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RTI’s SEC Power Rankings: Week 2

SEC Championship Trophy

Happy Thursday, everyone. What better way to spend a portion of it than by checking out RTI’s SEC Power Rankings as we head into week 2?

14. Vanderbilt (-1)

I’d like to thank Derek Mason and company for making this one so easy. Because the Commodores haven’t looked this bad since Lionel Richie had acne. They lost to a team that went 2-10 last year. At home. By 30. In a game in which they turned the ball over seven times. And failed to score an offensive touchdown. Despite giving three different quarterbacks a chance to get ‘er done. What’s that old adage? When you have two quarterbacks, you have none?

Well, I have a new adage. When you have three quarterbacks and you lose to a hapless team by 30 at home, you have a coach who’s in over his head. 

13. Kentucky (+1)

Good news: Quarterback Patrick Towles, running back Braylon Heard and safety A.J. Stamps all looked fantastic.
Bad news: They were playing UT Martin.

Look for more good times next week against the mighty Bobcats of Ohio before things get real against the Gators when we’ll finally learn what Mark Stoops and company have going in Lexington.

12. Arkansas

The Hogs turned some heads by hanging in there against mighty Auburn, going into the half deadlocked at 21. But it proved to be fools’ gold. Quarterback Brandon Allen played admirably in the first half, particularly given his struggles last season, but the second half was another story, as he failed to manufacture a single point. But the most disconcerting thing? Arkansas couldn’t do the one thing they did well all last year — run the ball — as running backs Alex Collins and Jonathon Williams could only muster up 100 yards. Combined.

11. Missouri (-1)

Sorry, but if you’re going to play footsie with South Dakota State, then you get dropped in RTI’s SEC Power Rankings. Sure, Maty Mauk and the rest of the Tigers got it done, but they were only up by 10 heading into the fourth quarter against a team that’s never beaten an FBS school. That ain’t gonna cut it. The Tigers were underwhelming to say the least.

10. Tennessee (+1)

Good news: UT has cracked the top 10!
Bad news: Of the SEC. UT has cracked the top 10 of the SEC.

Still, Tennessee turned some heads this week in routing Utah State, a team that had become the en vogue upset pick around the nation. Justin Worley looked sharp, albeit mostly from point-blank range. But Vol Nation should feel good about the command he showed. Last year he was the leader of the offense because he was the quarterback. But on Sunday night, he looked like he was the leader of the offense because he had actually become a leader. The defense played lights out with significant upgrades in speed and athleticism on display in all three layers. And the special teams may not have looked good on every play, but they did force a key turnover that gave UT a ton of early momentum. All that said, Tennessee needs to improve in the running game, which means all eyes will be on Jalen Hurd, Marlin Lane and the O-line as the Vols face Arkansas State on Saturday.

9. Florida

I was so tempted to drop Florida in the rankings since they paid nearly a million bingos to NOT play Idaho. Because it all seems so odd and so funny. But if we’re being fair, that wasn’t Florida’s fault. Every aspect of college football can, indeed, be unpredictable, including the weather. So, in essence, the Gators have not yet taken the field for the 2014 season. So they remain at No. 9.

8. South Carolina (-5)

Hard to say whether South Carolina simply ran into a buzz saw or whether they aren’t as good as advertised. Though I hate it when people say this (because it’s such a cop out), it’s probably a little bit of both. On the one hand, dropping Spurrier’s squad five spots in the rankings after just one game seems like an over-reaction. The Gamecocks have proven many times that they can absorb an early-season loss and still string together one heck of a year, most recently last year when they got waxed in Athens and still went on to a No. 4 final ranking in the AP Poll. Yet on the other hand, they got half a hundred hung on them at home in a 26-point loss that wasn’t even that close.

7. Mississippi State

Quarterback Dak Prescott is a grown man. Wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson has an incredible name, albeit one better suited for a tailback, but whatever. And the Mississippi State defense was simply dominant throughout the contest. Sure. The Bulldogs played Southern Miss, not exactly a top flight team. But SMU and Miss St used to be an in-state rivalry game, and those are never a given. But more importantly, this is the type of game Mississippi State used to win its fair share of, but seldom convincingly. One gets the sense that Dan Mullen may have this thing on a rail this year. Time will tell.

6. Ole Miss (-1)

For Ole Miss and quarterback Bo Wallace, it was a tail of two halves. Wallace looked dreadful in the first half, throwing three picks. Had Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick not matched him, one got the sense that the Rebels would have had all it wanted on their hands. But Wallace regrouped and remembered what a weapon Laquon Treadwell is and Ole Miss pulled away with the help of four fourth quarter touchdowns. Yet it’s worth noting, they entered that final stanza only up 7-6. The Ole Miss D held its own with a bend-but-don’t-break brand of football, getting super-physical up front when it mattered most. But this game was a slop fest. Even with the strong finish, Ole Miss certainly didn’t play like the 18th-ranked team in the land.

5. LSU (+1)

The LSU-Wisconsin game was one of the most compelling in all of week one. And for much of it, Wisconsin looked stronger and faster than LSU. Not many teams come back from 17 down, let alone 17 down late in the third, but that’s exactly what LSU did, despite having lost over 85% of its offensive production last year. There are still a lot of questions in Baton Rouge, however, as LSU relied on a lot of big plays to get it done. Still, they could have folded and they didn’t. Looks like Les Miles will have his guys ready to go again this year.

4. Texas A&M (+4)

No surprise that the Aggies made the biggest leap in this week’s SEC Power Rankings. It wasn’t that long ago everyone wondered who would replace Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Once Kenny Hill earned the job, everyone wondered how he would replace Johnny Manziel at quarterback. The answer proved to be in record-breaking fashion. Only time will tell if Hill had a once-in-a-lifetime performance or if this guy’s the real deal. But one thing’s for sure. Given head coach Kevin Sumlin’s track record with quarterbacks, it’s probably unwise to bet against Hill.

3. Georgia (+1)

Turns out Gurley’s a man. But we all knew that. And Nick Chubb served notice that there’s more where that came from in Georgia’s impressive win over No. 16 Clemson. The two backs combined for 268 rushing yards on 19 total carries, averaging over 14 yards a gallop. Which is exactly what they were doing. Galloping. If the Bulldogs get production like that from their run game, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with all year. Particularly with talent on the outside like wide receiver Michael Bennett provides. If quarterback Hudson Mason can just play smart football, the sky is the limit for Georgia.

2. Alabama

The Tide looked beatable in their 10-point victory over unranked West Virgina. Yes, they have a couple of really talented running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. And yes, Amari Cooper is one of the best receivers in the nation, let alone the SEC. And yes, Blake Sims looked good. Not great. But good. And that’s all this team needs. But two things should concern Bama fans. First, their secondary got lit up Johnny Manziel the night before a Manning camp. And, second, Lane Kiffin. It’s not that his offense didn’t play an acceptable brand of football. They did. But the tension between Saban and Kiffin was palpable at times. And every single game will have at least one camera trained on Kiffin the entire time. And one gets the sense that there will be at least a moment or two this year when the weight of all that will collapse upon itself.

A lot of words to say there are many factors which would suggest Bama should have clocked in lower in our SEC Power Rankings. But they are Alabama and they do have one of the best coaches in the game on their sidelines. (Um, Saban. Not Kiffin.) So Alabama gets the nod at No. 2.

For now.

1. Auburn

The Tigers didn’t exactly start the season on fire when they found themselves knotted up at the half with lowly Arkansas. But whatever head coach Gus Malzahn said to his team at the break must have taken, as they outscored Arkansas 24-0 in the second half. The return of Nick Marshall, who sat out the entire first half due to suspension, didn’t hurt matters. Neither did Auburn’s gaudy running attack led by the one-two punch of Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Throw in wide receivers Sammie Coates and D’haquille Williams (who had a huge breakout game for the Tigers), and it’s clear that once again, Malzahn has some pieces to work with. No reason to believe he won’t piece together another high-octane offensive attack.

So Auburn sits atop RTI’s SEC Power Rankings for week 2. Tune in next Thursday to see our next installment. With any luck, the Vols will creep up yet another rung. 

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