SEC Power Rankings Week 10: Upsets and Fluidity

In a week of many in-conference matchups, the power dynamics in the middle of the SEC were again challenged and re-defined.

Vanderbilt+against+Missouri

Emery Little

Vanderbilt and Missouri face off on Oct. 30, 2021 in Nashville. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Jonah Barbin and Basim Naim

This week confirmed what we’d been hypothesizing about the SEC all season: Georgia and Alabama are in a league of their own, while South Carolina and Vanderbilt seem to be safely in the basement. In between the extremes, the power rankings are a fluid mosaic of teams that at times show promise of success and at others come crashing down to Earth. Read on to keep track of this week’s fluctuations:

1. Georgia: 8-0

Georgia has shown virtually no weaknesses this season. Its defense leads the country in points allowed per game (6.6 points per game; 15.3 points per game allowed by No. 2 Cincinnati is the second-best). That said, in the Bulldogs’ contest against Florida, the offense had scored only three points with three minutes to go in the first half, and quarterback JT Daniels’ absence didn’t help. Regardless, they defeated the Gators to make it 37.9 points scored per game on the season—good for 14th-best in the FBS. This team has been ranked top-2 in every AP Top 25 poll this season since Week 2 and debuted at No. 1 in the CFP rankings. Georgia will end SEC play with Missouri and Tennessee in the next two weeks, hosting Missouri this weekend. 

2. Alabama: 7-1

Alabama was on a bye this week, but if there was any doubt about the separation between them and the next-best team in the SEC, it was put to rest. No team with the exception of Georgia has displayed the sheer talent, dominance and consistency that the Crimson Tide have flexed this year. Alabama is scoring in droves this season, averaging 45.9 points scored per game, good enough for a clear second in all of college football. The Crimson Tide will look to continue their campaign to return to the College Football Playoffs when they host Nick Saban’s former employers, the LSU Tigers, on Saturday night.

3. Texas A&M: 6-2

Despite coming off a bye week, Texas A&M moves past Ole Miss and Kentucky in our power rankings thanks to in-conference losses. Running back Isaiah Spiller has run for more than 100 years in three of his last four games. He’ll be looking to continue that against Auburn’s rushing defense, which has allowed for more than 200 yards rushing in three games this year—one of which was to Georgia Southern. The Aggies have outscored SEC competition 79-28 in their last two games, and they have all the confidence they need with perhaps the highest-quality win in the FBS this season against Alabama. Texas A&M will host Auburn as the two 6-2 teams will fight for second place in the SEC West behind No. 2 Alabama. 

4. Auburn: 6-2

Wow! In one of the most intriguing SEC games of the season, Auburn handled then No. 10 Ole Miss, 31-20. The Tigers jumped out to an early 14-3 lead in the first quarter of action, and never relinquished it. They were led on the offensive side of the ball by running back Cartavious Bigsby (140 yards, one touchdown) and were bolstered on defense behind a stellar performance by outside linebacker Zakoby McClain (ten tackles, two sacks). Auburn did a great job of containing Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who only completed 56 percent of his passes, and tossed one interception to zero touchdowns. The No. 12 Tigers are putting together a really strong season, with their only losses coming to No. 1 Georgia and No. 22 Penn State. Auburn has a huge SEC showdown on tap next Saturday against Texas A&M.

5. Ole Miss: 6-2

Despite Ole Miss’s upward trajectory through the season notwithstanding the Alabama loss, the Rebels dropped a game to the increasingly formidable Auburn Tigers over the weekend 31-20. Zakoby McClain and Smoke Monday on Auburn’s front seven combined for 23 total tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss, creating woes all game long for Ole Miss’s offensive line. Heisman hopeful quarterback Matt Corral will use this weekend to further pad his resume, as the Liberty Flames will visit Ole Miss this Saturday for what should be a reprieve between No. 13 Auburn and No. 14 Texas A&M. 

6. Kentucky: 6-2

Although Kentucky headed into their bye 6-1, we talked about addressing their weaknesses in last week’s rankings if they wanted to be legitimate contenders. The Wildcats unfortunately couldn’t do this, getting upset by SEC foe Mississippi State. The very problems that Kentucky needed to address were the ones that burned them this week: the turnover battle and the uneven distribution of the ball. The Wildcats tossed three interceptions and lost a fumble while forcing no Mississippi State turnovers. Wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson got nine targets in the pass game. No other receiver got more than two. Kentucky will look to right the ship on Saturday against Tennessee, but it seems that the Wildcats’ flaws are becoming more and more apparent after their 6-0 start to the season.

7. Arkansas: 5-3

Arkansas is coming off a bye week. Sam Pittman’s second-year squad should be proud of their performance thus far. The Razorbacks are sitting at five wins this season, where at the same time last season, they had only two—the first of which was against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a game in which senior safety Joe Foucha had two interceptions. This Saturday, two second-year coaches will face off, as Arkansas, whose defense has allowed the eighth-fewest passing yards per game this season, will host Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. 

8. Mississippi State: 5-3

The Bulldogs pulled off a huge upset at home over then No. 12 ranked Kentucky. Mississippi State had a huge day in Nashville against Vanderbilt in Week 9, but we all agreed that their Week 10 matchup against the Wildcats was the one to watch if they wanted to make a true statement. They did just that, dominating Kentucky in total yards, total plays and possession time. Quarterback Will Rogers was amazingly accurate, completing 36 of 39 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs will look to win their third in a row on Saturday when they are hosted by the Arkansas Razorbacks.

9. LSU: 4-4

LSU had a bye week as it prepared to play No. 2 Alabama. The Tigers, who are looking forward to greener grass in 2022 with an overhauled coaching staff, have allowed almost 800 rushing yards in their last three games. This is a weakness that Alabama’s Brian Robinson and fellow running backs will surely exploit. On the other side of the ball, Alabama is 53rd in the FBS in passing yards allowed, so LSU’s offensive hopes will ride on quarterback Max Johnson stringing together drives against a largely inexperienced Alabama secondary. LSU will travel to Tuscaloosa for its last away game of the season. 

10. Florida: 4-4

Florida joined the ranks of teams that earned the classification of “crushed by Georgia in 2021.” The No. 1 Bulldogs scored 27 unanswered points and cruised to a 34-7 victory. The Gators’ murky quarterback situation was on full display as Anthony Richardson and Emory Jones split time under center. Both were obviously ineffective against the stout Georgia defense, with Richardson tossing two interceptions and neither quarterback recording a passing touchdown. Just like most teams that have faced Georgia, Florida was simply never close, and a measly 4-for-13 on third down conversions definitely didn’t help. The Gators will be hosted by South Carolina on Saturday evening.

11. Tennessee: 4-4

Tennessee had a bye week following a matchup against Alabama as it rested up to play No. 18 Kentucky. Despite losing 52-24 to the Crimson Tide, the Volunteers played a gritty game and kept the contest to a one-score game through the first half. Quarterback Hendon Hooker continues to be astounding, as he averages almost 10 yards per pass, leading the third-most efficient offense in the SEC behind Alabama and Georgia. The Volunteers find themselves in the middle of a stretch of four games against top-20 SEC opponents (which caps off with the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs). Tennessee will travel to Kentucky for its last away game of the season. 

12. Missouri: 4-4

Missouri picked up their first win against an SEC opponent this weekend against Vanderbilt. The game was much closer than it should have been considering Vanderbilt’s struggles this season, with the ‘Dores only trailing by three headed into the fourth quarter. Leading the way for the Tigers was running back Tyler Badie, who rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Keke Chism also added 95 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Despite this offensive success, Missouri displayed just how many holes they have on the defensive side of the football. This was abundantly clear when it came to their run defense, which gave up a whooping 258 total rushing yards on the game to Vanderbilt. After sneaking by the Commodores, Missouri is in for a rude awakening as they head to Georgia to take on the No. 1 team in the country.

13. South Carolina: 4-4

South Carolina used its bye week to prepare for a matchup with Florida. The key for the Gamecocks against the Florida Gators will be in the turnover battle; the Gators have had nine turnovers in their last three games (two to Vanderbilt, four to LSU and three to Georgia), while South Carolina leads the SEC in turnovers gained with 17. The Gamecocks will also need to utilize the full potential of its passing game, as it has 10 wide receivers who average 10 or more yards per reception. South Carolina will hope to leverage all the home team advantage it can as it hosts Florida on Saturday. 

14. Vanderbilt: 2-7

Vanderbilt dropped their fourth straight game, losing at home to Missouri by a tally of 37-28. The game did come with some bright spots for the rebuilding Commodores, as they were competitive for the duration of the afternoon. Quarterback Mike Wright shined as a true asset for this team, as he tossed three touchdown passes as well as adding 152 rushing yards to his ledger. Unfortunately, the Vanderbilt defense struggled mightily, allowing 502 total yards to the Tigers, a number that no amount of heroics from Wright and Co. could overcome. Vanderbilt will head into the bye this week and prepare for their last home game of the season against Kentucky on Nov. 13.