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 12: The Home Stretch

After another week of intense SEC football and the announcement of the SEC Championship Game, The Hustler takes a look at how the conference stacks up.
Arianna Santiago
Jaylen Worship pictured before Vanderbilt took on South Carolina on Nov. 5, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

After another week of intense conference play, postseason plans for the SEC have become clearer. Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs continued their dominance over the Missouri Tigers. Head coach Brian Kelly and the No. 6 LSU Tigers continued their dream season with a defensive win at the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tigers subsequently clinched the SEC West and earned a date with the Bulldogs for the SEC Championship Game on December 3rd. More importantly, the Vanderbilt Commodores knocked off the then-ranked No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats for their first SEC win in four years. With conference heavyweights fighting for a CFP bid and the rest for meaningful bowl games, The Hustler takes a look how each SEC team stacks up heading into the final stretch.

1. Georgia (9-0)

The Bulldogs continued their dominance with a 45-19 win over the other Bulldogs at Mississippi State. Though they only led 17-12 at halftime, this game never felt close. Quarterback Stetson Bennett did throw a pair of interceptions for the second time in three weeks, but tossed three touchdowns for 289 yards in a solid performance. The Bulldog defense limited leading SEC passer Will Rogers to 261 yards, much of which came when the game was out of hand. The biggest margin came in the run game, where Georgia outrushed Mississippi State 179-47. Even with losing the turnover battle 2-0 and the excellent defense recording only 1 sack, the Bulldogs made this game look too easy. Georgia gets a road date with Kentucky on Saturday, but the No. 1 squad in the nation has their eyes on bigger things ahead.

2. Tennessee (9-1)

After much debate, the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers grab the second spot in the rankings after their offensive onslaught against the Missouri Tigers. To Missouri’s credit, Tennessee only led 28-24 in the third quarter, then the wheels fell off. In the 66-24 win, the Volunteers set a school record with 724 total offensive yards. Quarterback Hendon Hooker continued his Heisman campaign, completing 25/35 passes for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tennessee’s ground game also flourished, as they ran for 264 yards on 7 a carry. The Vols are in a precarious position, as at No. 5 they are on the outside looking in for the CFP, with only two games left against conference lightweights South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Tennessee will undoubtedly have to pile on style points in hopes for a bid, while also hoping No. 3 Michigan or No. 4 TCU falter themselves. Nonetheless, Tennessee has been an offensive juggernaut and should be no different against South Carolina this week.

3. LSU (8-2)

Coach Kelly and the No. 6 LSU Tigers keep rolling and finding ways to win. Rather than the offense shining as it has the past three weeks, a stout defensive performance secured the 13-10 road win over Arkansas. Linebacker Harold Perkins Jr., or Michael Jordan, according to Kelly, was the star of the show. Coming into the game with the flu, the freshman standout recorded 2 forced fumbles, 4 sacks, 8 tackles and the game-sealing strip sack of Razorback quarterback Cade Fortin with 1:17 left. The offense did just enough, as quarterback Jayden Daniels was unimpressive, completing just over 50% of his throws for 86 yards and a pick. The run game picked up the slack, as runningback Josh Williams totaled 122 yards and the team 198. Notably, LSU clinched the SEC West with the win and are going to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since the Joe Burrow days. As for the CFP, the Tigers find themselves in a similar scenario to Tennessee: two games left against uninspiring opponents in UAB and Texas A&M. Still, the Tigers have been enjoying a dream season and Kelly has rebuilt the program, regardless of what happens come January.

4. Alabama (8-2)

The No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide found themselves back in the win column with a thrilling 30-24 victory over the No. 14 Ole Miss Rebels. Starting with the good, quarterback Bryce Young had his best effort in a month, completing 64% of his throws for 3 touchdowns and 209 yards. The Tide defense did a solid job on the nation’s third-best rushing attack, limiting the Rebels to 191 yards, 70 below their season average. All in all, a good win against a quality opponent on the road. Onto the bad. Alabama is bracing to miss the CFP for the second time ever, and first since 2019. The Tide also missed the opportunity to win the SEC West, as they fell to division winner LSU two weeks ago. Though the Tide are on track for a major bowl game, this is shaping up as an underwhelming season, given all the preseason hype. The Tide host Austin Peay and Auburn the next two weeks, looking to end their season strong,

 5. Ole Miss (8-2)

Headlining the next tier of SEC teams, the aforementioned No. 14 Rebels followed up their bye week on the other side of the 30-24 Crimson Tide win. The Rebels’ performance was good, not great, similar to their season overall. Ole Miss stuck to their bread and butter ground game, which totaled 191 yards, but only on 3.9 a carry. Quarterback Jaxson Dart had a clean game, but only completed 58% of his throws for 212 yards and a touchdown. The defense did okay all things considered, holding a powerful Tide offense to 30 points, but it has been a problem all season. Ole Miss boasts an impressive record, but none of their wins have been against great competition, with their best being a 3 point victory over Kentucky. The team has exceeded expectations, given their AP preseason No. 21 ranking, but have lacked a consistent defense and a knockout punch. The Rebels travel to Arkansas on Saturday for a pivotal contest in terms of bowl games.

6. Florida (6-4)

The Florida Gators have been on a little roll, following up their 17 point victory over Texas A&M with a blowout 38-6 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gators dominated on both sides of the ball in easily Florida’s best win of the season. South Carolina fumbled the ball three times in their first four snaps of the second half. The Gamecocks also had no answer for Florida’s rush attack, as three players had at least 96 rushing yards for the Gators, en route to a 374 yard day on the ground. Quarterback Anthony Richardson displayed his dual-threat ability, tossing for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, while running for another 96 and a score. After his best month of play, Richardson’s future remains cloudy. Whether he will turn for the draft or stay for his fourth year will be an interesting topic moving forward. The Gators are now bowl-eligible, and will head to Nashville for a date with the Commodores on Saturday before concluding their season against rival Florida State.

7. Mississippi State (6-4)

The Mississippi State Bulldogs played Georgia hard for a half last week, only being down 17-12 at the break, courtesy of a Miss. State punt return touchdown in the final seconds. Miss State’s defense then got gashed in the second half, on the way to a 45-19 loss. Despite winning the turnover battle, State got outplayed in every other facet of the game. The worst SEC rushing offense only managed 47 yards, compared to Georgia’s 179. Quarterback Will Rogers had a relatively quiet day, completing 29/51 of his throws for 261 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs have lost three of their last four, with their only win coming in overtime against lowly Auburn. Miss. State has some questions to answer, especially on defense, if they want to win a bowl game. The Bulldogs host East Tennessee State next week before wrapping up their season against state rival Ole Miss.

8. Arkansas (5-5)

The Arkansas Razorbacks narrowly lost to a well-coached LSU team, 13-10, last Saturday. The Arkansas offense was cooled down after having a spectacular second half against Liberty two weeks ago. Against LSU, KJ Jefferson threw two costly interceptions and held a quarterback rating of just 39.5. Arkansas’ losing streak might extend to three games if they lose to No. 14 Ole Miss this weekend. To snap the streak, Jefferson will need to get back in his rhythm and the defense will need to put pressure on Jaxson Dart early and often. Ole Miss ranks first in the conference in sacks, with 35.

9. Kentucky (6-4)

The Kentucky Wildcats have slipped three spots in our rankings, thanks to a humiliating loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Wildcats surrendered their first loss to the Commodores since 2015 and handed Vanderbilt their first SEC win since 2019. Kentucky’s run defense was lackluster, as they allowed Mike Wright and Ray Davis to combine for 255 rushing yards. On the other side of the ball, was Will Levis, a highly-touted NFL prospect. Levis did not look like an NFL-caliber quarterback in any regard, as he posted a quarterback rating of just 15.5. The Wildcats will hope to get back on track this weekend, but will most likely be silenced by the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. The Wildcats last beat the Bulldogs in 2009.

10. South Carolina (6-4)

The Gamecocks’ rollercoaster of a season looks like it’s headed for an ugly finish. After surrendering 374 (!) rushing yards in a blowout loss to the Florida Gators, the Gamecocks will finish their season with matchups against No. 5 Tennessee and No. 9 Clemson. Yikes. Shane Beamer’s squad will also be without their top two tailbacks, MarShawn Lloyd and Christian Beal-Smith, when they take on the Volunteers this week. Lloyd ranks eighth in the conference in rushing yards per game (69.5), and has been a focal point for the Gamecocks with Spencer Rattler’s volatility. Regardless of the outcomes over the next two weeks, South Carolina will be able to hang their hat on the fact that they’ve already clinched a bowl appearance. 

11. Missouri (4-6)

After surprisingly sticking with the Volunteers through the first half, the Tigers simply couldn’t keep up with Hendon Hooker’s offense. It’s been an up-and-down season for Mizzou, filled with great defensive moments and ugly quarterback play from Brady Cook. Their defense, which ranks fourth in the conference in total defense, has been able to keep them in games late, but it’s been the third-worst scoring offense in the SEC that’s hampered them. Look no further than their 17-14 loss to No. 1 Georgia. In spite of their struggles offensively, the Tigers still have a great chance at earning a postseason berth. They’ll finish the season with home dates versus New Mexico State and Arkansas. With a late surge, head coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s squad could play in their third bowl game in his four seasons. 

12. Vanderbilt (4-6)

At last! Vanderbilt has relinquished themselves from our SEC Power Rankings basement and also ended their 26-game SEC losing streak. On a cold day at Kroger Field in Lexington, Vanderbilt outlasted Kentucky to the tune of a 24-21 victory over the Wildcats. Mike Wright, subbing in for the injured AJ Swann, pitched in 310 all-purpose yards to lead the Commodores. Ray Davis added 129 yards on the ground in a 264 yard rushing effort for Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt’s defense helped out the run game, holding NFL prospect Will Levis to just 109 yards on 11-of-23 passing. Clark Lea’s crew still has a chance to make a bowl game with two upcoming home games against Florida on Saturday, Nov. 19 and Tennessee to finish out the season. 

13. Texas A&M (3-7)

The Aggies check in at the bottom of our power rankings as the only team in the SEC that has yet to reach the four-win mark. They just suffered a close loss on the road against Auburn in which they were held out of the end zone for the first 59 minutes of the game. The Aggies’ problems have not been on the defense (they held Auburn to just 13), but rather the offense. They are averaging an astonishingly low 350.1 yards per game, the second-lowest mark in the SEC. Texas A&M has had their struggles at quarterback all season, and this week was no different. Connor Weigman, their third starting quarterback this season, threw for just 121 yards and 1 touchdown on 14-of-36 passing. Times are tough down in college station, but things should get easier with a home matchup against the University of Massachusetts coming up this week. 

14. Auburn (4-6)

Joy! Auburn won a football game! The Tigers grabbed their first victory since September in a win against Texas A&M. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, a win’s a win. Quarterback Robby Ashford completed 6-of-13 passes for 60 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The team leaned on its running game to protect their first-half lead, rushing for 270 yards on the day. Runningbacks Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter both contributed 121 yards rushing and Ashford added 47. The Tigers, who usually get gashed by the opposing team’s ground game, held Texas A&M to just 94 yards on 24 carries, well below their season average (181.4) Coach Cadillac Williams and the Tigers will have a chance to build on this performance when they face Western Kentucky at home on Saturday. 

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About the Contributors
Adam Weiss
Adam Weiss, Former Staff Writer
Adam Weiss (2024) is a sophomore from Colts Neck, N.J., in the College of Arts and Science. He is studying economics and math with a minor in data science. Adam is currently a staff writer for the Sports section. In his free time, he loves to play basketball and golf, while also hoping his New York Giants and Knicks can turn it around.
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Andrew Wilf
Andrew Wilf, Former Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
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].
Arianna Santiago
Arianna Santiago, Senior Staff Photographer
Arianna Santiago ('24) is from Bremerton, Wash., and studying electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering. When not shooting for The Hustler or for freelance work, Arianna can be found leading campus tours, organizing events for University Catholic, attempting to study and procrastinating her lab reports. You can reach her at [email protected].
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