Power Rankings Week Five: Georgia vaults LSU with marquee win

With conference play underway, the top dogs of the SEC begin to separate from the pack.

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Power Rankings Week Five: Georgia vaults LSU with marquee win

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Bobby Kent and Ryan Martinez

Week Three of college football was devoid of any must-watch matchups. With conference play on the horizon, teams used the week to play tune-up games against lackluster opponents, placing pressure on Week Four to deliver, and the juggernauts of the SEC responded. Georgia and Auburn made huge statements with close victories over ranked opponents while Alabama, LSU and Florida flexed their muscles in conference matchups. Here’s this week’s SEC Power Rankings:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide 

Alabama rolled to yet another win last Saturday, defeating Southern Mississippi 49-7 in a non-competitive affair. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had an impressive outing, completing 17/21 passes for 293 yards in his second straight game throwing for five touchdowns. Wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy combined for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Through four weeks, Nick Saban’s high-powered offense has outscored opponents 200-43. The Crimson Tide look to be as dangerous as ever as they continue their title pursuit next weekend when they face Ole Miss at home. 

2. Georgia Bulldogs 

The Georgia Bulldogs achieved their first marquee win of the season with their 23-17 win in Athens on Saturday over #7 Notre Dame. While the Bulldogs passing game wasn’t particularly explosive, quarterback Jake Fromm played the role of game manager with 187 passing yards and no interceptions, allowing running back Deandre Swift and Georgia’s suffocating defense to take over. Georgia’s defense, which is one of the best in the nation, is allowing an average of just ten points per game, and they soundly handled Notre Dame’s explosive passing attack led by quarterback Ian Book. Georgia enters an easier stretch of conference play this week with a matchup against the 1-3 Tennessee Volunteers before entering the most difficult stretch of their season in just a few weeks down the road

3. LSU Tigers 

In the first meeting between the two programs since 2010, the LSU Tigers dismantled the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Tigers’ 66 points are the most scored against an SEC opponent in program history. Quarterback Joe Burrow had an historic outing, tearing up the Commodores defense and throwing for 300-plus yards before halftime. His final stat line was equally as impressive as he completed 25/34 passes for 398 yards and a school record six touchdown passes, earning him SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase benefitted from his quarterback’s precise passing attack by hauling in ten receptions for 229 yards (the most by an LSU receiver since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2013) and four scores. LSU will look to keep the offense rolling as it faces Utah State next weekend before a conference matchup with Florida in two weeks time. 

4. Auburn Tigers 

The defense and running game continue to fuel the 4-0 Tigers’ surprisingly strong start to the season. Auburn came out firing in their game vs Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday, scoring 14 unanswered points in the first quarter. Texas A&M made a spirited comeback late in the fourth quarter, but Auburn was able to hold the lead, winning its second marquee game of the season. While Bo Nix struggled during stretches of the game, the freshman quarterback didn’t make any glaring mistakes, completing 12/20 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Gus Malzahn continues his mercurial style as Auburn oscillates between success and ineptitude on a year-to-year basis. The Tigers will continue their pursuit of an undefeated season this Saturday as they face a solid Mississippi State team at home.

5. Florida Gators 

Defense was the story of the day for the Gators as they shut down the Tennessee Volunteers in a dominant showing, winning 34-3. The one-sided affair was also the fewest points a Florida defense has given up to a Tennessee team in the matchup since 1991. Florida’s defense was all over the field Saturday, forcing four turnovers and limiting the Volunteers to a mere 88 yards rushing and 151 yards passing. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask gave fans another reason to smile, filling in well yet again for injured starter Feleipe Franks, who suffered a gruesome broken ankle late in Florida’s Week 4 win over Kentucky. Trask, a redshirt junior, completed 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns. With the victory, the Gators improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2015. Florida will look to continue its hot start next weekend at home against unranked Towson.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M fans had another rough weekend, watching their 17th ranked Aggies drop their second game of the season in a close matchup with the eighth-ranked Auburn Tigers. With the loss, A&M falls to .500 on the season at 2-2. On the stat sheet, the Aggies outgained the Tigers in the air 335-106 as A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw for two scores but were severely limited on the ground, only amassing 56 yards to Auburn’s 193. The loss effectively eliminates any chance of Texas A&M making the College Football Playoff in Jimbo Fisher’s 3rd season at the helm. The Aggies will look to end their losing streak next weekend when they face Arkansas.

7. Missouri Tigers 

The Missouri Tigers handed the South Carolina Gamecocks their 2nd straight loss last weekend, winning by a final score of 34-13. With the victory, Missouri improved to 3-1 with its only loss coming to Wyoming on opening weekend. Despite only completing 57 percent of his passes, transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Missouri’s defense was dominant against the run, only allowing the Gamecocks 17 yards on the ground. On the other side, running back Larry Rountree III was the leading rusher for the Tigers, carrying the ball 23 times for 88 yards. Missouri will look for its fourth win in a row next weekend at home against Troy.

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs 

Mississippi State rebounded last weekend after a close loss to 24th-ranked Kansas State, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 28-13 to improve to 3-1 on the season. State jumped ahead 21-3 at half and never looked back. Bulldogs quarterback Garrett Shrader was highly efficient, completing 77 percent of his passes in the outing despite throwing for less than 200 yards and no touchdowns. Kentucky’s day was made rough from the start by Mississippi State’s defense who picked off the second pass of the game from Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith, returning it 53 yards which lead to a Bulldogs score. Mississippi will look to make it two in a row in a tough road test against undefeated Auburn next weekend.

9. Kentucky Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats have had an up and down start to the new season, coming into this week with a 2-2 record. Opening the season with two victories, Kentucky looked primed for a strong campaign but lost starting QB Terry Wilson to a season ending torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Ever since his injury, Kentucky has lost to #9 Florida and to Mississippi State in Starkville last week. Even though Kentucky got a strong performance from RB Asim Rose, who ran 105 yards on just nine carries, defensive struggles in the first half doomed the Wildcats to a second consecutive loss. With new starting QB Sawyer Smith struggling, the Wildcats defense and running game will have to step up to keep Kentucky in bowl contention. Kentucky gets an easier stretch of schedule with games against South Carolina and Arkansas coming up before going to Athens to face off against #3 Georgia on October 19th.  

10. South Carolina Gamecocks

The Gamecocks have had a difficult start to the year, resulting in a 1-3 record. South Carolina lost 34-14 to Missouri, partly due to the poor performance of new starting QB Ryan Hilinski, who completed under 50 percent of his passes for 166 yards, a touchdown and an interception. quarterback Jake Bentley suffered a foot injury in their week one matchup with North Carolina, resulting in season ending foot surgery for the senior and Hilinski replacing him as the starter. Additionally, starting RB Rico Dowdle struggled to get anything going against the Missouri defense, running for 17 yards on eight carries for one touchdown. South Carolina plays Kentucky next week at home hoping to get its first win against an SEC opponent. 

11. Ole Miss Rebels 

The Ole Miss Rebels have started off the young season 2-2, handling their business against Arkansas and Southeast Louisiana. On Saturday, the Rebels suffered their second loss of the season in a tough defeat against the #23 California Golden Bears, who are now ranked #15 in the new AP poll. In their 28-20 defeat, Ole Miss was stopped at the goal line as time expired. Quarterback Matt Corral had an impressive game against one of the best defenses in the country, throwing for 266 yards and running for an additional 56 yards. Corral continues to emerge as one of the best young signal callers in college football, even as the Rebels struggle to beat superior competition. Sadly for Ole Miss, the schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they go on the road at Alabama next Saturday for a matchup with the second ranked team in the country. 

12. Vanderbilt Commodores 

Vanderbilt’s ruthless start to its 2019 schedule continued last Saturday as the Commodores faced the 4th-ranked LSU Tigers in Nashville, dropping the matchup 66-38. With the loss, Derek Mason’s squad is 0-2 in SEC play and 0-3 overall on the season for the first time since 2006. The defense couldn’t stop LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who connected for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns. While Vanderbilt did jump ahead 7-0 with a touchdown on its opening drive, LSU quickly shifted into gear and led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn provided one of the lone bright spots for the Commodores, gashing the Tigers’ defense for a season-high 130 yards and two touchdowns, including runs of 41 and 52 yards. Vanderbilt will look for its first win of the year when it plays host to Northern Illinois next weekend in Nashville. 

13. Tennessee Volunteers 

Head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s second year in Knoxville started with loads of optimism, but the season couldn’t have opened much worse for his Volunteers. After going 1-2 in a stretch that included games against Georgia State, BYU, and UT-Chattanooga, Tennessee fell to 1-3 on the season Saturday, losing 34-3 to the Florida Gators, who were playing without their starting QB Felippe Franks. Tennessee struggled in every facet of the game, with QB Jarrett Guarantano throwing for only 107 yards and running back Ty Chandler only running for 34 yards. The defense continued to struggle, which is surprisingly considering Pruitt’s supposed defense prowess. Questions continue to be raised about Pruitt’s future at the program and the future of the starting quarterback position. Tennessee gets a badly needed bye week before their conference schedule with an incredibly tough game against #3 Georgia. 

14. Arkansas Razorbacks

The Arkansas Razorbacks football program continued their downward spiral, as they were defeated by San Jose State 31-24 on Saturday in Fayetteville. In Head coach Chad Morris’ second season at the helm, Arkansas continues to struggle, going 2-2 to start the season during one of their easiest stretches of the season. Former Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel, who transferred as a graduate to Arkansas over the offseason, threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns but threw five interceptions. Starkel’s struggles with holding on to the football coupled with the defense’s struggles doomed the Razorbacks, who were down 24-7 at halftime. Arkansas will attempt to salvage their season as the enter the SEC conference stretch of their schedule, beginning with a game against #23 Texas A&M this Saturday in Dallas.

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