RTI’s SEC Power Ranking: Week 4

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    SEC Championship Trophy

    Another week, another edition of RTI’s SEC Power Rankings. One thing’s for certain: future matchups are greatly needed to help clear things up. Because right now, things are muddy, indeed. Particularly with the lower tier of the SEC.

    Well, except for one team.

    14. Vanderbilt

    The extra point following Vanderbilt’s second score of last week’s game would have brought the Commodores to within three of lowly UMass, but Derek Mason decided to go for two.

    No one who has ever set foot on God’s green Earth has even the slightest chance of telling you why.

    Regardless, Vanderbilt didn’t make it. Which compelled Mason to attempt another two-point conversion later in the game. Which also failed. Which compelled yet another two-point attempt after Vanderbilt’s final score. That one was successful and gave the Commodores a 34-31 lead. But had Mason gone with a conventional extra-point strategy, his team would have been up 35-31.

    Which means UMass would have been forced to go for it on fourth and goal from the Commodore four at the very end of the game, as a field goal would have done them no good. And if they had converted, they would have won. Instead, they missed the game-tying field goal attempt from 22 yards and Vanderbilt won.

    Touché, Derek Mason. Touché.

    13. Kentucky (-1)

    This is so tough to call. After all, Kentucky is much improved on both sides of the ball and was one bad-call from stealing one in the Swamp. (That, friends, was a delay of game.) Plus don’t forget the weird play that should have been a pick six for Kentucky but wound up being a Gator first and goal. All of which to say, Kentucky gets a raw deal in the 13th spot. Because they seem a lot better than they’ve been in quite sometime. But given historical precedence, namely, a century of football futility, I just couldn’t put the Cats above the other three teams that are bottle-necked in this cluster.

    12. Arkansas (+1)

    One of those three teams is Arkansas, who notched an impressive win this week on the road against Texas Tech. Running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined for six touchdowns and over 350 yards on the ground. In addition to looking exactly like Butthead (as in Beavis’ BFF), Brett Bielema is also making good on his promise to get the Hogs playing a power brand of football. The Razorbacks still can’t throw, but their ground attack is No. 3 in the nation. They could have easily landed in the No. 11 spot.

    11. Tennessee

    But instead I gave it to Tennessee. Partly because I’m a big fat homer, and partly because I simply couldn’t justify dropping the Volunteers after such a game effort in Norman. Especially after the tough luck no-fumble call. Not to mention all the uncalled penalties, which earned the Sooners a new nickname. And rightfully so. More holding in Norman than a maternity ward.

    10. Florida (-1)

    I can just hear it now. All the bellyaching from folks who think that Tennessee should be ranked higher than Florida given the Gator’s near stumble against Kentucky. To that, I again point to history, just as I did to justify the Kentucky ranking. Specifically this historical tidbit: the last time Tennessee beat Florida, I wasn’t even dating my wife.

    WE HAVE FIVE CHILDREN NOW.

    Still, I’m far from sold on Florida. In fact, they top my list of potential signature wins for Team 118.

    9. Mississippi State (+1)

    I flip-flopped Mississippi State and Florida because the Bulldogs looked dominant in their 35-3 win over South Alabama. Speaking of flip-flopping, that’s exactly what Mississippi State has been doing. They looked great in their opener, anything but in a sloppy win over UAB, and great again last week. Better not come out sloppy against LSU in Death Valley on Saturday night.

    8. Missouri

    I got a tweet after the last power rankings that dogged me for putting the Vols behind Mizzou. And I got another one after the OU game from a guy who insists the Vols will finish 8-4. I asked him who the wins were, and he included Mizzou as a team the Vols would “definitely beat.”

    Missouri’s the defending Eastern Division champs. Quarterback Maty Mauk has thrown 25 touchdowns against just four picks in his first six collegiate starts. The Tigers rank No. 22 in the country in scoring defense. And Missouri is the 18th ranked team in the country. Yet people think they suck.

    They don’t. Get good with it.

    7. Georgia (-4)

    The next two teams prove that it’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. How high were people on Georgia after the Bulldogs dominated Clemson? People were all “Gurley’s the man” (#CryingGame), and “Chubb looks at home relieving Gurley.” (Ew.)

    Which is all true. But Hutson Mason looks more like a game manager than a quarterback. Throw in a defense that gave up nearly 450 yards against the Gamecocks, and it’s fair to say that Georgia has some question marks. Still a very good team, but not among the class of the conference. At least not at this point.

    6. South Carolina (+1)

    I forget the exact quote he rocked coming into this game, but it was Spurrier at his best. Paraphrasing here: “We were supposedly one of the best teams in the SEC a couple weeks ago and now people think we’re horrible and that Georgia’s one of the best teams in the SEC. Just goes to show you how quickly the experts change their mind.”

    Nice zinger, coach. While the final score last weekend drove home his point, he still needed some luck along the way. The missed field goal was a gift from God and the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 near midfield, while ultimately successful, was a gamble that most wouldn’t have taken.

    With the win, the Gamecocks established inside position in the East (Mizzou not withstanding). But that doesn’t mean much. Just ask Spurrier. Things can change quick around here.

    5. Ole Miss (+1)

    Ole Miss is the first of the five SEC teams you’ll find in the AP top 10. On paper, the Rebels look balanced, averaging 365 passing yards per game while ranking fourth in the nation in scoring defense. The bad news is that they’ve amassed those numbers against (a subpar) Boise State team, Louisiana LaFayette and Vanderbilt. Still, Hugh Freeze has his boys well positioned.

    4. LSU (+1)

    The Bayou Bengals have as good of a non-conference win as any team in the SEC in Wisconsin. Since then, they’ve pitched two consecutive shutouts, outscoring Sam Houston and UL Monroe by a combined score of 87-0. On the one hand, they’re making mincemeat of teams they should be making mincemeat out of. Hard to ask them to do anything more.

    On the other, I’m not even sure I could name the mascots of either of those teams even if you spotted me the first four letters. Things get real this weekend when Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs come calling.

    3. Texax A&M (+1)

    There’s this guy I know who’s been busting my chops for not ranking Texas A&M higher. And I get it. Statistically, A&M’s in beast mode. The rout in Columbia is looking even better and the Aggies boast a top-5 scoring offense and a top-15 scoring defense. But it’s going to take more than Lamar and Rice for me to put them ahead of the top two.

    2. Alabama

    There’s a car dealership here in Knoxville that’s equating their current sale with Alabama. “Only good for a little while longer.” And I think there’s truth to that. Because I maintain that Alabama’s not Alabama anymore. So believe me, all of us here at RTI are watching them closely, skeptical, indeed, of the issues at quarterback and a secondary that’s getting shredded. But the Tide still has a ton of talent and they get the benefit of the doubt for that talent, along with their recent history.

    1. Auburn

    Which again leaves the Auburn Tigers sitting atop this week’s SEC Power Rankings. They’re averaging 330 yards per game on the ground and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 52-17. And they have Gus Malzahn on the sidelines. And they’re the defending SEC Champions.

    They go on the road to face No. 20 Kansas State tonight, where they’ll have a chance to show the entire nation that they do, indeed, deserve their No. 1 spot in this week’s SEC Power Rankings.