Talk last week about Alabama being an unworthy No. 1 team in the country became a national topic. How did coach Nick Saban’s team respond? The way we have come to expect Saban’s teams to respond. The Crimson Tide played with a chip on its shoulder in shutting out an explosive Ole Miss team. The Alabama offense still isn’t hitting on all cylinders, but the defense showed significant strides – and against an up-tempo spread offense.
Battling for the Tide’s No. 1 contender, Georgia and LSU aired it out in an epic shootout with the Bulldogs coming out on top. Defensive stops were hard to find in the game – another sign that elite offenses are well ahead of the allegedly best defenses.
The bottom of the league continues to grow murkier. Who, for instance, is better between Tennessee and Vanderbilt? One thing remains constant at the bottom – Kentucky is indisputably the worst through the first four weeks.
Here are your Week 5 SEC Power Rankings:
1. Alabama (4-0, 2-0) – Last Week: 1; Beat Ole Miss, 25-0
For two weeks, coach Nick Saban heard about his defense. He heard his secondary can’t keep up with the better offenses. He heard his pass rush couldn’t generate enough heat. He heard that Ole Miss would give the Crimson Tide all it could handle. Well, Alabama can give right back and Saban’s team reminded those lacking the memory of an elephant just how dangerous his team can be. The Crimson Tide physically exhausted the Rebels, dominating time of possession with more than 38 minutes. RBs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake ran for 121 and 99 yards, respectively, and scored a TD each. Meanwhile, the secondary limited Ole Miss to 17-of-32 passing for only 159 yards (5 yards per attempt).
2. Georgia (3-1, 2-0) – Last Week: 3; Beat LSU, 44-41
The Bulldogs took on a third top-10 team this season and survived to improve to 3-1 on the season. QB Aaron Murray played spectacularly in the victory, throwing for 298 yards and accounting for 5 total TDs. Georgia didn’t play particularly well defensively, but made a fourth-down stop to end the game against LSU. After losing the opener, the Bulldogs knew they needed to bounce back immediately to keep their championship hopes alive. They responded by beating South Carolina and LSU in the span of four weeks. As a result, Georgia absolutely still has a shot at SEC and BCS championships. Keep an eye on RB Todd Gurley, who injured his ankle on a second-quarter run and didn’t return.
3. LSU (4-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 2; Lost at Georgia, 44-41
Despite QB Zach Mettenberger’s best efforts, the Tigers couldn’t overcome a lackluster defensive performance in trying to steal a road win over a top-10 opponent. LSU went score-for-score with Georgia until the very end. The discouraging parts for the Tigers were the lack of a running game – the Bulldogs held them to 77 rushing yards – and the defense. Georgia finished with more touchdowns (five) than punts (one). The loss doesn’t necessarily impact LSU’s aspirations of a conference championship. The defense might if DC John Chavis can’t find some ways to apply more pressure on QBs and tighten up a faulty rush defense.
4. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 4; Beat Arkansas, 45-33
For Texas A&M to emerge among the crème de la crème, it must start to show far more defensive prowess. This week marked a poor step on that mission. Sure, QB Johnny Manziel, WR Mike Evans and the offense posted big yardage numbers en route to 45 points. But the defense allowed a yet unproven Arkansas offense to rack up far too many points. The Razorbacks had chances in the fourth quarter to take the lead or at least make it a one-possession game.
5. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 5; Won at UCF, 28-25
Though the Gamecocks got off to a slow start, trailing 10-0 at halftime, they went on a 28-point run. The defense gave up a couple late scores, allowing UCF back into the game. South Carolina recovered an onside kick to ice the game. Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw left the game with a shoulder injury. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. QB2 Dylan Thompson is certainly capable of filling in for Shaw. Good news for Thompson: RB Mike Davis has found his stride. He ran for 167 yards and 3 TDs in the win over UCF.
6. Florida (3-1, 2-0) – Last Week: 7; Won at Kentucky, 24-7
QB Tyler Murphy, making his first career start, connected on all 12 first-half attempts on his way to a 156-yard, 2-total-TD performance. RB Matt Jones knew the injury to QB Jeff Driskel meant he would be asked to shoulder a heavier load. He certainly proved capable, running for 176 yards and a TD. The Florida defense continued its dominant run as well, holding the hapless Wildcats to 173 yards of total offense. Kentucky’s lone score came on a fake field goal. Don’t get too excited. This was simply a win over lowly Kentucky. Still, the game showed Florida’s season didn’t end with Driskel’s.
7. Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 6; Lost at Alabama, 25-0
The Rebels acted chesty coming into this week’s battle with No. 1 Alabama. QB Bo Wallace went as far as saying Ole Miss would be able to “put some points on them.” Well, Wallace was slightly more accurate with his passing – just 55 percent – than on that assessment – 0 percent. Alabama shut out the Rebels, holding them to just 205 yards of total offense and 11 first downs. The Ole Miss defense played admirably, but the Crimson Tide ultimately wore it down with more than 38 minutes time of possession.
8. Missouri (3-0) – Last Week: 8; Beat Arkansas State, 41-19
Missouri finished the game on a 27-3 run, which is a good thing considering the Tigers trailed 16-14 more than midway through the third quarter. QB James Franklin threw for 288 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 33 more and another score. Missouri’s defense didn’t perform well on third downs, allowing Arkansas State to convert 10 of 20. Next week marks the start of league play for the Tigers, meaning we’ll start to get an accurate gauge on just how much they have improved.
9. Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2) – Last Week: 9; Beat UAB, 52-24
RB Jerron Seymour ran 12 times for 107 yards and 2 TDs, QB Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 334 yards and the Commodores rolled to an easy win over UAB. WR Jordan Matthews turned in yet another stellar performance, catching 8 passes for 115 yards and a score. WR Jonathan Krause had 4 receptions for 108 yards. Vanderbilt gets back to conference play next week with a critical game against Missouri.
10. Auburn (3-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 10; Bye week
Auburn used its week off to try to get healthier, with several key defensive players either out or limited. The Tigers can use all the help they can get on that side of the ball, especially with a high-powered Ole Miss offense coming to town next week.
11. Arkansas (3-2, 0-1) – Last Week: 12; Lost to Texas A&M, 45-33
If this week did nothing else for Arkansas, it showed the importance of QB Brandon Allen, who returned from a throwing-shoulder injury. Allen’s absence last week at Rutgers left the Razorbacks as a pathetically one-dimensional offense. Texas A&M seemed to think they would be again this week, but Allen provided a spark to reignite the attack. He threw for 282 yards and 3 TDs despite missing on more passes than he completed and RB Alex Collins rushed for 116 yards and a TD. The Arkansas defense couldn’t stop Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, but then few can. This loss actually made Arkansas look better than it has appeared for part of the season.
12. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1) – Last Week: 11; Bye week
The Bulldogs enjoyed a week off before hosting LSU next Saturday. Will QB2 Dak Prescott continue running the offense or will QB1 Tyler Russell return after missing the previous three games recovering from a concussion?
13. Tennessee (3-2, 0-1) – Last Week: 13; Beat South Alabama, 31-24
After getting off to such a strong start, the Volunteers needed a Brian Randolph interception in the end-zone with less than 2 minutes remaining to seal their win. Tennessee allowed South Alabama to rattle off the game’s final 17 points and come up just 8 yards short of sending the game to a potential overtime session. QB Justin Worley played well enough in the win, throwing for 204 yards and 2 TDs, though the Jaguars intercepted him three times. RB Rajion Neal rushed for 169 yards and a TD. Fellow RB Marlin Lane went for 66 yards and a TD before leaving the game with a lower-body injury. The Tennessee offense still isn’t hitting on all cylinders – a bad sign with the Vols reentering conference play next week.
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1) – Last Week: 14; Lost to Florida, 24-7
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold out any real hope for the Wildcats. Granted, Florida boasts one of the nation’s greatest defenses. Still, 173 yards of total offense is completely unacceptable for an SEC team. Defensively, Kentucky at least held the Gators to 24 points but allowed them to control the clock to the tune of 38 minutes.
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