SEC Power Rankings Week 9: Bye Weeks and Blowouts

Only nine of the 14 SEC teams were in action this weekend, and of those games, few were remotely competitive.

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Mattigan Kelly

Vanderbilt dropped its first SEC contest of the season to the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs in September. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

Jack Bukovnik and Jonah Barbin

In a week of many byes for the SEC, the teams that did play mostly faced one another, and drew a clear distinction between programs with legitimate promise and those that are rebuilding. Big wins for Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M were perhaps the most notable, as other top teams in the SEC—Georgia, Kentucky, and Auburn—got a much deserved week of rest.

1. Georgia: 7-0

Georgia’s bye came at perhaps the best time, as they have been suffering from the injury bug as of late. Most notably, they have been without quarterback J.T. Daniels since visiting Vanderbilt. Despite this, the Bulldogs have cruised to a 3-0 record in Daniels’ absence, with their most notable win coming against previously undefeated No. 12 Kentucky. They have been bolstered by a historic defense, currently leading the SEC in sacks and holding opponents to a ridiculous 6.57 points per game. Even with a myriad of injuries, the No. 1 Bulldogs are the clear favorites heading into a crucial SEC bout against Florida.

2. Alabama: 7-1

The Tide continued rolling last week with a blowout win over the SEC East’s Tennessee Volunteers. This game was a bit closer than it looked, with Alabama only leading at halftime by a score of 21-14. To cap it off, though, the Tide put up 28 in the fourth quarter to remove any doubt, ending with a 52-24 victory. The running game looked particularly strong, tallying 203 yards, including three touchdowns from Brian Robinson Jr. and two from Bryce Young. Alabama will take this weekend off before returning to play the final four games on their schedule, with No. 18 Auburn being their only ranked opponent left.

3. Kentucky: 6-1

While Georgia used their bye to heal and prepare to solidify their spot in the College Football Playoff, Kentucky hopefully used theirs to regroup. After starting a historic 6-0, their best mark since 1950, Kentucky suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of No. 1 Georgia. While this could be expected, the Wildcats have much they need to improve on if they hope to make a Sugar Bowl appearance or maintain an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. For one thing, Kentucky ranks an unsustainable 127th out of 130 in college football with a turnover margin of minus eight. On the offensive side of the ball, they only have four receivers who have tallied over 100 yards on the season. The Wildcats will look to correct these issues Saturday night at Mississippi State.

4. Ole Miss: 6-1

Last weekend, Ole Miss hosted the LSU Tigers in a game they won 31-17. This game wasn’t nearly as close as it looked, as LSU put up 10 points in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over. The Rebels tallied an impressive 266 yards on the ground, led by junior running back Snoop Conner and his 117 yards. The Ole Miss offensive is quite dynamic, and if they can continue to put up rushing performances like this in addition to quarterback Matt Corral’s efforts, this Rebel team will continue to be a real threat this year. Ole Miss will travel to Auburn this weekend to play the No. 18-ranked Tigers.

5. Texas A&M: 6-2

The Aggies dominated again this week, easily handling South Carolina in a 44-14 blowout. After a huge showing last week, the two-headed running back monster of Devon Achane (154 yards, one touchdown) and Isaiah Spiller (102 yards, one touchdown) struck again against the Gamecocks, who have allowed 168.6 rushing yards per game this season. Wide receiver Jalen Wydermyer also added two touchdowns in A&M’s offensive outpouring. The Aggies’ defense was also stout, not allowing a score until the fourth quarter of action. A&M will go into their bye week scorching, and are set to square off at home against Auburn on Nov. 6.

6. Auburn: 5-2

Auburn was on bye this weekend, hoping to get some rest as they prepare to play the final five games on their schedule. The first will be hosting the No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels, a game that will certainly be a challenge for them. Containing Matt Corral and this Rebel offense is going to be a tall order, as they face off against a team that ranks sixth in the FBS in points per game. That being said, this is still an Auburn offense that can keep pace, ranking 24th in the FBS in points per game and in the top-40 in both passing and rushing yards per game. Look for a shootout this weekend between these teams.

7. Arkansas: 5-3

The Razorbacks snapped their three-game losing streak against a far inferior Arkansas Pine Bluff team. It’s hard to give any weight to this win, given both the opponent and Arkansas’ performance over the last month. Although quarterback KJ Jefferson put together an impressive and efficient stat line (10-for-17, 194 yards, four touchdowns) the Razorbacks were a mere 2-for-9 on third down conversions and lost two fumbles over the course of the game. Mistakes like these won’t be as dismissable after their bye when they meet up with Mississippi State. 

8. Florida: 4-3

Florida was one of the many SEC teams on bye this week, which was much needed. Two weeks ago, they were upset in a 49-42 shootout loss to LSU. One of the biggest questions surrounding this team is the quarterback situation, with Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson both seeing significant playing time. Head coach Dan Mullen said that this will be the case again this weekend, where both quarterbacks will see the field. Let’s hope for the Gators’ sake that works out, as they take on No. 1-ranked Georgia at home. Clearly, this will be as tough of a matchup as it could get for Florida as they play out the final five games on their regular season schedule.

9. LSU: 4-4

Following last week’s huge win over Florida, LSU came back down to Earth, and was handled by No. 10 Ole Miss, 31-17. It was a rough day for quarterback Max Johnson, who was sacked four times, fumbled three times, tossed an interception and did not find the end zone through the air. True freshman Garrett Nussmeier came in relief of the ailing Johnson in the fourth quarter and completed 7 of 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. It’s been a rough couple of seasons for the Tigers since the departure of Joe Burrow and Co., and things won’t get any easier after the bye, as they are set to take on No. 3 Alabama.

10. Tennessee: 4-4

Last weekend, the Volunteers came across one of the most difficult matchups possible, a trip to Tuscaloosa against the No. 4-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. For the first half, Tennessee hung around, finding themselves only down by a score of 21-14. A decisive fourth quarter by Alabama put this game away as a blowout, and this is a Tennessee team that’s now 4-4. Quarterback Hendon Hooker continued his impressive season, going 19-for-28 with 282 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. For the Vols, the lack of rushing production (only 64 yards as a team) and a defensive collapse in the second half did them in. Tennessee will take this weekend off before playing out the final four games on their regular season schedule. With matchups against Southern Alabama and Vanderbilt to close out the season, look for this team to do just enough to qualify for a bowl game.

11. Mississippi State: 4-3

The Bulldogs cruised to 4-3 with a win over Vandy, 45-6. Coming off a brutal loss at the hands of Alabama, Mississippi State and quarterback Will Rogers righted the ship in Nashville. Rogers threw 57 times, which is not out of the ordinary for the Bulldogs’ pass-happy offense, completing 41 of his passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Notably, Rogers threw two interceptions and easily could have thrown a third if a close review went the other way. Mississippi State dominated Vanderbilt, but it’s certainly not enough to move them up in the rankings. They’ll have a true chance to make a statement on Saturday night against Kentucky.

12. Missouri: 3-4

Following a 35-14 loss to Texas A&M, Missouri was on bye this past weekend. This is a team that has struggled mightily in SEC play thus far, going 0-3. Their three wins are against non-Power Five teams. Look for that to change this weekend when the Tigers travel to Nashville to play the Commodores, a game in which they are 16.5-point favorites. Clearly, it’s been a tough road for the Tiger faithful thus far, their prospects are expected to improve, as four of their next five games are against unranked opponents. 

13. South Carolina: 4-4

After narrowly defeating Vanderbilt last week, South Carolina was absolutely dominated by another familiar SEC foe in Texas A&M. The Gamecocks put together an uninspiring performance, putting up no scores over the first three quarters of play while allowing 41 points to the Aggies during that span. After a movie-like ending for quarterback Zeb Noland last week, he spent his time under center getting sacked and chasing errant snaps. A young and struggling South Carolina team will face Florida at home after their bye.

14. Vanderbilt: 2-6

The Commodores continued their struggles this past weekend, losing to Mississippi State 45-6. Mike Wright got the start due to Ken Seals’s injury, and struggled to find any rhythm in both the passing and run game. In total, Vanderbilt was able only to tally nine yards on the ground on 17 attempts. Those efforts will need to improve if they’re to stand a chance against Missouri this weekend. Per usual, the Commodores enter this weekend as a massive underdog. Let’s see if Vanderbilt can turn it around.