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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.

Week 7 SEC Power Rankings: A New Number One

A hectic Week 6 in College Football marked the end of Alabama’s 680-day win-streak, leaving Georgia as the only remaining undefeated team in the SEC.
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Vanderbilt Athletics
Ken Seals prepares to take a snap against Florida on Oct. 9, 2021. (Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics)

After a crazy finish in College Station that saw top-ranked Alabama lose on a last-second field goal, these power rankings have a new number one for the first time since 2019. In truth, Georgia and Alabama have been 1A and 1B all season, but after the Crimson Tide loss, there is now a clear top three followed by five teams that are very interchangeable. Read on to see how all these teams shake out.

1. Georgia: 6-0

Georgia has looked dominant all season, but they were not going to reach a No. 1 spot without an Alabama loss, which happened this week. So far this season, they have looked like the best team in the country. Their offense has been electric, putting up about 40 points and 432 yards per game, and yet the strength of their team is clearly on the other side of the ball. Their defense has been absolutely stifling, giving up just 5.5 points and 200 yards per game. They have also been opportunistic, forcing 10 turnovers in six games. If the offensive points for Georgia did not count, they would still have 3 wins, including wins over Arkansas and Clemson. This week, they face their toughest test yet in Hustler No. 3 Kentucky, a team that has over-performed in this season and will be looking to keep an undefeated season alive.

2. Alabama: 5-1 

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Alabama’s loss against No. 20 Texas A&M marked the end of a few remarkable streaks. It was their first loss to an unranked team since Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa in 2007. It also snapped a 19-game winning streak going back to the 2019 Citrus Bowl. Lastly, this past weekend was Nick Saban’s first defeat at the hands of a former assistant, a metric he was previously 24-0 in. Regardless, the season is still young, and Alabama’s playoff aspirations are still very much alive. The Crimson Tide’s defense will look to bounce back this week. They’ll face the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who rank 11th in points per game in the SEC, on the road. 

3. Kentucky: 6-0

This was a team with mediocre expectations going into the season. They were supposed to be competitive behind a solid offensive line that would support an effective run game, but their lack of elite quarterback play was supposed to be a major limitation. Through six weeks of the season, it has not been. In SEC play the Wildcats have averaged 259.5 rushing yards per game. Their control of the tempo has given their defense a boost as well, as they have held opponents to just 17.5 points per game. However, as good as their record is, Kentucky has not been dominant by any means. They have been in one-score games with South Carolina, Missouri and Chattanooga, teams you would expect an SEC contender to be blowing out. Even in their win against Florida, they were outgained 382-224. They face a massive test against Georgia this weekend in a game where ESPN’s FPI gives them just a 4.6% chance. An upset win would propel them to the top of the SEC and give them playoff aspirations, but against a Georgia defense that has been particularly stout against the run, the passing game will have to improve.

4. Ole Miss: 4-1

Ole Miss enters the week coming off of a thrilling 52-51 victory against No.17 Arkansas, in what many have titled the game of the year. After a 9-yard touchdown strike from quarterback KJ Jefferson put the Razorbacks within one as time expired, they decided to bet on their red-hot offense and go for the two-point conversion. This was when the Rebels’ defense, which had struggled to stop Arkansas’ offense all day, stepped up and made a play, batting down the game-winning pass. The Rebels’ backfield shined in this win, as running back Snoop Conner ran for three touchdowns, and quarterback Matt Corral scored twice through the air and added two on the ground. Ole Miss will travel to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Volunteers this week. 

5. Arkansas: 4-2

Arkansas got off to a fantastic start to the season and were ranked as high as 11th nationally before getting embarrassed in a 37-0 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. Last week they played Ole Miss in a captivating game that featured 103 points and 1287 yards of total offense. Arkansas scored a touchdown to make it 52-51 as time expired but failed on the two-point conversion to lose the game 52-51. Perhaps the biggest weakness on this Arkansas team has been their performance on third down. They are under 37% on the season against FBS teams, the third-worst mark among SEC teams this season (only Vanderbilt and South Carolina are worse). They have a solid offense that has still been averaging over 30 points per game, and if they can regress to the mean on third downs they could finish out their season strong. Additionally, Arkansas moves onto an easier stretch of their schedule going forward, as they do not play another nationally-ranked team until they travel to Alabama on November 20th. They could very well be one of a couple three-loss SEC teams competing for bowl games.

6. Texas A&M: 4:2

The Aggies are, to say the least, a bizarre team. They went from losing to unranked Mississippi State at home to defeating the (at the time) No. 1 team in the nation, Alabama. Quarterback Zach Calzada put together an awe-inspiring performance, including leading the Aggies down the field and scoring twice in the final three minutes of the game. Perhaps most impressive, however, was that he engineered the game-winning drive after suffering a knee injury on the previous one. Calzada, who has had his struggles this year, produced a career high in passing yards and passer rating. Calzada will look to stay hot as Texas A&M will face Missouri on the road. 

7. Florida: 4-2

Florida’s drop in this week’s power rankings is less a product of their performance, and more a product of Texas A&M’s and and Ole Miss’s excellent displays. Quarterback Emory Jones threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns in the Gators’ 42-0 thrashing of Vanderbilt. The only blemish on Jones’ career day was another interception, his seventh of the year. Other than that, Vanderbilt’s defense was simply outmatched. Florida was able to do everything they wanted, all game, on the ground or through the air, as they produced 479 yards of offense. Florida will travel to Death Valley to take on the struggling LSU Tigers. While Florida may be the favorite to win, they certainly aren’t a “shoe-in,” as we saw last year.

8. Auburn 4-2

Auburn has had a very pedestrian season so far. They have won the games they were expected to win but have not been particularly competitive in their two losses to two top-10 teams in Penn State and Georgia. They were able to move the ball surprisingly well against Georgia last week as they amassed 318 total yards but only put up 10 points. Their season, however, will be defined by their next three games, as they take on Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, three top-25 teams. Quarterback Bo Nix will have to build on his 217-yard performance against Georgia to compete with the high-flying offenses in Arkansas and Mississippi, but neither of those teams will present the defensive test that Georgia did, and Auburn may look to control the tempo with a strong running game centered around sophomore running back Tank Bigsby.

9. Mississippi State: 3-2

Mississippi State has improved upon a 3-7 SEC campaign last year. They beat a ranked Texas A&M team on the road, who went on to beat Alabama the next week. Their offense has put up at least 24 points in each of their first five games and quarterback Will Rogers has shined, throwing for over 350 yards per game with a completion percentage over 75 percent. To be fair, the Mississippi State offense is set up for a lot of dink-and-dunk throws that boost those stats, but it is still a staunch improvement over last year. They have tough games against Alabama and Kentucky coming up sandwiched around a trip to Vanderbilt. They could be in for a rough game against Alabama this Saturday as Nick Saban undoubtedly has his team fired up after last week’s loss to Texas A&M, but the Bulldogs should have some winnable games down the stretch.

10. Missouri: 3-3

Missouri has had an up-and-down start to the season, winning games against three teams they were supposed to beat and suffering two SEC losses and a one-score loss to Boston College. Their season has been characterized by their lack of defense. The Tigers’ defense has given up 39.4 points per game, good for last in the SEC and 120th out of 130 FBS teams. In the SEC they rank last in total yards allowed per game (524), rushing yards allowed per game (287), and are tied for last with Vanderbilt in yards allowed per rush (5.8). Along with Vanderbilt and South Carolina, the Tigers play four of the top seven teams on these power rankings to close out their season, and their defensive line will have to figure something out if they want to be competitive.

11. LSU: 3-3

To say this is a low-point for LSU would be an under-exaggeration. Who would’ve predicted that less than two years removed from an undefeated season and a national championship, head coach Ed Orgeron would be on the hot seat and the Tigers would be on their way to a below-.500 record? LSU is coming off of an embarrassing 42-21 loss to No. 11 Kentucky, a game where the majority of their points came from garbage time in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Max Johnson has stepped in nicely for the injured Myles Brennan, but he struggled this past week. Unfortunately for LSU, things won’t get much easier, as they’ll face No. 20 Florida this week. 

12. Tennessee: 4-2

It seems as though Tennessee has finally found their starting quarterback after experimenting with Joe Milton to start the season. Hendon Hooker’s three-touchdown performance against South Carolina last week puts him at 13 touchdowns and only one interception on the year. Along with Hooker, Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans has been on a tear this season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry (second-most in the SEC). Evans also contributed 275 yards and four touchdowns in his previous two outings. The Volunteers, who have outscored their previous two opponents by a score of 107-44, will look to ride their momentum into a key matchup in Knoxville against No. 13 Ole Miss. 

13. South Carolina: 3-3

South Carolina went 2-8 last season with an all-SEC schedule, and they have not looked much better this year. They have beaten three non-SEC teams this season and they are fresh off an embarrassing 45-20 loss to Tennessee. They have suffered from inconsistent quarterback play—neither of their quarterbacks have a completion percentage over 60 percent—, a defense that cannot get stops and a rushing attack that has averaged just 98 yards per game in SEC play. This Saturday they take on Vanderbilt, likely the last game they will be favored in this season. A loss could signal a disaster within the program. 

14. Vanderbilt: 2-4

It’s looking like Vanderbilt is well on their way to another winless season in the SEC after a demoralizing 42-0 defeat against No. 20 Florida. If there’s any solace for Vanderbilt fans, it’s in the fact that the score doesn’t tell the full story. The offense moved the ball down the field on a few of their possessions, but two missed field goals and an overturned touchdown in the first half held Vanderbilt scoreless. On the other side of the ball, the defense came away with two interceptions, marking their second straight game with two takeaways. Vanderbilt will aspire to get their first points against an SEC team this week as they travel to Columbia this weekend to take on South Carolina.

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About the Contributors
Hunter Lee, Former Staff Writer
Hunter Lee ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science studying economics. You can reach him at [email protected].    
Aiden Rutman, Senior Staff Writer
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
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