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SEC Power Rankings: Walk the Dog Version

SEC Championship Trophy

The SEC. Good times. Close games one week. Dog walking the next. The average margin of victory this week in the SEC was 33.5 points. The RTI boys and I are like dogs chasing their tails trying to make sense of it all, but here goes:

14. Vanderbilt

Good news: the Commodores didn’t lose.
Bad news: they didn’t play.

They travel to Mizzou this week. Columbio, Missouri. Where offensive football goes to die. (Well, it is offensive football in that it offends people, but you get my point…)

13. Tennessee

With injury questions up front and questions looming at quarterback, Tennessee remains next to last in the SEC. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the schedule gets a lot easier after this week’s matchup against KiffinIsTheDevilAndWeHateHim Alabama. And it gets WAY easier after South Carolina.

If the Vols can protect the ball a bit better, their defense should be able to keep them in every single one of their final four games. If not five.  And let’s not rule out this weekend. Alabama hasn’t exactly been scoring in clusters on the road this year.

A lot of words to say this: I don’t think No. 13 is where the Vols land at the end of the season. But it is the only place to put them for now.

12. Florida

Florida is off this week and I, for one, hope that Will Muschamp buys a little kitty or something. You know, a buddy. A pick-me-upper. Because things aren’t going well in Gainesville.

The Mizzou game was an abject trainwreck. Florida held the Tigers to just 119 yards of total offense yet still got clown-boxed. (No. I’m not sure what that means, either, but I’m going with it.) Consider this: SEC teams are 147-2 when holding their opponents to 120 yards or fewer. Both losses came to Muschamp-coached Florida teams.

Point? It’s REALLY hard to lose to a team that gains so few yards. Double point? It borders on the mathematically impossible to lose to such a team by 29. At home. At night.

This team is in free-fall mode.

11. Arkansas

The Razorbacks played the Tide super tight two weeks ago, but Georgia ran all over them. The 45-32 score does not do justice to what a beatdown it really was. The Bulldogs rattled off 38 straight at one point.

The Hogs are winless in the SEC. A quick glance at the schedule suggests they’ll finish with just one conference win at the most. Tough break that one of their two SEC East draws was a Georgia team that’s clicking on all cylinders. That’s Vol-like luck right there.

10. South Carolina

I have a funny feeling that Tennessee’s entire season could hang on the South Carolina game. If the Vols play well in Columbia, it’s a harbinger that a strong finish is to come. But if they don’t…let’s just say I worry.

The Gamecocks beat Furman this week, so whoo-hoo. They travel to the Plains to take on Auburn this weekend, which means both South Carolina and Tennessee could be coming off beatings to an Alabama school when they meet next week.

9. Kentucky

We’ve been saying it every week in our SEC Power Rankings. Kentucky is much improved. They are better on both sides of the ball. They’re off to a great start. But they hadn’t played anyone.

Last week’s drubbing at the hands of the LSU Tigers was a tale of two programs. One that is a perennial contender that showed it hasn’t fallen as far from grace as some may have thought. The other a perennial cellar dweller that hasn’t ascended quite as much as early results tried to suggest.

Kentucky hosts Mississippi State this weekend. Look for the Wildcats to get run again.

8. Texas A&M

Things aren’t going so well for Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies. At least not in October when they’ve picked up their only three losses in back-to-back-to-back outings. By a combined 91 points.

Kenny Hill getting hammered and puking in a trash can two nights before playing Bama? NOT HELPING. As the 59-0 score would attest. Kenny can do whatever he wants tonight, though. They’re off this weekend.

7. Missouri

How is this team second in the SEC East? MICROCOSM ALERT: They gained 119 total yards of offense en route to a 29-point victory in the Swamp. Pretty much says it all if you ask me. Despite playing anemically, they somehow walked the dog at the Swamp. And despite being pretty bad, they’re ranked second in the East.

The Tigers should handle visiting Vanderbilt this weekend, but then they get Kentucky, at A&M, at Tennessee and Arkansas. They could well lose all four of those games. I’ll faint if the Tigers finish the season ranked this high, but at 2-1, their body of work compels their No. 7 ranking.

6. LSU

LSU proved last week in Death Valley that they’re not exactly on the brink of collapse when they walked the dog against the Cats. Yes, they were beaten handily by Mississippi State. And, true, they got waylaid by Auburn. But those are two really good teams. And I’m telling you, the Tigers look to be stabilizing.

That said, the West is a beast and they are about to get Ole Miss and Bama back to back. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they get them at home and I, for one, think they have a real shot.

5. Georgia

I could sit here and talk about Georgia’s impressive victory over Arkansas. Or I could talk about how well they’ve fared since their best player was suspended in the wake of an autograph-for-pay scandal. Or I could say that I’m wrought with anticipation for the return of Gurley. I choose (c).

Because Todd Gurley has filed for reinstatement and could well suit up for their next game, which is against Florida week after next. I suggest you get started on your headlines. Here’s my first one:

Gurley Finally Dresses, Just in Time for Cocktail Party

BOOM goes the dynamite.

4. Auburn

Auburn’s had a long time to think about what went down in Starkville two weeks ago, their lone blemish of the year. It’s never easy to win in Columbia (SC) at night, but the Auburn Tigers should do just that and set the table for the showdown the following week against Ole Miss.

3. Alabama

Alabama walked the dog in their nationally televised assault of Texas A&M last weekend. Somehow, someway, the game wasn’t even as close as the score would suggest.

I feared all the nay-saying talk after their escape in Fayetteville would galvanize the Crimson Tide, and I saw the A&M game as a weather balloon for what we might expect Saturday in Knoxville.

(a) I hope I was wrong and (b) I’m choosing to believe I was wrong because the Tide will come down earth a bit after their validating dominance in T-town. Especially given their offense has sputtered on the road.

Make no mistake about it. The Tennessee D can and will play with these guys. You get No. 50 and No. 9 to keep Blake Simms and the pocket and meet him just there, and it could be a long night for the Alabama offense. But can the Vols turn the Tide over and take one to the house? Because that’s what it’ll probably take.

2. Ole Miss

The Rebs did a little dog-walking of their own last week, unfortunately, didn’t they?

There are four teams in the SEC West that could still potentially make the playoff, the two Alabama teams and the two Mississippi teams. The final two still alive will likely be one from each state. The Rebels face LSU in a night affair in Death Valley, and if they can somehow get past that, their showdown the following week against Auburn will have major national playoff implications and will also be epic.

I’m not so sure they’ll get by LSU, though. And if they don’t, the Ole Miss-Auburn game becomes an elimination game. And that would be cool to see.

1. Mississippi State

Mississippi State walked no dog this week. They were off and presumably had time to bask in the glow of their 38-23 win over Auburn. A win that catapulted them to the top of the polls. The Bulldogs may have a slightly harder path to the Egg Bowl than Ole Miss does, but they have a very manageable next three weeks. At Kentucky, Arkansas  and UT Martin.

They’ll clobber Kentucky this weekend and remain in the top spot next week. At least that’s how I see it from here.

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