Shakeup at the top of the SEC Power Rankings has been minimal all season and continues to be this week. However, there are a few changes – led by Florida jumping South Carolina for No. 5.
The bigger differences come in the middle of the Power Rankings, where Missouri’s impressive win at Vanderbilt lifted the Tigers ahead of Ole Miss. The Rebels tumbled two spots to ninth after losing at Auburn, which passed them in the rankings.
Vanderbilt fell the furthest this week, dropping three spots to 12th. The highest-riser honors go to Auburn and Tennessee, both of which gained two notches. Tennessee jumped up with its near-upset of Georgia.
At the top, Alabama had no difficulty in dispatching Georgia State. Meanwhile, Georgia barely lived to tell about its trip to Neyland Stadium and LSU struggled to break away from Mississippi State until well into the second half.
Florida jumped South Carolina by virtue of showing once again that it has the greatest defense in the conference – which doesn’t say as much this year as it has in seasons past. The Gamecocks have accelerated Florida’s rise with drama and an ability to close out opponents.
Here are your Week 6 SEC Power Rankings:
1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0) – Last Week: 1; Beat Georgia State, 45-3
The Crimson Tide held a hopelessly overmatched opponent to 15 rushing yards, 175 yards of total offense and just a 53-yard field goal. Coach Nick Saban called off the dogs at halftime – with his team ahead 38-0. Behind a near-perfect QB AJ McCarron, Saban could have named his score. McCarron completed 15 of 16 passes for 166 yards and 4 TDs. And, as if to put Alabama fans’ minds at ease, QB2 Blake Sims completed 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and another TD. The Crimson Tide run game had little trouble with the top four tailbacks – T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry and Jalston Fowler – combining for 164 yards and a TD on 19 carries. Drake added a 23-yard TD reception. Alabama returns back to the SEC schedule (sort of) with a road game at Kentucky.
2. Georgia (4-1, 3-0) – Last Week: 2; Won at Tennessee, 34-31 (OT)
The biggest concern for the Bulldogs is neither the near-upset loss at Tennessee nor the continued terrible play on special teams. What will keep coach Mark Richt awake at night is depth at skill positions that once served as a strength. RB Keith Marshall tore an ACL during Saturday’s game and will miss the rest of the season, as will WR Justin Scott-Wesley, who suffered the same injury against Tennessee. WR Michael Bennett is set to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss time, though it is not yet known how long he will be out. Add to the mix that WR Malcolm Mitchell is already out for the season with a knee injury and RB Todd Gurley’s status is unknown with an ankle injury and the fact that Georgia still ranks ahead of LSU clearly becomes a tribute to QB Aaron Murray. Rightfully so. Even without his best weapons, Murray got the job done when it mattered most, executing the two-minute offense for the game-tying touchdown with 5 seconds remaining in regulation. It’s no guarantee the Bulldogs will stay ahead of LSU going forward.
3. LSU (5-1, 2-1) – Last Week: 3; Won at Mississippi State, 59-26
As well as QB Zach Mettenberger has played – and his consistency has been astounding – it’s becoming more and more apparent that as RB Jeremy Hill goes so go the Tigers. Hill dominated Mississippi State the way he did Auburn, gaining 157 yards and scoring 2 TDs on just 16 attempts. LSU added 3 rushing TDs from Kenny Hilliard and another from Alfred Blue. The Bulldogs looked like they might steal one from the Tigers early in the third quarter, closing LSU’s lead to two. However, LSU – behind Mettenberger and the run game – responded with 31 unanswered points. LSU’s defense isn’t living up to potential, but that hardly matters as long as Mettenberger plays well and the run game is hitting on all cylinders.
4. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1) – Last Week: 4; Bye week
For Texas A&M to emerge among the crème de la crème, it must start to show far more defensive prowess. The last game at Arkansas 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. Florida (4-1, 3-0) – Last Week: 6; Beat Arkansas, 30-10
As dominant as Florida’s defense was Saturday against Arkansas, the most impressive part of the Gators’ win came from QB Tyler Murphy. Especially when QB Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending leg injury, it seemed like Florida would have to rely heavily on the run game. Instead, Murphy has lit up opposing secondaries. The Razorbacks held Florida RBs Matt Jones and Mack Brown to 89 yards on 28 attempts. Murphy, however, completed 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and 3 TDs. If Murphy can continue to play at his current level, the Gators can absolutely contend for the SEC East title. The defense and special teams will give Florida chances to win every game. A balanced offense with a strong passing element could elevate coach Will Muschamp’s team even higher.
6. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) – Last Week: 5; Beat Kentucky, 35-28
DE Jadeveon Clowney decided to make himself a late scratch to the joy of next-day writers everywhere and South Carolina’s defense relinquished 21 fourth-quarter points to allow Kentucky back into the game. This marks a disturbing trend since the Gamecocks allowed Vanderbilt to sneak back late in another divisional contest. Good thing for South Carolina that QB Connor Shaw played and did so at a high level. Shaw, who was expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury, completed 17 of 20 passes for 262 yards and a TD. The senior added 50 rushing yards and another score on the ground. RB Mike Davis continued to do what Mike Davis does, rushing for 106 yards and 2 TDs. The concerns come on the defensive side. Coach Steve Spurrier apparently told at least one media member that changes would be coming – though not necessarily midseason – because the staff isn’t on the same page. The move does not seem to endanger defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, though. South Carolina has the talent to be thought of among the elite teams in the league. The defense needs to elevate the program, though.
7. Missouri (5-0, 1-0) – Last Week: 8; Won at Vanderbilt, 51-28
If the first quarter of Saturday’s blowout victory at Vanderbilt was a statement from the Tigers, the remainder of the game was their way of asking, “Any questions?” QB James Franklin threw for 4 TDs and accounted for 341 total yards of offense. Missouri jumped out to an enormous, 20-0 lead in the first quarter and responded with touchdowns every time the Commodores scored. The Tigers aren’t outstanding on defense. They still haven’t played an elite team. But their 5-0 start can no longer be ignored. Missouri has a chance next week to deliver an even greater message to the league when it travels to Athens to take on Georgia. Can coach Gary Pinkel’s team stay hot?
8. Auburn (4-1, 2-1) – Last Week: 10; Beat Ole Miss, 30-22
That Auburn found new ways to win on Saturday came as a bit of a surprise. QB Nick Marshall ran for 140 yards and 2 TDs, the Tigers barely tried to throw the ball and the defense applied consistent pressure on QB Bo Wallace, resulting in six sacks. Ole Miss dominated time of possession, especially early, but Auburn weathered storms where need be and took control with a couple well-timed scores – namely Marshall’s second rushing touchdown. The Tigers now need to beat just Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic to guarantee themselves a bowl appearance. The five SEC games remaining give them a chance to improve what invitations they might get. However, for Auburn to rejoin the ranks of the best in the conference, it must play more consistent defense and show far more ability in the passing game. Neither of those is likely to happen in 2013 before coach Gus Malzahn and his staff can infuse new talent into the program.
9. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2) – Last Week: 7; Lost at Auburn, 30-22
Hugh Freeze and the Rebels will be happy not to have to return to state of Alabama until 2015. A week after Alabama shut Ole Miss out, Freeze’s team fell behind big at Auburn and never found a way to come all the way back. A pair of WR Donte Moncrief TD receptions pulled the Rebels close, but their defensive line failed to control the line of scrimmage. That is particularly concerning because Auburn’s defensive line has not been stout for much of this season. In fact, it has been straight-up exposed in short-yardage situations. Ole Miss must find a way to get more out of a hard-nosed run game rather than constantly relying on the read-option for all its yards. Auburn’s defensive ends ate up the finesse brand of rushing. QB Bo Wallace avoided key interceptions for much of the season but S Robenson Therezie changed that with a 78-yard pick-six in the first quarter.
10. Arkansas (3-3, 0-2) – Last Week: 11; Lost at Florida, 30-10
For future reference, having QB Brandon Allen drop back to throw 41 passes is not likely to be a recipe for success. Coach Bret Bielema apparently didn’t see much point in trying to run the ball directly at Florida, which leads the SEC in rushing defense. RBs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for 21 tries, managing 86 yards and a TD. Allen, meanwhile, endured a 17-of-41 performance for just 164 yards and an INT with a woeful 9.8 QBR. Allen’s second-quarter pick-six – returned for a touchdown by Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy – set the tone for the blowout. The Gators extended the lead to 17-7 shortly before halftime and Arkansas never closed to within two TDs.
11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) – Last Week: 13; Lost to Georgia, 34-31 (OT)
Coach Butch Jones’ team did just about everything it had to do to steal a victory from Georgia. The Volunteers defense kept the game close. Special teams came up with a huge play when they blocked a punt for a touchdown. RB Rajion Neal kept the clock churning with hard-nosed running (148 yards, 2 TDs). It took one great drive by Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray and one huge mistake by RB Alton Howard to undo everything. Murray tied the game with 5 seconds remaining in regulation. The Vols got the ball first and seemed like they would punch it into the end-zone when Howard turned the corner. However, while stretching out for the goal-line, Howard lost control of the ball, which squirted into the end-zone and over the sideline for a touchback. Three plays later, Georgia kicked the game-winning field goal. Still, it marked an impressive turnaround for Tennessee, which struggled to beat South Alabama last week.
12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3) – Last Week: 9; Lost to Missouri, 51-28
Missouri came into Nashville and dominated Vanderbilt on its home turf from the opening kickoff. The Tigers scored the first 20 points and Vandy never pulled to within one possession. The Commodores are now 0-3 in conference play. Suddenly there is minimal margin for error in games Vanderbilt should win – such as those against Kentucky and Wake Forest. James Franklin’s team would also be well-advised to knock off Tennessee. It’s worth noting that the Volunteers vaulted Vanderbilt in the Power Rankings if only because of what it means to people in the state. QB Austyn Carta-Samuels posted big numbers but in a largely meaningless way. He finished with 338 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. He also rushed for a score. Vanderbilt, however, had no defensive answer for Missouri QB James Franklin – not to be mistaken with the Commodores coach. As a result, Vandy is reeling early in the SEC slate.
13. Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2) – Last Week: 12; Lost to LSU, 59-26
Early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal from the LSU 5-yard line. K Devon Bell made the kick to close LSU’s lead to 28-26. Then the bottom fell out. The Tigers rattled off 31 consecutive points to close the game and send State to an 0-2 start in SEC play. Both QBs Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott played and did some things well. Prescott ran for 103 yards and a TD but threw 2 INTs. Russell connected on 7 of 11 passes for 143 yards but took three sacks on 14 drop-backs. Their play reinforced the need for coach Dan Mullen to choose a quarterback and stick with him. State’s defense did little to slow LSU QB Zach Mettenberger and allowed 6 TDs to Tigers RBs Jeremy Hill, Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue. Consecutive games against Bowling Green and Kentucky at least give the Bulldogs a chance to lick their wounds.
14. Kentucky (1-4, 0-2) – Last Week: 14; Lost at South Carolina, 35-28
Say this much for the Wildcats: When South Carolina jumped out to a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter, it would have been easy for them to fold up and jump on the bus quickly. Instead, Kentucky battled back with 21 fourth-quarter points to give the Gamecocks a scare. Ultimately South Carolina proved too much, but this type of effort makes it clear that coach Mark Stoops’ team hasn’t given up on what has turned into a disastrous season. That’s a good omen for Stoops, who ripped his team during the week. QB Jalen Whitlow gave the Wildcats more of a positive sign by performing well as the full-time quarterback. He accounted for 3 TDs and didn’t turn the ball over in defeat.
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