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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 8: Number One, Number Two and the rest…

Another exciting week in the SEC saw both Florida and Arkansas suffer upset losses and drop out of the national rankings.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Rocko Griffin celebrates in Vanderbilt’s loss to South Carolina on Oct. 16, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

This past week did nothing but heighten the distinction between Georgia, Alabama and the rest of the SEC. As the season progresses, the rankings will become more apparent, but right now, a lot of the teams in the middle of the rankings are interchangeable. At this point in time, a case could be made for any of the teams from three to eight to be switched around. 

1. Georgia: 7-0

The Bulldogs are unstoppable! It doesn’t matter what the unforgiving SEC schedule throws their way, Georgia just keeps on rolling. This week, they defeated No. 15 Kentucky 30-13 in convincing fashion. Their three-headed monster in the backfield of running backs Zamir White, James Cook and Kendall Minton are running all over the SEC, with all three averaging above 4.8 yards per carry. As good as their offense has been, their defense is even better. The stout group has only allowed five touchdowns to opposing offenses through seven games, which includes matchups against three nationally-ranked teams. Georgia has a (well-deserved) bye this week. 

2. Alabama: 6-1

Alabama’s back to doing Alabama things. The Crimson Tide marched into Mississippi State and steamrolled them 49-9. This is the same Mississippi State team that beat No. 17 Texas A&M just a few weeks ago. It’s no surprise to see that Nick Saban got his team fired up after an upset loss and led them to a big-time bounce-back win. Quarterback Bryce Young threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, an unsurprising, but still impressive, statline for him. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. added 141 total yards and three total touchdowns. Above all, however, it was a major turnaround for the Crimson Tide defense, who kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone after allowing five touchdowns against Texas A&M. Alabama will look to keep it going at home against Tennessee this week. 

3. Kentucky: 6-1

Kentucky’s 30-13 loss to No. 1 Georgia last week wasn’t surprising. Kentucky is a good team, and they’re nationally ranked at No. 15 for a reason, but they aren’t ready to compete with the heavyweights of the SEC just yet. The offense has struggled to produce throughout the whole season, so it isn’t astonishing to see them put up a measly 13 points against the Bulldogs’ shutdown defense. Quarterback Will Levis threw for only 192 yards on 42 attempts, and the Wildcats’ rushing game didn’t fare any better. They produced only 51 yards on 27 attempts, a mere 1.9 yards per carry. They’ll have plenty of time to revamp their offense and lick their wounds during their bye this week.

4. Ole Miss: 5-1

Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville was, in a word, chaotic. The Rebels defeated Tennessee 31-26 and Kiffin left the field with a security unit after being pelted with golf balls by Tennessee fans. The biggest surprise of the game, however, was quarterback Matt Corral’s mediocre performance. He threw his first interception of the season and posted a season-low 55.8 percent completion percentage. On a night where running back Snoop Conner couldn’t get it going on the ground, Corral stepped up. He made up for his struggles passing the ball by putting up 195 rushing yards on 30 attempts. It wasn’t a pretty homecoming for Kiffin, and it wasn’t a pretty win for Ole Miss, but a win’s a win. They’ll face LSU at home this week.

5. Texas A&M: 5-2

The Aggies built off of their stunning Week 6 victory against No. 4 Alabama with a 35-14 blowout victory against Missouri. Quarterback Zach Calzada came back down to earth this week, throwing for only 148 yards and two touchdowns while adding an interception. However, the Aggies’ run game flourished against a Missouri team that is allowing the most rushing yards per game in all of FBS. Running backs Isaiah Spiller (168 yards, one touchdown) and Devon Achane (124 yards, two touchdowns) dominated the Tigers’ porous defense all game long. The Aggies’ defense was just as impressive as the offense, holding Missouri to a season-low 14 points. Texas A&M will look to keep their hot streak alive in a home matchup against South Carolina this week. 

6. Auburn: 5-2

Auburn finally got their signature win in Week 7, defeating Arkansas 38-23 to improve their conference record to 2-1. Quarterback Bo Nix put together a solid performance, posting 292 passing yards, three total touchdowns and an interception. The play of the day came on a 71-yard touchdown bomb from Nix to wide receiver Demetrius Robinson at the end of the third quarter. The Tigers’ defense also came to play, sacking opposing quarterback KJ Jefferson three times, one of which was recovered in the end zone for a score. Their road win was enough to vault them into the No. 19 spot in the national rankings. Auburn will seek to improve their win streak to two in a key home matchup with No. 12 Ole Miss this week.

7. Arkansas: 4-3

After a shocking 4-0 start to the season, the Razorbacks have mightily struggled. They’ve dropped three straight games, the most recent of which was a double-digit loss at home to No. 19 Auburn. Over this three-game cold streak, Arkansas’s defense has floundered, allowing an average of 42 points per game. In Week 7, KJ Jefferson threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns while adding 66 yards on the ground. Arkansas’ star receiver Treylon Burks grabbed nine passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns, impressing as always. Burks is leading the SEC in receiving yards and is a projected first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. When all else fails, Arkansas fans can rely on the KJ-Treylon connection. The Razorbacks should hope to improve to 5-3 in an easy home matchup against Arkansas-Pine Bluff this week.

8. Florida: 4-3

Florida has dropped two of their last three games, including last week’s stunning 49-42 loss against LSU. Two things have become abundantly clear through the past few weeks. First, Emory Jones is not the quarterback of Florida’s future. The junior was benched last week after throwing two interceptions, one of which was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by an LSU defender. Second, the two-quarterback system that Dan Mullen has implemented with Jones and Anthony Richardson just isn’t working. The two quarterbacks have combined for seven interceptions over their past three games, and no matter how dominant the Gators’ running game is, it isn’t strong enough to overcome the turnover issues they’ve been having. Florida is on bye this week, but they draw an extremely difficult matchup with No. 1 Georgia when they return to play. 

9. LSU: 4-3

Surprisingly, the biggest news of the week for LSU is not their upset victory over Florida. Rather, it was the announcement that Ed Orgeron would be stepping down from the LSU head coaching job after the season ends. Ordinarily, the news wouldn’t be that big of a deal, seeing as the team has underperformed the past two years. However, the Tigers are less than two years removed from an undefeated season and national championship. Stepping back to this week’s game, it was the Tyrion Davis-Price show. The running back received the SEC Offensive Player of the Week award after setting an LSU single-game rushing record with 287 yards and three touchdowns.

10. Tennessee: 4-3

Despite the loss this week, Tennessee has been impressive since Hendon Hooker stepped into the starting quarterback role. Besides, losing 31-26 against No. 12 Ole Miss is nothing to be ashamed of either. The Volunteers only had one thing to be disappointed with that game, and it wasn’t at all related to the actual team. It was their fans’ inexcusable behavior towards former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin. Hooker put up 341 scrimmage yards and two total touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Matt Corral and Ole Miss’ high-octane offense. Running back Jabari Small added 92 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushes. In Week 8, Tennessee will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 4 Alabama in their toughest matchup of the season to this point. 

11. Mississippi State: 3-3 

Mississippi State suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of Alabama last week. The Bulldogs were held out of the end zone for the first time all year, scoring a mere nine points as a result of three field goals. Quarterback Will Rogers, who played well up to this point with multiple touchdown passes in each of his first five games, threw three interceptions en route to his worst game as a Bulldog. For all the problems they had in the passing game, their running game was considerably worse. The Bulldogs netted negative one rushing yards on the day. They’ll have an opportunity to get back on track against Vanderbilt this weekend. 

12. Missouri: 3-4

Missouri, who came into the season with modest expectations, has failed to play up to their preseason potential. They have yet to win a conference game, losing to Kentucky, Tennessee and No. 21 Texas A&M. While the offense hasn’t been spectacular, Missouri’s defense is where their problems have originated. The Tigers are allowing an SEC-high 489 yards and 37 points per game. Quarterback Connor Bazelak hasn’t lived up to his preseason expectations either, as the sophomore threw for a modest 230 yards while adding two interceptions on Saturday. Missouri will have ample time to get their act together on their bye this week. 

13. South Carolina: 3-4

South Carolina narrowly edged Vanderbilt 21-20. Backup quarterback Zeb Noland came in for the final drive and led the Gamecocks right down the field to score a touchdown and take the late lead. The worst part? They were South Carolina’s first points since the first quarter. They were scoreless for over 30 minutes until Noland’s 9-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Xavier Legette with 37 seconds remaining. Former starting quarterback Luke Doty received season-ending foot surgery this week, so Noland should be at the top of the Gamecocks depth chart for the remainder of the season. South Carolina draws a tough matchup with No. 21 Texas A&M on the road this week. 

14. Vanderbilt: 2-5 

Another week, another loss. This time, it came in the form of a heartbreaking 21-20 loss against South Carolina. Late in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt kicked a field goal to extend their lead to six. It seemed like this was the game where Vanderbilt would snap their 15-game losing streak in the SEC. That was until the Gamecocks’ backup quarterback put together an eight-play, 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive and quarterback Mike Wright fumbled on the first play of Vanderbilt’s final possession. Despite the defeat, the Commodores played their best football of the season and have offered their fans hope. They’ll aspire to keep that hope alive in a home tilt against Mississippi State.

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About the Contributor
Aiden Rutman
Aiden Rutman, Sports Editor
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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