Week Nine is in the books and there’s been a little bit of shuffling up and down our Power Rankings’ chart.
As usual, we’ve placed each of the SEC’s 14 teams into one of four different categories. Inside those categories, we list the teams alphabetically. This isn’t the 1-14 simple list that everyone else does. We like to be a little different.
Our rankings are based upon how well teams are currently playing, what they’ve accomplished to date, and what we believe each squad’s ceiling to be at this moment.
So without further ado, here’s this week’s MrSEC.com Power Rankings:
National Title Contender
Alabama (8-0) – Alabama leads the nation in rush defense, scoring defense, and total defense. Their weakness is the secondary… where they’re only #2 in the nation. They run the ball, control the clock, and are plus-17 in turnover margin. Quarterback AJ McCarron has 18 touchdown passes against zero interceptions on his ledger for the year. If there’s a mold for the perfect SEC-style football team, Bama fits it. (Remaining schedule: at LSU, Texas A&M, W. Carolina, Auburn)
LSU (7-1) – LSU is second in the SEC to Alabama in rush defense, pass defense and total defense. The Tigers are #3 in the league in scoring defense. LSU also boasts the nation’s longest home winning streak at 22 games and if they can get upset the Tide this weekend in Baton Rouge they’ll likely jump into the top two of next week’s BCS standings. Zach Mettenberger and the Tiger offense will need to take care of the football on Saturday as they have committed twice as many turnovers (12 to 6) as Alabama this fall. (Remaining schedule: Alabama, Miss. State, Ole Miss, at Arkansas)
Top 25 Contender
Georgia (7-1) – Could Georgia land in the BCS title game? Sure. They’re currently ranked #6 in the BCS standings. But the UGA defense that showed up against Florida will need to show up against Ole Miss and — potentially — an SEC West champ in the Atlanta on the first weekend of December. If Shawn Williams’ challenge to his teammates carries through for the last month of the season, we’ll be happy to slide the Dawgs up a category. But for now, we’ve seen more of the D that gives up big plays than the D that makes them. (Remaining schedule: Ole Miss, at Auburn, Ga. Southern, Georgia Tech)
Florida (7-1) – Most teams got their patsies out of the way early in the season. That’s not the case for the Gators. While UF will face Mizzou in its SEC finale on Saturday and then close the season out with a shot to take down Top 10 Florida State, we think games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State are likely to hurt the Gators’ BCS score. Still, UF is built like most recent BCS champs: power run game, good defense. If they can avoid turnovers and create some threat through the air, the Gators could pull an end-run around the SEC title game and right into the BCS title contest as Alabama did last year. (Remaining schedule: Missouri, La.-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State)
Mississippi State (7-1) -- The Bulldogs made their name by gobbling up cupcakes and creampuffs. On Saturday, they became the pastry as top-ranked Alabama devoured them on national television. Now comes Dan Mullen’s greatest test. If his team bounces back and gets back to winning the turnover margin, they still have the makings of a Top 25 team. But those last four games could all prove dangerous. We think a couple of more losses are likely. (Remaining schedule: Texas A&M, at LSU, Arkansas, at Ole Miss)
South Carolina (7-2) – As we noted yesterday, Carolina — unfortunately — finds itself in the same position it was in this time a year ago. Star running back Marcus Lattimore is gone for the year and somehow Connor Shaw must carry the load. But USC isn’t as good in the secondary as it was last year and Arkansas and Clemson are excellent passing teams (if the Cocks’ pass rush can’t get to the quarterback). And offensively, there’s no security blanket receiver like Alshon Jeffery for Shaw to throw to. Another loss wouldn’t shock us. (Remaining schedule: Arkansas, Wofford, at Clemson)
Texas A&M (6-2) – Johnny Manziel and his fellow Aggies are making this SEC thing look pretty easy. A&M will be tested at MSU and they’ll likely be tortured at Bama, but a 9-3 or 8-4 campaign still looks likely. If TAMU fans had been given that option back in August, you better believe most would have grabbed it. When it comes to feel-good stories, Texas A&M and Ole Miss are leading the way in terms of doing the most with what was expected to be the least. (Remaining schedule: at Miss. State, at Alabama, Sam Houston State, Missouri)
Bowl Game Contender
Arkansas (3-5) – So much for a midseason revival by the Hogs. We wondered here on the site last week if Arkansas’ schedule (games with Auburn and Kentucky back-to-back) had aided its two-game turnaround. Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss provided the answer. The defense might have been just as bad under Bobby Petrino as it’s looked under John L. Smith, but Petrino’s value as a gameplanner and as a play-caller has never looked better. (Remaining schedule: Tulsa, at S. Carolina, at Miss. State, LSU)
Missouri (4-4) – Missouri’s 4-4 record is perfectly fitting for a team that’s been up and down all season. Injuries have played a role and there’s no telling what the Tigers might have looked like had a healthy James Franklin played behind a healthy O-line all season. Alas, that didn’t happen. Now the Tigers face a final month of games that’s likely to leave them anywhere from 6-6 to 4-8. This much we do know: To avoid a losing season and bowl-less offseason, the Tigers will have to win a first-ever SEC road game somewhere. (Remaining schedule: at Florida, at Tennessee, Syracuse, at Texas A&M)
Ole Miss (5-3) – Hugh Freeze has made about as much lemonade from the lemon of a roster that he inherited as possible. Just one win away from bowl eligibility — after being picked to finish last in the SEC West — the Rebels now face four games that could all result in losses. Yeah, we tried to buy into one Magnolia State school before we should have and we’re a bit leery of doing the same with the Rebels. Still, Freeze has to be in the running with Kevin Sumlin for the SEC’s Coach of the Year honors. (Remaining schedule: at Georgia, Vanderbilt, at LSU, Miss. State)
Vanderbilt (4-4) – What to make of the Commodores? Their wins have come against Presbyterian (FCS), UMass (winless overall), Auburn (1-7 overall) and Missouri (with a backup quarterback). Looking at VU’s remaining schedule, it’s possible the Dores could win each remaining game. It’s also possible they could lose at least three of those contests. They’ll stay in the bowl contender category by default this week. The basement contenders all have two fewer SEC wins than Vandy (which leaves all of them with zero league wins on the season). (Remaining schedule: at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, Tennessee, at Wake Forest)
Auburn (1-7) – Lord, what’s left to write about Auburn? The Tigers appear to be getting worse with each passing week. They trailed Texas A&M 42-7 at home last week — at the end of the first half — en route to a 63-21 beatdown. They’ll face a fellow 1-7 squad this week, but New Mexico State hails from the WAC, not the SEC. Surely Gene Chizik’s crew can take care of this bunch of Aggies. Can’t they? (Remaining schedule: New Mexico State, Georgia, Alabama A&M, at Alabama)
Kentucky (1-8) – After a brief shot of adrenaline and a pepped-up performance in a close loss to Georgia a week earlier, the Cats fell back to earth last weekend with a resounding thud. Offensively and defensively they were at a loss against Missouri, a team that hadn’t beaten another SEC team all season. In fact, in most SEC contests the Tigers had been pushed around at the line of scrimmage. Against UK, Mizzou did the pushing. Can Phillips rally his troops for three winnable games down the stretch? Don’t bet on it. (Remaining schedule: Vanderbilt, Samford, at Tennessee)
Tennessee (3-5) – Many outsiders thought Tennessee would finish in the 7-5 or 8-4 range this season and 7-5 is indeed what a four-game winning streak would bring them. But after Derek Dooley stated at SEC Media Days that the SEC wouldn’t have Tennessee to kick around anymore, many Vol fans got their hopes up. Tip: Never get fans’ hopes up and then begin SEC play 0-5. Only two programs have started SEC play 0-5 in three consecutive seasons. One is Vanderbilt. The other is now UT. Some wonder if the Volunteers will be motivated heading down the stretch. But with the Vols’ porous defense we wonder if motivation even matters. (Remaining schedule: Troy, Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Kentucky)