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 Six: Leveling up

In another themed set of rankings, The Hustler compares each SEC team to their NFL equivalents.
Michael Tung
Sedrick Alexander and Junior Sherrill celebrating against Missouri, as photographed on Sept. 30, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Michael Tung)

The pecking order in the SEC is continuing to take shape as Saturdays move away from out-of-conference cupcakes to in-conference battles. Georgia remains steadfast on top, and Vanderbilt remains stuck in spot no. 14, but the middle teams have certainly shaken up. Ole Miss completed an immaculate comeback bid against LSU, Kentucky easily handled Florida, and Arkansas lost yet another home game. This week, the Hustler goes right back to making comparisons, this time using a professional lens of NFL teams, now that the league is a quarter-of-the-way through its season. 

1. Georgia (5-0)

NFL Equivalent: San Francisco 49ers

This was probably the easiest comparison to make. Everything about these two teams is good, if not great. Neither team has an insane quarterback, not to slight either Carson Beck or Brock Purdy, but that doesn’t matter this year, just as it didn’t last year. Each team has more than enough assets to compensate, with solid offenses anchored by players like Deebo Samuel and Brock Bowers and top-tier defenses to boot. It’s therefore no surprise that both teams are undefeated and are frontrunners for their respective trophies.

2. Alabama (4-1)

NFL Equivalent: Philadelphia Eagles

The Crimson Tide-Eagles comparison is more of a literal one. Both sides are seemingly the second-best teams in the SEC and the NFL, respectively. The 49ers get the nod over the Eagles (despite both being 4-0) due to the sheer amount that they’ve won by. Still, that doesn’t mean that either Alabama or Philadelphia won’t be able to contend for a conference championship, with loads of talent littered on both sides of the ball. Another fun fact in this comparison is that both teams are led by quarterbacks whose first names start with Jalen (Milroe for Alabama and Hurts for the Eagles). 

3. Ole Miss (4-1)

NFL Equivalent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Prior to the start of the college football season, Ole Miss was projected to finish fourth in the SEC West. Technically, they’re in fourth place right now with their 1-1 conference record, but nobody predicted they’d be sitting at No. 16 in the AP poll thanks to two upsets against ranked teams. Ole Miss has three very easy games ahead of them — Arkansas, Auburn and Vanderbilt — so don’t expect them to stay in fourth place for long. The NFL equivalent here is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pretty much nothing was expected from this season’s Tampa Bay team, but they’re currently sitting at 3-1 and have become one of the most fun-to-watch teams in the league. We’ve yet to see any Ole Miss-Tulane level upsets from this Buccaneers team, but they play the Bills and 49ers in the coming weeks, so we’ll see if they can take some inspiration from the Rebels.

4. LSU (3-2)

NFL Equivalent: Kansas City Chiefs 

This is definitely a hard comparison to make, and one that almost entirely contradicts the comparison we made between LSU and the Pub last week. Still, it makes sense. LSU has gotten off to a mediocre start to the season, losing its first game to Florida State before rebounding well against some of the lesser teams in the SEC. The Tigers then fell short against No. 20 Ole Miss. The Chiefs have been similar, as they lost to the Detroit Lions – the only “legitimate” contending team on their schedule – in Week One. And, of course, both teams are led by some of the best quarterbacks at their respective levels in Jayden Daniels and Patrick Mahomes.

5. Missouri (5-0) 

NFL Equivalent: Miami Dolphins

The week before most teams entered SEC play, Mizzou beat Kansas State, which is why they’re currently ranked, and they’ll likely stay ranked until they lose. The problem is they’re going to lose. In their next six games, they play four (currently) ranked teams in LSU, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, and they’ll be lucky to win any of these. Their NFL equivalent, the Dolphins, are in a pretty similar predicament, as they started 3-0 after facing some pretty easy opponents, but were handed their first loss in their game last weekend against the Bills. Furthermore, the Dolphins have one of the toughest schedules in the league, and their easy games are mostly behind them. Dolphins and Mizzou fans alike should be a bit more worried about the rest of their seasons.

6. Kentucky (5-0)

NFL Equivalent: Detroit Lions

No, we didn’t just make this comparison because of the colors, even though that would be more than enough justification anyway. This comparison comes from the fact that both Kentucky and Detroit play a hard-nosed, rush-heavy brand of football that feeds their lead backs on the goal line. Ray Davis leads the SEC with eight rushing touchdowns, and David Montgomery II ranks third in the NFL with five scores in just three games played. Both the Wildcats (5-0) and Lions (3-1) are enjoying successful seasons that they’ll hope to continue this upcoming weekend.

7. Tennessee (4-1)

NFL Equivalent: Dallas Cowboys

Tennessee’s yet to play a ranked opponent, and unless Texas A&M manages to beat Alabama, Tennessee probably won’t be playing a ranked opponent until the third Saturday in October. Yet, they’re not undefeated, just like their NFL Equivalent, the Dallas Cowboys. With both of these teams, it’s hard to say just how good they are, because they haven’t been properly tested. 

8. Texas A&M (4-1)

NFL Equivalent: New Orleans Saints

The Aggies are by no means the best offensive team, and while they’ve had some success, they aren’t a top offense in the SEC in any one metric. On top of that, quarterback play hasn’t been particularly impressive, and that was before starting quarterback Conner Weighman suffered a season-ending injury. The Saints suffered a similar fate a couple of weeks ago when quarterback Derek Carr suffered an injury that has hobbled him ever since. Rather than the offense, it’s been the defense for both of these teams, who boast stout front sevens designed to shut down opposing rushing attacks, that has gotten things done thus far.

9. Florida (3-2)

NFL Equivalent: Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Richardson was great at Florida last year, and he might be the best rookie quarterback in the NFL right now, having played rather impressively with the Colts. Predicting either of these teams’ success for the remainder of the season is impossible as each has already pulled off a huge upset. Both of these teams have adjusted well to their new quarterbacks, but only time will tell what the season has in store for these two teams.

10. South Carolina (2-3)

NFL Equivalent: Denver Broncos 

This comparison is definitely one of the less nuanced ones that we’ve made. Simply put, both South Carolina and Denver possess the two worst defenses in their respective leagues, allowing 443.0 and 461.5 yards per game, respectively. Both defenses have taken significant steps back from the 2022 season as well. Perhaps even more frustrating is that the offenses have not been bad, by any means, and even possess several playmakers at the wide receiver and running back positions. Still, until the Gamecocks and Broncos can figure it out defensively, they will continue to struggle. 

11. Mississippi State (2-3)

NFL Equivalent: Minnesota Vikings

Last year, both the Vikings and the Bulldogs had pretty good seasons. Mississippi State finished 20th in the AP Poll, and the Vikings made the playoffs. However, both teams had pretty lucky seasons last year as well, taking home victories in pretty close games and taking pretty big losses when the lights got too bright. The Bulldogs didn’t quite have Minnesota’s’ negative point differential, but the Vikings also didn’t have the pleasure of playing Bowling Green and East Tennessee State. This year, these teams haven’t gotten any luck, and we’re seeing that play out in their records. Expect these teams to end their seasons around .500 if they can get a little bit of their luck back.

12. Auburn (3-2)

NFL Equivalent: Arizona Cardinals

There wasn’t much of an expectation for first-year head coach Hugh Freeze to lead the team to the promised land in his first year at the helm. The same can be said about Arizona, who entered the season with poor expectations. Still, both the Tigers and the Cardinals have earned moral victories against the No. 1 seeds in our power rankings, Georgia and the 49ers, keeping the game competitive past halftime. While it isn’t much, the talent discrepancies are so significant that it’s something of a triumph.

13. Arkansas (2-3)

NFL Equivalent: Cincinnati Bengals

Believe it or not, Arkansas has put up more total points than over half of the SEC, including Alabama. In addition, they almost managed to beat LSU in Baton Rouge. However, their once-fiery offense has begun to unravel. In last week’s matchup against Texas A&M, Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson couldn’t get anything going, especially in the red zone, where he was scoreless until the last few minutes. The NFL comparison here is the Bengals, another team with an underperforming quarterback leading a rather middling offense. There’s a lot of room for improvement for both of these teams, so maybe they can pull it off and finish over .500.

14. Vanderbilt (2-4)

NFL Equivalent: New York Giants

This comparison is nearly perfect. Both the Commodores and Giants have legitimate problems on both sides of the ball that have made competing with opponents near impossible. On offense, neither offensive line can afford their quarterbacks the time to read the defense and make a throw. On the other side of the ball, it seems like any time either team gets a stop, they end up committing a terrible penalty and shooting themselves in the foot. Both sides just aren’t good enough to compete right now, dealing with costly injuries and errors.

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About the Contributors
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].
Michael Tung, Staff Photographer
Michael Tung ('26) is majoring in computer science. He is currently a staff photographer and is originally from Dublin, Ohio. His interests are photography, engineering, all things aerospace and music. He can be reached at [email protected]
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