Nothing shook up the SEC divisional races like Auburn’s miracle 73-yard touchdown pass to beat Georgia.
Nick Marshall’s desperation heave to Ricardo Louis gave the Tigers a chance to win the SEC West by upsetting rival Alabama, which figures to open as more than a two-touchdown favorite. It also had a tremendous impact on the SEC East race.
Auburn’s win over Georgia, teamed with South Carolina beating Florida, eliminated the Bulldogs. The two outcomes also gave Missouri zero margin of error over the final two weeks when it faces Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
The Power Rankings didn’t see much movement. Auburn still ranks slightly behind Missouri because of the strength of Mizzou’s pass rush and its ability to pass in the event it falls behind. Auburn’s defensive line continues to get better as well, but the linebackers provide an utterly glaring weakness. Georgia only fell one spot as a result of its loss.
Here are your Week 12 SEC Power Rankings:
1. Alabama (10-0, 7-0) – Last Week: 1; Beat Mississippi State, 20-7
Coming off its emotional second-half rally to finish off LSU, Alabama came out flat against State. The offense uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times. The Bulldogs closed the game to three points early in the second half. Then the Crimson Tide did just enough to put the game away. All that stands between Alabama and the SEC West title is rival Auburn.
2. Missouri (9-1, 5-1) – Last Week: 2; Bye week
The worst-case scenario played out for the Tigers over the weekend in the SEC East race. Georgia’s loss coupled with South Carolina’s win over Florida means Missouri must win at Ole Miss and then beat Texas A&M to win the division. One loss would clinch the East title for the Gamecocks. The good news is that Missouri QB James Franklin will reportedly return to start this week. Franklin was enjoying a tremendous senior season before he suffered a shoulder injury during the fourth quarter of the win at Georgia.
3. Auburn (10-1, 6-1) – Last Week: 3; Beat Georgia, 43-38
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Sometimes you have to be both. The Tigers showed a lot of skill and mixed in one of the most fortunate bounces of all-time to steal a victory they tried desperately to blow in the fourth quarter. Georgia picked Auburn apart in the short-passing game during the second half – specifically in the fourth quarter. However, the Tigers built enough of a lead through the first three quarters that they had a chance at the end, setting up QB Nick Marshall’s miracle tipped-pass touchdown to WR Ricardo Louis.
4. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2) – Last Week: 4; Beat Florida, 19-14
In an utterly unimpressive performance, the Gamecocks did just enough to beat a badly hobbled Florida team. After the game, coach Steve Spurrier blamed the media for providing bulletin board material to the Gators during the week. We love The Ol’ Ball Coach, but perhaps he should have done a better job preparing his team. Regardless, South Carolina is now the official leader in the SEC East clubhouse, needing just one Missouri loss over the final two weeks to win the division. RB Mike Davis might be limited in an inevitable beatdown of Coastal Carolina (uh-oh, Spurrier might get angry…) but he should be full-strength when the Gamecocks host Clemson to end the regular season.
5. Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2) – Last Week: 6; Bye week
Though the Aggies have no chance of reaching Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, wins at LSU and at Missouri would almost certainly send them to the Sugar Bowl. What a way to end QB Johnny Manziel’s career. Manziel could propel his status in his attempt to win a second Heisman Trophy with strong performances over the final two contests.
6. Georgia (6-4, 4-3) – Last Week: 5; Lost at Auburn, 43-38
Georgia’s heartbreaking reaction to Auburn’s miracle pass says everything about how invested the Bulldogs were to their potential SEC East dream. It shattered when Tigers DE Dee Ford hit QB Aaron Murray on the final play of the game, forcing an incomplete pass. One team had to lose on Saturday. Georgia didn’t deserve to win based on its first three quarters. It didn’t deserve to lose based on the final quarter. The big bounce simply sided with Auburn last week.
7. Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3) – Last Week: 7; Beat Troy, 51-21
QB Bo Wallace accounted for 4 TDs, RB Jaylen Walton accounted for 3 TDs and Ole Miss made short work of an overmatched Troy team. Bowl position is on the line Saturday when the Rebels host Missouri. A loss would almost certainly mean Ole Miss is destined for the Music City Bowl. A win could propel Hugh Freeze’s team all the way to a New Year’s Day bowl.
8. LSU (7-3, 3-3) – Last Week: 8; Bye week
LSU needed a week off after getting beaten down in the second half against No. 1 Alabama. The Tigers got it, but face another huge challenge this week when they host Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Can LSU avoid a fourth loss this season?
9. Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4) – Last Week: 9; Beat Kentucky, 22-6
Beating Kentucky – as ugly as it was – means the Commodores are bowl-eligible for a third consecutive season. How long Vandy continues to benefit from the coaching of James Franklin remains to be seen, but he has effectively changed a long losing culture. Now Vanderbilt turns its focus to once again claiming state dominance against Tennessee and ruining its rival’s bowl hopes in the process.
10. Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5) – Last Week: 10; Lost to Alabama, 20-7
The Bulldogs defense gave top-ranked Alabama fits, but the offense – without injured QB Dak Prescott – couldn’t mount any sustainable threat. State managed just 10 total first downs. Even its touchdown came when Alabama LB C.J. Mosley forced a fumble into the end zone that the Bulldogs recovered. This week starts the last call for State to reach a bowl game. It needs to beat Arkansas this week and Ole Miss next to reach the postseason.
11. Florida (4-6, 3-5) – Last Week: 11; Lost at South Carolina, 19-14
Behind freshman QB Skyler Mornhinweg, who made his first start, Florida kept it close against the Gamecocks. However, when South Carolina finally took the lead, the Gators simply couldn’t mount any offensive response. RB Kelvin Taylor continues to show amazing potential as the Gators long-term workhorse.
12. Tennessee (4-6, 1-5) – Last Week: 12; Bye week
With the Auburn debacle in the rearview mirror, the Volunteers now face their biggest game of the season – a home game against Vanderbilt. This young Tennessee team has taken strides. Its oft-exposed defense gets a break against two unspectacular offenses to close the year. Coach Butch Davis’ team must win its last two games to reach a bowl game. Saturday will go a long way toward determining if it does.
13. Arkansas (3-7, 0-6) – Last Week: 13; Bye week
Patience is thin at Arkansas after last year’s embarrassment. Coach Bret Bielema has a proven track record, but his team has also lost seven consecutive games – the Razorbacks’ only seven games against BCS conference opponents. Bielema needs to turn over personnel to fit his system. Coaches rarely have as much time as they expect in the SEC, which could require Arkansas to rely on the junior-college ranks this offseason. For now, the Razorbacks will simply try to stop the bleeding against Mississippi State.
14. Kentucky (2-8, 0-6) – Last Week: 14; Lost at Vanderbilt, 22-6
If you don’t have anything nice to say… See you next week, Kentucky.
Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Arkansas Razorbacks Auburn Tigers Florida Gators Georgia Bulldogs Kentucky Wildcats Louisiana State Tigers Mississippi State Bulldogs Missouri Tigers Ole Miss Rebels SEC South Carolina Gamecocks Tennessee Volunteers Texas A&M Aggies Vanderbilt Commodores