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 9: Trick or Treat

With Halloween right around the corner, the Hustler analyzes each SEC team with their candy equal.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Ken Seals started his second game of the season against Florida. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

1. Georgia 7-0 (4-0)

Candy Comparison: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Georgia holds onto the top spot after its bye week. The Bulldogs have taken college football by storm, not unlike the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup when it first hit the streets back in 1928. Peanut Butter AND Chocolate? How about the nation’s No. 3 offense in yards per game  (509) and No. 6 defense in yards allowed per game (216)? It’s a tough combination to beat, and the reason why Georgia hasn’t lost a game since the 2021 SEC Championship. With a win against Florida on Saturday, Georgia can become the first SEC team to win 25 straight games since Alabama in 2016. 

2. Alabama 7-1 (5-0)

Candy Comparison: Snickers

The only dynasty that rivaledAlabama’s reign of dominance in college football in the 2010s was the Snickers and its stranglehold of the candybar scene. Just as Alabama cemented itself as the defining college football team of the 21st century, Snickers became the highest-selling candybar of all time. But with Georgia’s meteoric rise to the top of college football with consecutive national championships, many believe Alabama has lost its status as kings of the SEC. Don’t count out the 7-1 Crimson Tide, or Snickers, for a chance to reclaim their respective thrones this Fall.

3. Ole Miss 6-1 (3-1)

Candy Comparison: Sour Patch Kids

Switching up from the chocolate theme is the most unorthodox team in the SEC; the Ole Miss Rebels as Sour Patch Kids. Lane Kiffin’s squad is off to a blazing hot start for the second year in a row, with impressive wins against No. 15 LSU and No. 22 Tulane. Quarterback Jaxson Dart is playing the best football of his career, cutting down on turnovers and using his rushing ability to pick up an impressive 346 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground through seven games. The Rebels will take on Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the coming weeks before facing their biggest test of the season against Georgia on November 11th. 

4. LSU 6-2 (4-1)

Candy Comparison: Twix

In theory, Twix should be a top 3 halloween candy— the combination of chocolate, caramel, and cookie should work wonders. But for whatever reason, the execution leaves trick-or-treaters wanting more. The same could be said for LSU this season: Averaging 47.4 points per game, the Tigers are the highest scoring offense in all of college football. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a serious Heisman contender with 2,573 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. But the defense has yet to stepp up in  crunch time, and the Tigers removed themselves from playoff contention with losses to Florida St. and Ole Miss in the first few weeks of the season. 

5. Missouri 7-1 (3-1)

Candy Comparison: Kit Kat

For both Missouri and Kit Kat, the five spot feels a bit low. At 7-1, the Tigers have vastly exceeded expectations and are clearly moving in the right direction under head coach Eli Drinkwitz. But like their chocolate counterparts, they’re too uninteresting to be placed any higher. The Tigers had the chance to move up the rankings with their week 6 matchup against LSU, but were outscored 22-7 in the 4th quarter and ended up losing the game. Wide receiver Luther Burden III has been a particularly bright spot, as he currently ranks second in the nation with 905 receiving yards. 

6. Tennessee 5-2 (2-2)

Candy Comparison: Candy Corn

Disclaimer: There’s no way Candy Corn is a top 6 candy. 

The comparison to Tennessee feels a little too accurate to pass up, as these two polarizing entities are among the most hated in their respective fields. Tennessee has yet to defeat a ranked opponent this season, and is 2-2 in the SEC with losses to Florida and Alabama. Even so, it’s impossible to deny that the Volunteers have been very solid this year. Quarterback Joe Milton has lived up to expectations with 1500 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions. The Volunteers rank first in the SEC in rushing offense with 1551 yards, and also rank third in the conference in yards allowed per game at just 310. If Tennessee can keep those numbers up across the back half of the season, they can easily finish the season with 10 wins. 

7. Florida 5-2 (3-1)

Candy Comparison: Whoppers

Are Whoppers actually good? Is Florida actually good? Both seem to rely too heavily on their reputation. Florida’s SEC reputation in 2023 is built on its Week 3 victory against then No. 11 Tennessee. Beyond that, the Gators haven’t been all that impressive. Losing to a mediocre Kentucky team by nearly 20 points and scraping past South Carolina doesn’t inspire much confidence. That could be a problem with Florida entering a nightmarish stretch of matchups to close out its season. The Gators have to play No. 1 Georgia, No. 15 LSU, No. 16 Missouri, and No. 4 Florida St. in a span of five weeks. 

8. Kentucky 5-2 (2-2)

Candy Comparison: Starburst

Sticking your hand into a bowl that has Starburst means what flavor you pull out is a roll of the dice. All of them are relatively decent, but some just stick out strikingly above the rest. Comparatively, week-by-week is a preemptive gamble of what Kentucky team the world will witness. Sometimes, the Wildcats will have a dominant rushing attack led by Ray Davis, bolstered by managing play from Devin Leary, the grittiness of the defense and explosive special teams. Other weekends, Kentucky just looks average, falling flat as a competitor for ranked opponents like Georgia and Missouri. With another ranked team on the radar in Tennessee, Kentucky has to decide which team they want to be: borderline average or a force to be reckoned with?

9. Texas A&M 4-3 (2-2)

Candy Comparison: Three Musketeers

In reality, Three Musketeers is just the middle brother of the chocolate candy bar family. It doesn’t come close to the chocolate candies everyone adores like Milky Ways, Snickers, Kit Kats or Twix, but it isn’t a bad choice because it has its positives. Likewise, the Aggies find themselves floating in the center of the pack, easily thwarting lower competition like Auburn and Arkansas but narrowly falling to teams like Alabama and Tennessee. Everything is there for Texas A&M to succeed, from fantastic recruiting classes to a historically great coach to a fanbase eager to see this program grow. However, issues with consistency are diminishing the Aggies. If these hurdles can’t be jumped, Texas A&M could end up sharing the same fate as their treat equivalent of always coming up short. 

10. Mississippi State 4-3 (1-3)

Candy Comparison: Hot Tamales

Mississippi State finishing last year within the ranks of the Top 25 in the nation gave the Starkville faithful ample opportunity to slap the label of future “conference contender” on the program. The same way manufacturers threw the label “Fierce Cinnamon” on every box of Hot Tamales, it doesn’t live up to the hype. Hot Tamales themselves identify as this powerful spicy candy, they’re actually just Mike & Ikes covered in cinnamon oil. 

The Bulldogs aren’t close to contention, and although they have a little kick to them because of bright spots like an improving defense, there isn’t any real spice to this squad. With four SEC games remaining, the Bulldogs have to show out in order to earn the possibility of that label for the future.

11. South Carolina 2-5 (1-4)

Candy Comparison: Blow Pops

From the outside, various facets of South Carolina give fans hope. Shane Beamer is a solid head coach, and the offense is littered with weapons across the board. Players like wide receiver Xavier Legette and running back Mario Anderson have shown flashes of excellence, alongside their daring gunslinger Spencer Rattler. But, upon getting into the core of the Gamecocks, no one is pleased. An inconsistent offensive line and arguably one of the worst defenses in the conference are akin to the gum at the core of a Blow Pop. A sweet start ends with encountering this gum, and by that point you’re ready to throw the entire thing out.  

12. Auburn 3-4 (0-4)

Candy Comparison: Black Licorice

Black Licorice  is a staple for the older generations, but it has no real place for the the tastebuds of the modern bunch. At one point, Auburn was one of the premier programs in the SEC, being a bowl team practically every year. Now, they’ve taken a major sink and find themselves scrambling to stay above the water. The Tigers have the 101th ranked offense in the country and a defense giving up 371.7 yards per game. For Auburn to find the identity of the teams of old, they will need upset wins in the back half of the schedule 

13. Arkansas 2-6 (0-5)

Candy Comparison: Tootsie Rolls

Going into the season, it looked likeArkansas was on an upward trajectory. KJ Jefferson was set to stake his claim as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and a stout set of returning talent and incoming transfers under Sam Pittman showed potential. However, the promise of good football has fallen apart, just how the prospect of decent chocolate is inconceivably ruined after biting into a Tootsie Roll. Sitting at 2-6 overall and winless in the conference after a 7-3 defeat against Mississippi State, the Hogs remain simply stuck, in the same manner that the chewy, taffy-like candy gets annoyingly stuck to your teeth.

14. Vanderbilt 2-6 (0-4)

Candy Comparison: Smarties

Representative in name, comparable in action. Vanderbilt themselves are the prime intellectual “smarties” of the SEC. Yet, just like their candy counterpart on Halloween, they find themselves always at the bottom of the bag. The chalky, dry and artificially flavored tablets that just grind down into powder aren’t much of a real treat, neither is the six-game losing streak the Commodores find themselves on.

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About the Contributors
Brandon Karp, Senior Staff Writer
Brandon Karp ('25) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is studying human and organizational development and political science in Peabody College. You can reach him at [email protected].
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
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