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 Four: How deep is the SEC?

Five SEC teams lost in Week 3, forcing a shakeup in the Hustler’s rankings.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt celebrates Martel Hight’s pick-six on Sept. 16, 2023. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Another week of SEC action is in the books, and it was a wild one. Week Three saw five SEC teams lose, a few more survive late scares and one pull off an incredible upset. In addition, some SEC teams played their first conference games this weekend, giving us a better gauge of where teams really stand for this week’s SEC Power Rankings. Let’s get to it.

1. Georgia (3-0, 1-0)

The two-time champs looked surprisingly vulnerable against South Carolina, whose 11-point halftime lead conducted the Georgia home crowd into a chorus of boos. However, Georgia stormed out of the locker room after halftime, scoring a touchdown on three of its first four second-half possessions. The Georgia defense also clamped down on South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler, forcing two interceptions and ending South Carolina’s offensive day to the tune of six consecutive drives without a score. Looking forward, Georgia will try to continue to maneuver back onto the right track with a dominant win over UAB.

2. LSU (2-1, 1-0)

After the first game of LSU’s season ended in a disappointing loss to Florida State, LSU has charged through Grambling and now Mississippi State to establish itself as the top team in the SEC West. Behind a strong defensive line performance, as the Tigers collected four sacks and allowed only 94 rushing yards (52 coming from one run), and a stellar receiving day from Malik Nabers, who had 239 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions, LSU won big 41-14 against the Bulldogs. This week, LSU is back at home against Arkansas with the expectation of a strong follow-up to its routing of Mississippi State.

3. Ole Miss (3-0)

After Georgia Tech got within seven points of Ole Miss in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jaxson Dart and company scored an impressive 24 points late in the game to pull away from the Yellow Jackets. Dart’s exceptional final numbers in the 48-23 victory included 251 passing yards, 136 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. To begin its SEC play, Ole Miss will head to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face a floundering Alabama team with high hopes of claiming a victory against the Crimson Tide for the first time since 2015. Top receiver Tre Harris and tight end Caden Prieskorn’s availability for this upcoming matchup is yet to be determined. 

4. Alabama (2-1)

While Alabama was ranked fourth on The Hustler’s SEC Power Rankings list last week, the team’s tremendous struggles against USF were hardly anticipated. Alabama put up a measly three points to end the first half tied with USF, and its 107 total passing yards speak to its dire quarterback situation. Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide were eventually able to eke out a 17-3 victory. With neither Ty Simpson or Tyler Buchner impressing in their outings against USF, head coach Nick Saban has announced that he will turn back to benched quarterback Jalen Milroe for Saturday’s must-win game against Ole Miss.

5. Florida (2-1, 1-0)

Florida leaps from 12th on last week’s rankings to 5th after upsetting then-No. 11 Tennessee 29-16. Running back Trevor Etienne had a spectacular day, tallying 172 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. His performance was bolstered by a steady outing from quarterback Graham Mertz and a two-touchdown day from running back Montrell Johnson Jr.. Additionally, Florida’s defense held the Volunteers to just 100 yards rushing and intercepted quarterback Joe Milton III to set up Florida’s second touchdown of the night. Next up, Florida is back to non-conference play in a game against Charlotte that the Gators will be highly favored to win. 

6. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1)

Tennessee suffered a disappointing defeat in its SEC opener to the Gators. While quarterback Joe Milton III threw for 287 yards, the Vols’ offense underperformed. With a costly interception, a host of pre-snap penalties and a total of three turnovers on downs, Tennessee failed to get the job done in Gainesville, losing a matchup that ended in a benches-clearing scuffle. Now, Tennessee will look to get its offense back in rhythm as it seeks to take care of UTSA at home. 

7. Texas A&M (2-1)

After a crushing loss to Miami, Texas A&M bounced back in a dominant fashion against UL Monroe, beating the Warhawks 47-3. Before sitting down for the remainder of the game, quarterback Conner Weigman threw for 337 yards, including a touchdown to receiver Ainias Smith who had 127 yards on the day. With exceptional outings from Weigman, Smith and receiver Jahdae Walker, who had 110 yards and a touchdown, the Aggies finished with 557 total yards on offense in comparison to UL Monroe’s 222. Texas A&M will now attempt to keep the ball rolling in a battle against the 3-0 Auburn Tigers.

8. Missouri (3-0)

The Tigers knocked off Kansas State 30-27 on an incredible 61-yard game-winning field goal by Harrison Mevis, the longest made field goal in SEC history.

Even before their first SEC game, Missouri fans may already have their win of the season. To beat the defending Big 12 champions is an extraordinary feat for a team that’s been hovering near the bottom of the SEC for years. Despite having to survive a scare against MTSU in Week Two, the Tigers have shown an impressive resilience on both sides of the ball that may make them dangerous for the rest of the SEC’s middle (a group that we at least are putting them in for now). Missouri will have one more nonconference test against Memphis on Saturday before opening its league season at Vanderbilt.

9. Kentucky (3-0)

The Wildcats cruised to a 35-3 win over Akron in their last game before league play. Kentucky has played one of the easier schedules of the SEC so far: Ball State, Eastern Kentucky and now Akron. The highlight of Kentucky’s win was an incredible 58-yard touchdown run by former Commodore Ray Davis on what looked like a busted play.

Davis will now return to Nashville with his new team for a clash against Vanderbilt on Sept. 23. While it’s hard to evaluate the Wildcats after these three games, they should be favored to get revenge for last year’s upset loss to the Commodores.

10. South Carolina (1-2, 0-1)

It’s the Hustler’s longstanding policy to not reward moral victories in our prestigious power rankings. With that said, taking a 14-3 lead into halftime at Georgia is an encouraging sign for Shane Beamer and co. The Gamecocks were unable to keep the lead\, eventually falling 21-14 to the Bulldogs. South Carolina’s offense was fairly stifled, especially in the second half. In the end, Spencer Rattler threw two key interceptions and the Gamecocks gained just 53 yards on the ground. There will be room for improvement Saturday against Mississippi State, a team known for its run defense. Speaking of which…

11. Mississippi State (2-1, 0-1)

The Bulldogs took a 41-14 beating in Starkville at the hands of LSU. The Mississippi State offense was just 3-for-13 on third down, and quarterback Will Rogers completed just 11-of-28 throws with no touchdown passes. More worryingly, the Bulldogs allowed 530 yards of total offense, including 367 passing yards in their own house. In the tough SEC West, the Bulldogs will need to be much better on both sides of the ball to avoid another blowout loss like this one. For now, South Carolina should be one of the more beatable opponents on their SEC schedule.

12. Arkansas (2-1)

The Razorbacks take the biggest drop of the week after falling 38-31 to BYU at home. The Hogs led by double-digits in both the first and third quarters, but BYU came back both times. After AJ Green’s touchdown run less than four minutes into the second half, Arkansas never scored again. The Razorbacks allowed five touchdowns against a much worse BYU offense than they faced last year, a big concern considering their brutal upcoming schedule. With star running back Raheim Sanders doubtful due to injury, Arkansas will have to face LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Alabama in the next four weeks. 

13. Auburn (3-0)

Auburn drops two spots despite a 45-13 win over Samford. Quarterback Payton Thorne was 24-for-32 with a touchdown and two picks, while also rushing for two TDs and 123 yards. The Auburn defense held Samford to 218 total yards and two third-quarter touchdowns while recording two interceptions. Hugh Freeze and the Tigers next travel to Texas A&M for their first league game in what will be their toughest test yet.

14. Vanderbilt (2-2)

The team that was the first in the SEC to two wins this year is now also the first team to two losses. Despite leading 17-0 after the first quarter, the Commodores lost a 40-37 heartbreaker at UNLV. Clark Lea’s team committed four turnovers, missed a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal and called a bizarre timeout late in the fourth quarter that ultimately allowed the Rebels’ game-winning field goal. It’s a disastrous loss for Vanderbilt, who will now need to conjure up four SEC wins to have a chance at a bowl game. For that to happen, the Commodores will likely need to beat Kentucky in their SEC opener on Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. CDT at FirstBank Stadium.

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About the Contributors
Frankie Sheehy, Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) writes for The Hustler Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He's also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
Katelyn Rowan, Staff Writer
Katelyn Rowan (‘27) is planning to major in English and history in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her watching football, baseball or film adaptations of Jane Austen books, which she also rereads whenever she gets the chance. You can reach her at [email protected].
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