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RTI’s SEC Power Ranking: Week 5

SEC Championship Trophy

Some interesting games last weekend, a few of them shedding a bit more light on the SEC Power Rankings. Much needed light at that. Because things have been cloudy, particularly at the bottom of the conference. Bad news: the bottom is still cloudy. Good news: the top is starting to clear up a bit.

The bottom may still be cloudy, but it also boasts the team that’s the very easiest to rank. That team?

14. Vanderbilt

The Commodores put forth a valiant effort against South Carolina, particularly on special teams, in what was arguably Steve Spurrier’s worst win ever. But this game revealed more about South Carolina than it did Vanderbilt. They remain in the cellar of this week’s rankings.

13. Kentucky

I’ve got my eye on Kentucky because they look to be drastically better than last year, but that also assumes their near upset in the Swamp was against a Florida team that is not an out-and-out train wreck. Which, I dunno, Muschamp, so hmm. Still, the Wildcats really are better and could well be getting a raw deal in the No. 13 slot. Yet here they remain till we can glean a bit more. They get Vandy at home on Saturday. Look for a whooping. The gap between Vanderbilt and the next-worse team in the SEC is significant.

12. Missouri (-4)

Missouri dropped a bad one at home to the Indiana Hoosiers, who, themselves, were coming off a bad loss to Bowling Green. Last week, I went on a little rant on Mizzou.

“[They’re] the defending Eastern Division champs. Maty Mauk has thrown 25 touchdowns against just four picks in his first six collegiate starts. They rank No. 22 in the country in scoring defense, No. 18 in the country overall. Yet people think they suck. They don’t.”

Okay, fine. They don’t not suck. Happy? Bad loss notwithstanding, I still maintain they don’t get the respect they deserve. But they have something that the next few teams don’t. A bad loss to a team they should have beaten. Which is why they’re twelfth.

10. Tennessee and Florida (UT +1)

The first tie of the 2014 SEC Power Rankings is this week’s tenth spot where we find Tennessee and Florida. I don’t mean to look past Georgia, but unless Tennessee plays horribly in Athens, the UT-FL game could well be handicapped as a pick ’em. So why not have them tied in the power rankings?

I believe Tennessee will beat Florida to give Team 118 a signature win. There are several reasons, but I’ll save them for next week’s poll and instead just say this: Florida and Tennessee look like teams headed in opposite directions.

Only two things kept me from leapfrogging the Vols over the Gators. First, Florida has beaten Tennessee ten straight times. I’m sorry, but that means something. And next, I want to see the Vols go down to Athens and prove they’re where I think they are. So stay tuned here at the 10 spot. Things could change soon.

9. Arkansas (+3)

I can just hear everyone in Vol Nation bellyaching about this one. But, gimme a break. It was “homer” enough to put the Vols ahead of a team like Mizzou without even so much as batting and eye. And I just couldn’t deny Arkansas. They played Auburn a lot tougher than anyone dreamed, they notched a convincing road victory over a decent Texas Tech team and they simply obliterated Northern Illinois.

Their rushing attack, which ranks eighth in the country, leads the third-ranked scoring offense at nearly 49 points per game. Plus, the “other votes” category of this week’s AP poll puts them at No. 37 in the nation. We’ll see what they’ve got this week when they face the Aggies, but it looks like Bielema has the Hogs headed in the right direction.

8. LSU (-4)

Okay, this is the part of the poll where it starts to get a little easier.

Les Miles gambled on fourth and goal early and got waxed. He, along with everyone else in Death Valley, had to sit there and watch the Dak Prescott / De’runnya Wilson show. The Tigers lost so much from last year and for the first time this season, it really showed. Still, and to their credit, they somehow had a chance to win it on a Hail Mary at the end.

Two things: First, Mississippi State is really good, so it’s not like this game renders LSU horrible. But second, it does render them the next-to-last ranked team in the West even if they are still ranked No. 17 in this week’s AP poll.

7. Ole Miss (-2)

The Rebels are the only team I’m a little fuzzy on in the top half. They had the week off to prepare for Memphis, who, believe it or not, has sported a top-40 defense two years in a row. So it will be a nice little test for Ole Miss before they host Alabama the following week. But let’s face it, they’ve still not played anyone. UGA and South Carolina both have. Which is why I went ahead and gave them the benefit of the doubt over the Rebels.

6. UGA (+1)

Georgia’s backfield, bla, bla, bla. Georgia’s unproven quarterback, bla, bla, bla. Georgia’s holes on defense, bla, bla, bla. Georgia’s either really good, or just good. Either way, they’re the second best team in the East. And either way, they’re gonna face a fired up Tennessee Volunteer team at noon two days from now.

5. South Carolina (+1)

I love it when it works out like this. South Carolina beat UGA in a really close game and South Carolina is ranked just one spot above them. Still, even though they have the early inside track in the East, there are real issues in Columbia. Namely inconsistency. Sometimes they’re tight. Sometimes they’re not.

4. Mississippi State (+5)

This week’s big winner is Mississippi State. Why? Because they beat LSU in Death Valley. The last time that happened, their quarterback was -2 years old. Speaking of Dak, he’s spectacular, prone to huge plays. But he’s got to cut down on the wrong kind of huge plays. Two stood out Saturday. His fumble on the first play of the second half that LSU took to the house and the botched snap he failed to cover that gave LSU life, late.

Also, I’m not quite sold on the Bulldog defense. They allowed UAB to throw up 548 yards against them, and last week they gave up 219 fourth-quarter yards to LSU. Sure, some of them were cheap, but that’s inexcusable.

All that aside, a huge win in Red Stick at night cements their place in the top 4.

3. Texas A&M

At this point, I’m essentially trolling one of my friends who’s a big Aggies honk. Sorry, G, but they’re still third. First, because your kid tackled two-thirds of the triplets in soccer practice a couple weeks ago. (Not as in slide-tackled, either.) And second, because the Aggies STILL haven’t played anyone aside from South Carolina. They’re good. No question. But are they great?

This week might help us answer that, as they face the nasty run game of Arkansas. And one of the questions about A&M is their rush defense which has only faced 22 running plays from a top-5 conference team all year. Stop Arkansas in their tracks and we’ll talk about a bump.

2. Auburn (-1)

WHOA. Movement at the top. Auburn finally gives up the top spot. But to be clear, I’m not one of the folks who thinks Auburn looked awful last Thursday. To me, they looked a lot like they did on a few occasions last year when they found a way to win a game they easily could have lost. Not a bad accomplishment on the road at night against a well-coached team ranked inside the top 20.

So it wasn’t their performance that bumped them down a notch.

1. Alabama (+1)

It was Alabama’s. They were dominant in their victory over Florida, moving the ball at will to the tune of 645 yards, while holding Florida to just 200. If it weren’t for Bama’s four turnovers, it would have been way worse. But it’s not the mere fact that they whooped a not-so-good Florida team at home. It’s the dynamic that’s emerging between Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin.

I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to “break” Lane Kiffin. But as I watched him interact with Saban, I saw what looked to be an apprentice consulting with his master. As well as an offense that looked potent.

One thing’s for certain. Kiffin’s volatile, so thing’s could explode at the drop of a hat. But if Saban manages to keep him under wraps and Kiffin gets that offense on a rail? Look out.

Speaking of, look out for next week’s SEC Power Rankings when things will be clearer, still.

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