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 13: From turf to theater

With plenty of time for students to watch movies on break, the Hustler decided to analyze each SEC team with their sports movie equivalent.
Geetika Komati
Ken Seals running against Auburn, as photographed on Nov. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Geetika Komati)

Everyone loves that one sports movie that inspires them. Whether it’s the ultimate comeback or a great underdog story, people can’t help but watch a sports classic to fill their hearts with hope and happiness. 

With the student body on Thanksgiving break this week, students finally have time to sit on their couches and watch a movie. But which sports movies are worth watching and which are worth skipping over? The Hustler has analyzed each SEC team with their sports movie equal. 

1. Georgia 11-0 (8-0)

Sports Movie Comparison: Friday Night Lights

Georgia holds on to the top spot in the rankings after a convincing win over Tennessee this past Saturday. Much like the intense high school football culture in Odessa, Texas in Friday Night Lights, Athens, Ga. seems to run on college football. Georgia has made it back to the SEC Championship for the third consecutive season, largely due to an explosive offense led by quarterback Carson Beck, tight end Brock Bowers and running back Daijun Edwards. Similar to star running back James Miles in Friday Night Lights, Edwards has found a rhythm on the ground and is exposing every opponent’s defensive front. Georgia’s impressive defense is also holding teams to an average of 288.1 yards per game, good enough for second best in the SEC. Now facing an easier opponent in Georgia Tech, the Georgia Bulldogs hope to ride into the SEC Championship game with a convincing win over an in-state rival. 

2. Alabama 10-1 (7-0)

Sports Movie Comparison: Rocky II

Alabama once again finds themselves right on the heels of Georgia, clinching another SEC Championship berth in which they will take on the Bulldogs after a game against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The past two seasons are still fresh in the mind of Nick Saban and the rest of Tuscaloosa, from the 2021-22 National Championship loss to the disappointing 2022-23 season that allowed Georgia to once again take the crown as the nation’s best. Similarly, Rocky Balboa ended up just short of greatness. After fighting his way to the top, he suffered a dramatic loss to Apollo Creed via split decision and with no rematch planned, Balboa retired. Yet, just like what the roaring Crimson Tide hope to do, he eventually returned to the ring, taking on Creed once more, this time knocking him out in the fifteenth and final round to claim his title. The collision course between the current defending champions and Alabama is inevitable and a Rocky-like mentality could be in store for a program attempting to reestablish itself as the pinnacle of not just the SEC, but the entire college football world.

3. Missouri 9-2 (5-2)

Sports Movie Comparison: Rudy

Missouri is the underdog of the SEC this season, much like the story of Rudy. No one thought Missouri would be a legitimate threat to make a top bowl game in August, but in Week 13, the Missouri Tigers are a force to be reckoned with on the field. In a game-winning field goal against Florida this past Saturday, kicker Harrison Mevis, nicknamed the “Thicker Kicker,” nailed a 30-yard field goal with five seconds left to win the game. The grit of this team is unmatched, similar to that of Rudy who attempted for years to play for the Fighting Irish. Much like the heartwarming story of Rudy never giving up on his dreams to play Notre Dame football, Missouri fans have yet to give up on making it to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Just maybe they can beat Arkansas this Saturday and shock the college football world.

4. Ole Miss 9-2 (5-2)

Sports Movie Comparison: Little Giants

Danny O’Shea was always the inferior little brother to former college football star Kevin. His daughter, the notorious Icebox, is cut from Kevin’s team, alongside some of her other friends from Kevin’s “Pee-Wee Cowboys.” However, after some stark convincing by Icebox, O’Shea starts his own team, coaching them to prepare to take on his older brother once and for all. Ole Miss themselves can relate to being stuck in a “little brother” position, never being able to get past the “big brothers” of the Southeastern Conference like Georgia and Alabama. As a coach, Lane Kiffin still sits in the shadows of his former boss Nick Saban and other dominant presences like Kirby Smart. As O’Shea emphasizes in a speech to his players, you only need “one time.” Perhaps, one day this Ole Miss program will get their “one time” and knock off the likes of Alabama or Georgia. For now, though, its focus turns to the Egg Bowl, where they aim to impose their force on rival Mississippi State. 

5. LSU 8-3 (5-2)

Sports Movie Comparison: Seabiscuit 

LSU was a team to look out for coming into the season, but a few early blunders, particularly against FSU and Ole Miss, have left this team with three losses. However, the talent is still there. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is in contention to win the Heisman as he has showcased an elite arm and fantastic mobility. He is the total package in a quarterback and has multiple capable receivers, such as Malik Nabers. In the movie Seabiscuit, the main horse, named Seabiscuit, is overlooked. People didn’t think Seabiscuit would stand a chance against War Admiral, the heavily favored horse in Seabiscuit’s final race. However, Seabiscuit ends up conquering War Admiral, proving the doubters wrong. LSU could do the same by beating Texas A&M on Saturday. Now with three losses, the Tigers have become an afterthought in the New Year’s Six Bowl discussion, but the raw talent is there and this team could be an opponent’s worst nightmare in a bowl game.

6. Tennessee 7-4 (3-4)

Sports Movie Comparison: Hoosiers

Is there any fanbase and team as tight-knit as the “Rocky Top” singing Knoxville faithful? Regardless of the adversity Tennessee has faced, whether it be a dreaded upset loss against Florida or consistently falling flat against Georgia, Alabama and Missouri, the Volunteers community never turns against them. Just like the passionate and eager basketball fans of small town Hickory, Indiana, the Tennessee Volunteers followers have gathered behind the promise of head coach Josh Heupel and a rebuilding program. Even though the Volunteers won’t be playing for a title like their Hickory Huskers counterparts, the chemistry of the roster and the undeniable support they garner is synonymous with the inspiring story of Hoosiers. That love for football will be on full display when Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt in a checkered Neyland Stadium to finish the Volunteers’ season. 

7. Texas A&M 7-4 (4-3)

Sports Movie Comparison: Moneyball

Texas A&M has had an average year so far for its standards, winning only seven games. Due to this inconsistency, Texas A&M has fired head coach Jimbo Fisher to start building a new program for the future. The similarities between Moneyball and Texas A&M are uncanny. Much like the big-shot major league baseball teams who were attempting to buy players and push out the cheaper teams in the movie Moneyball, Texas A&M believes they can fix their problems by hiring a new coach, even if it means paying Jimbo Fisher 77 million dollars to leave. While the coaching position is unclear for Texas A&M next season, the Aggies should focus on their next game against a hot LSU team. With Heisman candidate Jayden Daniels leading the Tigers’ offense, the Texas A&M defense will have plenty to deal with on Saturday. 

8. South Carolina 5-6 (3-5)

Sports Movie Comparison: The Waterboy

South Carolina has spent its time being consistently overlooked. Senior signal caller Spencer Rattler has been critiqued in the past, never truly being regarded as one of the SEC’s finest at his position. Brilliant playmakers in Mario Anderson and Xavier Legette don’t get as much attention as the stars for the teams towards the top of this list do, even though they’ve spurred the Gamecocks to a three-game winning streak, which included a blowout of Vanderbilt and an upset of Kentucky. In similar fashion, Bobby Boucher Jr. is the definition of underrated. Unnoticed and unappreciated by teammates and opposition alike, Boucher helped turn around the South Central Louisiana State Mud Dogs who had previously lost 40 consecutive games. Through dazzling performances, Boucher brought the Mud Dogs to glory whereas Rattler, Legette and Anderson have successfully delivered a team that was 2-6 to the cusp of bowl eligibility. The last hurdle to solidifying a possible postseason berth will be a showdown with the Clemson Tigers in the Palmetto Bowl, and the Gamecocks will need huge performances out of their underestimated stars to pull it off, much like how Boucher won the Mud Dogs the Bourbon Bowl in just two quarters. 

9. Kentucky 6-5 (3-5)

Sports Movie Comparison: Invincible

Kentucky suffered a brutal loss to South Carolina this past Saturday. The Wildcats were unable to generate any offense against a struggling South Carolina defense, leaving lots to be desired. The Gamecocks were able to hold lead rusher and former Commodore Ray Davis to just 61 yards, and quarterback Devin Leary only threw for a mere 171 yards. The offense appeared stagnant, however, not all hope is lost for this team. Much like Vince Papale’s dreams of making it onto the Philadelphia Eagles in the movie Invincible, maybe Kentucky fans can dream of making it to a top-tier bowl game after this week. However, the Wildcats will face a tough ACC opponent in Louisville this weekend, who is now ranked No. 9 in the country. Kentucky is the underdog in this matchup, just like Vince Papale was on that 1976 Eagles team, and maybe the Wildcats can pull off the unimaginable and beat a top-10 opponent. They have nothing to lose in this matchup and should go into this game with the same determination and heart as Papale had in Invincible.

10. Florida 5-6 (3-5)

Sports Movie Comparison: The Program

It’s been increasingly difficult to make out who the Florida Gators are this season. Coming off a nail-biting loss to Missouri, it feels like a metaphorical cherry on top of what has been a disappointing season. Just like Sam Winters of the fictional Eastern State Timberwolves, Florida head coach Billy Napier has earned murmurs of potentially being on the hot seat, especially after what have been two completely below average seasons for the Gators. To put it straight, there is an increasing amount of pressure developing in The Swamp, as the expectations for both the players and coaches haven’t been fulfilled. The Program is a movie that showcases the struggles associated with having to play in the top flight of college football and the current state of the Florida Gators program also displays the intense pressures playing in the SEC brings about. If the intensity wasn’t cranked up high enough, the Gators also have the toughest matchup of the week, as they play No. 5 Florida State.

11. Auburn 6-5 (3-4)

Sports Movie Comparison: Any Given Sunday

Auburn was shocked this past Saturday in a loss to New Mexico State. What was perceived to be an easy win for the Tigers was, in fact, quite difficult. Auburn relies on their rushing attack to win games, but star running back Jarquez Hunter ran for only 27 yards. The passing attack was slightly more promising, but Payton Thorne is not explosive enough to put up huge numbers. Auburn is trending in the wrong direction, particularly with a difficult matchup coming up against Alabama. Coming off three straight wins before New Mexico State, the Tigers were riding high, similar to starting quarterback Beamen in Any Given Sunday. But Beamen eventually fell in the championship game, and Auburn also fell in its most recent matchup. With the Iron Bowl approaching, Auburn will need to muster up a herculean effort to beat Alabama, but perhaps this rivalry matchup will bring the best out of Auburn.

12. Mississippi State 5-6 (1-6)

Sports Movie Comparison: Space Jam: A New Legacy

While the original Space Jam had its fair share of critics, the LeBron James-led sequel raised its own share of issues to be poked at. From a lack of unique identity in comparison to the first Space Jam or an inconsistent plot and screenplay, a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes that can only be bested by Mississippi State’s dreaded 14.3% winning percentage this year in the SEC. The Bulldogs share the same inconsistency problems as well, with average quarterback play from Will Rogers and Mike Wright alongside some baffling results, like an odd 7-3 victory over Arkansas that was then followed by a three-game losing streak. Not to mention former head coach Zach Arnett being fired after just his 10th game with the reins to the program. A lack of consistency and issues with solidifying an identity on all levels have plagued this Bulldogs team, leaving hopes of victory low as they have to match-up against a No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels squad that is rolling behind quarterback Jaxson Dart.

13. Arkansas 4-7 (1-6)

Sports Movie Comparison: The Longest Yard

Sitting at seven losses, Arkansas is likely out of bowl contention. This season has been difficult for Razorback fans as the team has lacked consistency on both offense and defense. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson has shown flashes of greatness with his mobility and powerful arm, but a struggling run game has limited this team. Similar to Arkansas’ bad play this season, The Longest Yard is an equally bad movie. With Adam Sandler as the star, The Longest Yard attempts to use comedy to improve an already terrible plot. In reality, audiences aren’t inspired to do anything after watching the movie, and the only thought the audience is left with is how much time they wasted watching it. However, for Arkansas, a 44-21 win over FIU last Saturday has provided this team with a little momentum heading into its final game of the season against Missouri. Maybe this team can beat a top-10 opponent and finish the season on a high note.

14. Vanderbilt 2-9 (0-7)

Sports Movie Comparison: The Replacements

To be frank, Vanderbilt’s season has been a disaster. Yet, the biggest questions lie in regards to possible replacements. Athletic Director Candice Lee has stated that she expects head coach Clark Lea to be back, but, what does this mean for the rest of the team? Perhaps just like in The Replacements, the Lea regime will need to find new sources of quality play. The key players in The Replacements end up going on strike, leaving gaps where they used to perform. However, in the Commodores case, the talent is on the field yet they aren’t playing to their potential. There are certainly big points of concern across the board, from the offensive line to the secondary to the center of attention that is the quarterback position. Shane Falco can’t play quarterback for Vanderbilt like he did for the Washington Sentinels, but, going into the Commodores showdown with Tennessee and the foreseeable future, Lea desperately needs to find someone who can.

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About the Contributors
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Deputy Sports Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
David Hernandez
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].
Geetika Komati
Geetika Komati, Staff Photographer
Geetika Komati ('26) is majoring in economics and music performance and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Livingston, N.J. Geetika loves photographing sports games and getting in on the live action. Apart from the Hustler, some of Geetika's favorite things are traveling, boxing, and cheering on the New Jersey Devils. She can be reached at [email protected].
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