The Butts of the Joke
14. Vanderbilt: The Commodores had a 4th and 1 opportunity in Oxford to pull ahead of Ole Miss. It’s more than likely that Ole Miss players were completely checked out and treating Vanderbilt as a bye-week but still Vanderbilt is one more decent performance away from pulling ahead of South Carolina or Auburn…which is fun to think about.
13. South Carolina: With the momentum of a win over an abysmal UCF team, Steve Spurrier made national headlines with his comments about the rapper Lil Boosie (FREE BOOSIE!) and not for any adjustments he’s made to this football team. The Gamecocks might be the closest thing anyone has to a freebie this year, but they still have more talent than Vanderbilt so they stay at 13.
12. Auburn: The preseason darlings of the SEC have turned into the D.U.F.F (designated ugly fat friend) of the state and can’t score to save their lives. Teams not meeting their preseason expectations is somewhat common, but going from preseason number six to barely staying in front of Vanderbilt and South Carolina in the Rocky Top Insider power rankings is a low point for Gus Malzahn.
Teams Who Should Reach Bowl Eligibility
11. Missouri: Gary Pinkel has finally found his fair share of struggles in the SEC, and a loss to Kentucky proves it. UK isn’t the perennial doormat they once were, but that loss is a strong indicator that Mizzou will need to rebuild to return to Atlanta anytime soon. The good news for the Tigers is they have South Carolina at home this week.
10. Arkansas: Bret Bielema has coached his teams to 14 consecutive losses in one possession games. The Razorbacks are in the midst of a free fall after enjoying lofty preseason expectations. Tennessee and Butch Jones might be exactly what the doctor ordered, but then again with neither coach knowing how to win a game in the fourth quarter, the fans may be the ultimate loser in this one.
9. Kentucky: Mark Stoops has his team sitting at 3-1 and he’s already won Kentucky’s first road conference game in 200 years. It’s too early to label this team as a shoo-in for a bowl game, considering last years free fall after starting 5-0, but with games against Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Auburn, Charlotte and Eastern Kentucky remaining, the chances seem at least decent.
The Probable Pretenders
8. Tennessee: Never has one seen a faster fall from grace than Butch Jones in the last three weeks. Only because other teams in the conference haven’t sniffed fourth quarter leads, and because Tennessee’s losses are against ranked opponents are they still in the middle of the SEC pack. A win over Arkansas this week is absolutely essential to keeping the ship afloat for Butch Jones in his third year with the Vols.
7. Mississippi State: It should be a weird sort of statement of pride for Dan Mullen that he held Leonard Fournette to 159 yards rushing. Other than that the Fighting Cowbells are struggling to find an identity and wins the process. A win over Auburn helps, but in name value only, and with Texas A&M coming to town Mississippi State has a true contender or pretender moment.
6. Florida: A dramatic win in the Swamp over Tennessee leaves Florida undefeated with two conference wins over the Vols and Kentucky. The Gators aren’t particularly good, but they continue to win games in the fourth quarter, and with their first top 25 ranking of the year they get to move up in the power rankings.
Teams One-Step Away From Contention
5. Texas A&M: An early season win over Arizona State has lost much of its luster, as the Sun Devils turned out to be, well, not good. A late escape against a struggling Arkansas team leaves the Aggies just out of reach of the upper echelon of the power rankings.
4. Alabama: Nick Saban is at a curious intersection in his tenure at Alabama, with a huge road game in Athens as an underdog for the first time since 2009. The Tide is playing football without a real quarterback, and they need to fix it quickly. A win over Georgia would go a long in restoring Alabama to power.
The Real Contenders
3. LSU: Les Miles has the train moving at full steam in Baton Rouge with a nasty blowout coming against Eastern Michigan this week. Leonard Fournette is in the midst of a season in which he’s accomplishing the nearly impossible; making Nick Chubb look human. Since 2003, the Tigers have appeared in the National Title Game every four years and their last appearance was 2011…
2. Georgia: Nick Chubb is on the verge of breaking Herschel Walker’s school-record streak for 100 yard games, and somehow he isn’t considered the best back in the conference. UGA finds itself at the top of the pecking order once again in the SEC, but can Mark Richt finally win this kind of game with the eyes of the nation upon the Bulldogs?
1. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze is the hottest act in town, and his Rebel Bears could give Florida a beating to remember this weekend. A struggle against Vanderbilt at home might give Rebel Bear fan pause, but with a win over Alabama, Ole Miss remains at the top of the RTI Power Rankings until they’re defeated.