SEC Power Rankings: The Vols Take a Fall Edition

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    Lane Kiffin-1-3

    Our SEC power rankings have returned, and what a week to get started. A few teams got off to strong starts in Week 1, but it was largely a cluster of ugly wins, surprising losses and just general ineptitude as the conference stumbled to a 6-6 mark in non-conference play.

    It’s early, and these rankings will likely shift dramatically in coming weeks, but we tried to make sense of it all here:

    Strong Out of the Gates 

    1. Alabama: Much to the chagrin of many of our readers, the Tide absolutely rolled over USC in Week 1. Even worse for UT fans, Lane Kiffin got plenty of satisfaction as he ran up the score on one of his many former employers. The defense looked elite, freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts looked dynamic, and the Tide looked like the clear-cut choice for No. 1 after the 52-6 beatdown.

    2. Georgia: Speaking of talented young quarterbacks, the Bulldogs wasted no time trotting Jacob Eason out to relieve Greyson Lambert. Eason looks the part and made some great throws, but it was the return of Nick Chubb, who piled up 222 yards on 32 carries that truly powered UGA to a win in Kirby Smart’s debut.

    3. Texas A&M: This feels familiar. The Aggies have a way of coming out hot early in the season under Kevin Sumlin, and they continued that this weekend with an overtime victory over a ranked UCLA squad. Trevor Knight looked more like the good version of himself, while the John Chavis-led defense picked star QB Josh Rosen off three times. We’ll see if they can maintain the momentum, but it was a great start for the Aggies.

    You up?

    4. Ole Miss: The Rebels looked poised to blow the doors off the ‘Noles in the first half in Orlando. Then Deondre Francois happened. The redshirt freshman FSU quarterback launched an early-season Heisman campaign by running and throwing all over the Rebels. Chad Kelly and Co. lit up the scoreboard as well, but Ole Miss will have to play better defense to contend in the SEC.

    5. Tennessee: Well, that was interesting. Tennessee started its most hyped season in a decade or so by laying an egg for about three quarters in Neyland Stadium on Thursday night. The Vols got some big plays late to force overtime, where they got a few good bounces and escaped with the win over Appalachian State. Was that a fluke or a sign of things to come? We’ll find out soon with Virginia Tech, Florida and Georgia coming up shortly.

    6. LSU: Leonard Fournette is really good. The Tigers’ defense is tough. But LSU, despite Brandon Harris’s claims to having the best arm in college football over the offseason, still looked incompetent in the passing game. That doomed them at Lambeau Field against a feisty Wisconsin team. The Tigers can’t win big this year without getting Fournette a bit more help. And that help should preferably come before the end of the game as opposed to defensive lineman Josh Boutte cheap-shotting opponents after the final whistle.

    Need to see more

    7 AuQBurn: I stuck a QB in the middle of their name because the Tigers had them everywhere on Saturday. Gus Malzahn used all three signal callers – sometimes lining them up in different places on the field – against a highly-touted Clemson team. Credit Auburn and its underrated defensive line for limiting Deshaun Watson and the high-powered Clemson offense. But Malzahn’s offense may have jumped the shark a bit. It’s tough to see them contending in the West with it.

    8. Florida: As Tennessee fans will point out, a win is a win – and that was certainly the case in Week 1 where anything and everything seemed to go. But Florida joined many SEC counterparts in looking sloppy against an overmatched opponent. UMass, arguably one of the worst teams in the FBS this year, stayed in the game until the fourth quarter. The defense, which was missing suspended corner and resident trash talker Jalen Tabor, looked solid, but Luke Del Rio and the Florida offense didn’t exactly light it up.

    9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks jumped on the “survive and advance” train over the weekend with a 21-20 victory over Louisiana Tech. They are notoriously slow starters under Bret Bielema, so a sloppy Week 1 win isn’t a terrible thing.

    10. South Carolina: Hey, an SEC win is an SEC win, I guess? The Gamecocks needed Elliott Fry to knock home a 55-yarder in the closing minute to complete the come-from-behind victory against Vanderbilt in Nashville, continuing Will Muschamp’s tradition of finding ways to win atrocious football games. The weak East might give the Gamecocks a few more chances to find the win column in conference play this year, but don’t expect too much from this squad.

    Thanks for nothing

    11. Missouri: The Tigers showed a touch of a pulse on offense in Morgantown before falling 26-11 to West Virginia. Remember, Mizzou was No. 125 in the nation in total offense last year, so the standards are pretty low. A program that has relied on its defense in recent years gave up almost 500 yards of total offense to WV, so there are certainly some questions there.

    12. Vanderbilt: Oh, Derek Mason. The stage was set for the Commodores to come out of the gates strong, but offensive mismanagement struck again. Mason inexplicably switched QBs in the middle of the game, and seemed to kill some offensive rhythm. The Gamecocks scraped together 13 points in the second half to pull off the minor upset and send Vandy tumbling down closer to the bottom of the East.

    13. Mississippi State: Davis Wade Stadium is known for the clanging of cow bells, but it was a clang off the upright that cost MSU the game against South Alabama. I’ve long said that Dan Mullen should’ve caught the first flight out of town after Dak Prescott left. It’s going to be nearly impossible to contend in the West without him in the coming years.

    14. Kentucky: I think the Wildcats might be better than this, and they did show some life on offense in 44-35 loss to Southern Miss. But when you let the offensive coordinator (Shannon Dawson) that you fired come into your stadium in Week 1 and drop 34 unanswered points on you, that’s an automatic trip to the bottom of the power rankings.