SEC Power Rankings Week 13: Georgia rising

Bulldogs strengthen playoff case, bowl contenders separate

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SEC Power Rankings Week 13: Georgia rising

Georgia players sack quarterback Riley Neal on August 31, 2019.

Georgia players sack quarterback Riley Neal on August 31, 2019.

Emily Gonçalves

Georgia players sack quarterback Riley Neal on August 31, 2019.

Emily Gonçalves

Emily Gonçalves

Georgia players sack quarterback Riley Neal on August 31, 2019.

Will Fritzler, Staff Writer

The top three haven’t changed much this season, but after Georgia plummeted following a mid-October loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs are back in the top-three following a four-game win streak. The Bulldogs have clinched the SEC East and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game in December. LSU just needs to win one of its final two games, or root for an Alabama loss to Auburn next week, in order to join Georgia in Atlanta. Let’s see what else has been shaken up in Week 13:

1. LSU Tigers

Despite giving up 37 points to Ole Miss, LSU remains the undoubted top dog in both the SEC and the country. Quarterback Joe Burrow put in another stellar performance to solidify his Heisman case — 32-of-42 for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase remains one of the best receivers in the conference, accounting for 227 yards and three touchdowns on just eight receptions on Saturday. Barring an epic upset, LSU should dispatch both Arkansas and Texas A&M in their remaining home games and finish undefeated going into the SEC Championship Game against the team just below them in this ranking.

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia is the star of the SEC this week, earning a gutsy, 21-14 win against 12th-ranked Auburn. The Bulldogs have given up just eight points per game in their last four games, which includes wins over top-15 teams Florida and the aforementioned Tigers. Georgia should also win their final two games, at home against Texas A&M and at Georgia Tech, but Georgia will probably need to beat LSU in the SEC title game to keep its playoff spot.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama notched another quality win, 38-7 at Mississippi State, but falls in our ranking given Georgia’s victory and a far more damaging storyline: starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury. Once shepherded by a Heisman hopeful, the Alabama offense will now rely on sophomore backup quarterback Mac Jones, who is a relative wild card despite a solid appearance in his lone start this season (235 yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas). The Iron Bowl is no longer a foregone conclusion in Alabama’s favor, and the Crimson Tide’s exclusion from the conference championship game puts their five-year playoff streak very much in jeopardy.

4. Florida Gators

The Gators got an expected win on the road against Missouri, 23-6. Florida remains an exceptionally strong team with their only losses coming to LSU and Georgia, and the Gators finished conference play with a 6-2 record. Florida won’t make the playoff, but a home win against in-state rival Florida State should give the Gators a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl.

5. Auburn Tigers

Quarterback Bo Nix turned in a respectable performance against Georgia– 245 yards and a touchdown– and the Tigers came back from a 21-0 deficit to pull within a touchdown. But, the Bulldogs sacked Nix on fourth down with less than two minutes left, and Georgia pulled off a signature win. In light of Tua’s injury, Auburn will view the Iron Bowl less as a formidable challenge against a stout playoff contender and more as an opening to beat a fierce rival headed by an inexperienced quarterback.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies occupy tier three of our SEC rankings along with Auburn– below the championship contenders and the strongest bowl aspirants, but above the rest. A&M secured a respectable, 30-6 blowout victory over South Carolina last weekend, but the road ahead is daunting with road games against Georgia and LSU to finish the season.

7. Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky blew past Vanderbilt to improve to 5-5 and move within one win of a clinching a spot in a bowl game, rushing for a season-high 398 yards and seeing receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. run for 110 yards of his own. The Wildcats finished their SEC slate with an underwhelming 3-5 record, but their remaining games at home against UL Martin and Louisville could push them to 7-5 and a satisfying bowl berth.

8. Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols were on a bye this week, but they are owners of a three-game win streak that includes a gritty 17-13 road win against Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s latest vanquisher. A road win against Missouri isn’t a sure thing next weekend for Tennessee, but a win against the Tigers or a home victory against the Commodores would give the Knoxville faithful their first bowl appearance since 2016.

9. Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss is like a rerun of American Idol from 2012: it could provide quality entertainment, but there are certainly better things to watch. But two positives for the Rebels: they managed to score 37 points on the best team in the nation last weekend, and they lost at Auburn by a mere touchdown on Nov. 2. Ole Miss is on bye next weekend before finishing its season against its in-state rival from Starkville, which is practically a coin toss for who will secure that moral victory.

10. Missouri Tigers

Missouri is starkly different from the team that was ranked #22 in the AP Poll headed into its matchup with Vanderbilt on Oct. 19. The Tigers have scored less than seven points per game in their current four-game losing streak, which most recently includes a 23-6 stifling by Florida in Columbia. Tennessee and Arkansas are two beatable opponents remaining for them, but head coach Barry Odom has to wonder what could’ve been before this ugly run of form.

11. Mississippi State Bulldogs

No team in the SEC would’ve been faulted for losing at Alabama like Mississippi State did this past weekend. Fortunately, the Bulldogs have two home games remaining and could sneak into a bowl berth with two wins, just as Vanderbilt did with its back-loaded home schedule last season. Given that those games come against Ole Miss and Abilene Christian, a postseason game could very well be in the works for this team that has lost five of its last six.

12. South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina took a drubbing from Texas A&M, 30-6, and is one of several SEC teams that have lost four of their last five. The Gamecocks’ only bright spot in that span? A lopsided victory against the Commodores. South Carolina is officially bowl-ineligible and has the distinct pleasure of wrapping up its season against the juggernaut that is Clemson.

13. Vanderbilt Commodores

So long as Arkansas is winless in SEC play, Vanderbilt seems poised to avoid the cellar. But with athletic director Malcolm Turner’s announcement that head coach Derek Mason will stay on for next season, Vanderbilt fans are questioning the identity of this despondent team that most recently was blown out of the water by Kentucky, 38-14. A welcome respite will probably come this weekend against East Tennessee State, and maybe Mason can win his fourth straight game against Tennessee in the season finale to end the 2019 campaign on a relatively positive note.

14. Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas is officially the standard-bearer of terrible. While they were off this week, the Razorbacks most recently lost at home to Western Kentucky. By 26 points. After losing their previous games by an average of 37 points. Hogs fans may view their next game at LSU as a long-shot upset opportunity (make it long-long-long-shot), but they should expect a dismantling. On the bright side, running back Rakeem Boyd ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries last game. Maybe he’ll provide the spark to put the Hogs back in the win column.

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