing attempt first. A matchup with Kentucky shouldn’t prove an issue in Week Eight. 

2. Florida Gators

If not for its close loss to Texas A&M earlier in the year, Florida would have a very good chance of being atop these rankings. Florida made easy work of Arkansas last week, putting up 63 points in the process. Quarterback Kyle Trask has been on a historic tear this season, putting up very similar numbers to Joe Burrow’s 2019 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign. Through six games played, Trask has thrown for more touchdowns (28) and passing yards (2,171) than Burrow over the same span (25 TD, 2157 yds). Tight end Kyle Pitts, despite being sidelined last week with a concussion, has proven the ultimate sidekick, having hauled in eight of those passes for touchdowns. 

Despite Trask and the offense’s success, Florida’s defense has been its biggest issue, allowing more than 24 points in five of six games played. Florida will look to its upcoming matchup against a struggling Vanderbilt team to get its defense on track.

3. Georgia Bulldogs 

Unlike Alabama and Florida, the quarterback position for the Bulldogs has been its biggest weakness. Quarterback Stetson Bennet hasn’t done much to inspire as of late, and there is a potential quarterback controversy brewing down in Athens. Georgia’s defense has found its footing and ranks second only to Texas A&M in yards per game in the SEC. 

Missouri’s last game was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues but the upcoming schedule is favorable for the Bulldogs, starting with a matchup against Mississippi State.

4. Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M will now not play for the second straight weekend following the SEC’s cancellation of its game against Ole Miss due to continued quarantine issues within the Aggies program. The nationally fifth-ranked Aggies were on a roll before its shutdown of play, riding a  three-game winning streak which included a big win over Florida. 

Now, assuming all virus issues subside, Texas A&M will play host to LSU on Nov. 28.

5. Auburn Tigers

Auburn remains fifth following the postponement of its game last weekend against Mississippi State. In terms of play on the gridiron, Auburn’s offense has had the exact same yards per game as last season through its first six games. Quarterback Bo Nix is showing signs of improvement with each game and is coming off his best performance of the season in the rout of LSU two weeks ago. 

Auburn is next scheduled to play Tennessee at home on Saturday, which shouldn’t pose much of a challenge for the Tigers.

6. Arkansas Razorbacks

By most measures, Arkansas’s 2020 season has been a major success. Firstly, Arkansas ended its 20-game SEC losing skid with a victory over Mississippi State. Secondly, head coach Sam Pittman has looked like a favorite for Coach of the Year. However,  last week’s game versus Florida runs contrary to the aforementioned statements. Arkansas allowed Trask and Florida to score five touchdown passes in the first half, and Florida never looked back, ultimately losing 63-35. 

Arkansas will look to prove the loss was a fluke and even up its 3-4 record with a win on Saturday against LSU.

7. Ole Miss Rebels

For all the buzz that Mac Jones and Kyle Trask rightfully garner, there has been a clear-cut third-best QB in the SEC this season in Ole Miss’s Matt Corral. After a sluggish first three games included a six-interception game against Arkansas, Matt Corral has been on fire ever since. Over his last two games, he has thrown for over 900 yards and ten touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Elijah Moore has been the main beneficiary, scoring three touchdowns and recording over 200 yards receiving. 

COVID-19 issues within the Texas A&M program means Ole Miss will have to wait an extra week to continue its recent hot streak when it takes on Mississippi State Nov. 28.

8. Kentucky 

The Kentucky Wildcats pulled out a gutsy, hard-nosed win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Kentucky had a great day on the ground, rushing for 308 yards with an 8.8 yards per play average and did not lose yards on a single rush attempt. The win also marked coach Mark Stoops’s 34th home victory, breaking the program record set by Bear Bryant. This week’s matchup does not indicate a chance for success as Kentucky takes on the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday.

9. Missouri Tigers

Missouri takes the field once again this week against South Carolina following a postponed contest against Georgia last weekend. Coupled with a bye week, the Tigers’ most recent game was only two weeks ago in a lopsided loss to Florida. Two weeks off either motivate a team or severely hurt them so it will be interesting to see how it affects the Tigers. With how the season has progressed in terms of postponements, two weeks can feel like a very long time for a struggling football team. 

The Tigers rank in the bottom half of the SEC in points per game and will look to freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Larry Roundtree III to have big days against the Gamecocks. 

10. Tennesee Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers have had an up-and-down year to say the least. Coming into the season, the Volunteers were ranked in the AP Top-25 and reached as high as 12 after the first two games. However, after lopsided losses to Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama plus a loss to Arkansas, the Volunteers are falling fast. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been the main culprit for the decline, tossing three interceptions, two of them pick-sixes,  during the  four-game losing streak. 

Tennessee will need him and the rest of the offense to regain its flair from the beginning of the season in order to upset Auburn on Saturday.

11. South Carolina Gamecocks 

South Carolina put up 42 points against Ole Miss on Saturday, which would usually indicate a dominant victory, but unfortunately for the Gamecocks, the defense allowed 59 points in a loss. To make matters worse, South Carolina parted ways with head coach Will Muschamp on Sunday, leaving interim head coach Mike Bobo to right the ship. 

The Gamecocks will look to shore up its defense when they take on undermanned Missouri on Saturday.

12. LSU Tigers 

The LSU Tigers have had nowhere near the season most would have expected coming off an NCAA Championship in which it steamrolled all its competition. Quarterback Myles Brennan played decently the first three games, but has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since and will most likely not play again this season. Along with injuries, LSU has had COVID-19 issues within the program, which led to the game against Alabama being postponed last weekend. 

The Tigers will try to even up its 2-3 record with a win over Arkansas this week.

13. Mississippi State 

Mississippi State had high expectations for its air raid offense coming into the year led by new head coach Mike Leach. An upset win over nationally-ranked LSU the first week of the year set the bar even higher, but a subsequent four-game skid has seen the Bulldogs come back to earth.

 Mississippi State will try to rejuvenate the offense, which ranks in the bottom half of the conference in terms of total offense, against a difficult Georgia Bulldogs defense on Saturday. 

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

Despite the loss, Vanderbilt fans have reason to be excited about the team and its future. 35 points scored against Kentucky is its highest point total scored on the season so far, and there were multiple contributors on the offensive end as well. Quarterback Ken Seals had arguably his best day in his young career throwing for 225 yards and two scores.  Speedy backup quarterback Mike Wright also saw action, showing his dual threat ability with a rushing score and a passing touchdown. On the receiving end, Wide reciever Chris Pierce recorded his third straight touchdown reception  in the loss. 

The defense remains the question mark, and with many moving pieces throughout the season, that is to be expected. Vanderbilt will look for its first win when it takes on Florida at home in what will be a very difficult matchup. 

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About the Contributor
Bobby Kent
Bobby Kent, Former Senior Staff Writer
Bobby Kent (’23) was a Senior Staff Writer for The Hustler Sports section, having been on staff since his first semester at Vanderbilt. Bobby was also the Sports Director for VandyRadio, co-host of Kent and Coad, a weekly sports talk show on VandyRadio and the host of VU Sports Wired, a Vanderbilt Video Productions and Hustler Sports Television show. Bobby previously interned at CNN Sports where he assisted in producing studio shows, writing anchor scripts and creating fullscreen graphics. He also wrote an article about Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo for that was a top 5 story for digital. He was an economics major in the College of Arts and Science with a minor in business. Bobby has been a dedicated sports fan ever since he was little and loves to track the decisions made by front offices, players and coaches. Bobby hopes to one day have a career in the business of professional sports either in sports media or with a professional sports organization. When not writing articles, providing opinions about Vanderbilt sports on TV or serving hot takes in the radio studio, Bobby can be found watching his beloved Philadelphia sports teams and watching the Eagles fly. He can be reached at [email protected].    
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