SEC Power Rankings: Week 3

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 9, 2013 

After a relatively calm opening weekend, the rankings are beginning to shuffle up a bit. With the slate of games on tap this Saturday, expect a dizzying number of changes come next Monday.

For those not familiar with this, here are two notes before getting started: The rankings/receiving votes (designated by "RV") are from the Associated Press poll.

Secondly, the landing spot for each team is a combination of how good I perceive team to be in relation to the rest of the conference, with a dash of last week's results thrown in, too. However, the former takes precedence. One example: Just because South Carolina is now 1-1 after losing on the road to Georgia doesn't mean it will fall below undefeated Ole Miss, which is 2-0 after beating up on Southeast Missouri State last Saturday. Everything is relative.

(All games times ET)

1) No. 1 Alabama (1-0); Last week, 1

Last week: Idle

Alabama didn't do anything to alter its hold on the top spot last weekend. Then again, the Crimson Tide didn't do anything to further cement that status, either. Blame the bye week for that.

We'll see how much good the week off has done this Saturday, as Alabama tries to avenge its only loss last season when it heads on the road to College Station, Texas, to take on Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. If you haven't prepared yourself for it, be forewarned: The hype machine for this game will reach an absurd level by kickoff. Think non-stop talk all week on every sports medium in the country.

(Or as others may know it: Paul Finebaum OVERLOAD ALERT!)

Next: at No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0), 3:30 p.m. | CBS

2) No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0); LW, 3

Last week: beat Sam Houston State 65-28

What, no controversy last week, Johnny? Couldn't you have at least pulled wads of cash out of your pocket and "made it rain" after your lone rushing touchdown versus the Bearkats? You know, to give pundits something to discuss? I haven't heard enough about your psyche recently, and how you're "headed for a meltdown" at some point in the future.

But in all seriousness, that's a good sign for Texas A&M. The Aggies need the reigning Heisman Trophy to have his head on straight and avoid any dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalties if they want to beat the Crimson Tide for the second year in a row.

Next: vs. No. 1 Alabama (1-0), 3:30 p.m. | CBS

3) No. 9 Georgia (1-1, 1-0 SEC); LW, 5

Last week: beat then-No. 6 South Carolina 41-30

Well, Aaron Murray didn't look all that scared against Jadeveon Clowney, did he? Coming up with one of the best performances of his career (17-for-23, 309 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions), the senior signal-caller helped the Bulldogs remain in the thick of the national title race with the victory over the Gamecocks.

Now, Georgia gets a chance to catch its breath after the toughest back-to-back stretch (at Clemson, vs. South Carolina) to open the season of any team in Division I.

Next: Idle

4) No. 8 LSU (2-0); LW, 4

Last week: beat UAB 56-17

Don't tell anyone, but LSU continues to quietly cruise along. Zach Mettenberger lit up UAB last Saturday, tossing a school-record five touchdown passes, three to Odell Beckham Jr. It was as clean a game as the quarterback could have hoped for, with his touchdown tally (five) outpacing his incompletions (three), finishing 16-for-19 for 282 yards. Of course, Beckham did more than just catch passes, compiling 331 all-purpose yards, running a field goal attempt that came up short back 100 yards for a touchdown along with a 60-yard punt return.

If the Tigers keep playing like this, their dreams of a national title will be well within reach.

Next: vs. Kent State (1-1), 7 p.m. | ESPNU

5) No. 13 South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC); LW, 2

Last week: lost to then-No. 11 Georgia 41-30

The Gamecocks don't have time to feel sorry for themselves after their loss last weekend. That's especially true given their opponent this week, squaring off against a desperate Vanderbilt team looking to avoid an 0-2 start in SEC play.

Will this be the week Clowney finally awakens after two sub-par performances to begin his 2013 campaign?

Next: vs. Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC), 7 p.m. | ESPN

6) No. 25 Ole Miss (2-0); LW, 7

Last week: beat Southeast Missouri State 31-13

No, the Rebels didn't score a point in the second half last Saturday. Not that they needed to, anyway, since they did all of their damage in the first two quarters of their 31-13 victory.

To say Ole Miss has an "interesting" matchup this week is putting it lightly. It will take on a Texas team that just fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz following an embarrassing 40-21 loss to BYU, which saw the Longhorns give up a mind-boggling 550 rushing yards. (In case you're wondering, yes, that's the most rushing yards Texas has ever allowed in a single game.) A win Saturday would do wonders for the Rebels, giving them a 3-0 record heading into their bye week and a road date in Tuscaloosa, Ala., looming on Sept. 28.

Next: at Texas (1-1), 8 p.m. | Longhorn Network

7) No. 18 Florida (1-1); LW, 6

Last week: lost to Miami (FL) 21-16

OK, OK. I'll stop making fun of Florida's offense for at least one week. Well, at least when it comes to moving the ball, which the Gators had no problem doing last Saturday, totaling 413 yards of total offense. More stats: They outran the Hurricanes 122-50, held the ball almost twice as long and had a 22-10 advantage in first downs. And yes, Florida still lost. Blame turnovers in the red zone.

Most of it can be laid at the feet of Jeff Driskel. The junior threw a pair of interceptions, fumbled the ball away on another and had a turnover on downs after being stuffed on a fourth-down try. U-G-L-Y.

Florida has a week off to try to correct things before it hosts Tennessee in "The Swamp," which will kick-start SEC play for both teams.

Next: Idle

8) Auburn (2-0); LW, 8

Last week: beat Arkansas State 38-9

So far, so good, for Gus Malzahn. Win debut game on the Plains? Check. Beat former team? Check.

Another box can be checked off by Saturday's end: Win SEC opener.

Next: vs. Mississippi State (1-1), 7 p.m. | ESPN2

9) Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC); LW, 9

Last week: beat Austin Peay 38-3

Where would the Commodores be without Jordan Matthews? One week after a valiant performance in a losing effort — posting a career-high 178 receiving yards on 10 receptions (including a touchdown) in a 39-35 loss to Ole Miss — Matthews had six catches for 111 yards and a touchdown versus Austin Peay.

Vanderbilt will likely need similar production from the senior wideout if it is to leave Columbia, S.C., with a 'W' this weekend.

Next: at No. 13 South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC), 7 p.m. | ESPN

10) Tennessee (2-0); LW, 11

Last week: beat Western Kentucky 52-20

Quite a crazy game in Neyland Stadium, huh? Five turnovers for Western Kentucky in a six-play span in the opening period? Wowzers. After the way Western Kentucky handled Kentucky in the season opener, I thought the Hilltoppers would give Tennessee a run for its money, too. Didn't happen, as the Volunteers took advantage of the Hilltoppers' sloppiness to win going away, 52-20.

One Associated Press pollster was impressed enough to give Tennessee a vote on his/her latest ballot. While that's a bit premature, there's no doubt first-year head coach Butch Jones already has the Volunteers back on the right track.

It won't show this week against Oregon, but hey, these things take time.

Next: at No. 2 Oregon (2-0), 3:30 p.m. | ABC

11) Arkansas (2-0); LW, 10

Last week: beat Samford 31-21

"Real American football" came close to suffering a real loss Friday night in Little Rock, Ark. Samford held a 21-17 advantage heading into the fourth quarter before Arkansas outscored the visitors 14-0 to stave off the upset bid. One positive for the Razorbacks given head coach Bret Bielema's affinity for a powerful ground game is that they may have found a 1-2 punch in the backfield. True freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams combined for 298 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries in the victory.

Expect big numbers from Arkansas this week: Southern Miss ranks 111th in Division FBS for points allowed (39.0 per game) and lost its season opener to Texas State. At home. And to keep piling on, the Golden Eagles' 14-game losing streak is the longest in the nation.

Yeah ... needless to say, Bielema should begin his stint as Arkansas' head coach 3-0.

Next: vs. Southern Miss (0-2), 12:21 p.m. | SEC TV

12) Missouri (2-0); LW, 12

Last week: beat Toledo 38-23

The final score noted above is a bit deceiving, since the Tigers led the Rockets by just eight points (31-23) at the end of the third quarter. But Missouri did enough to hold off the spirited effort of its Mid-American Conference foe to begin the season 2-0. The last time the Tigers did that was three years ago, when they started 7-0.

It won't get that far this season, but Missouri fans are allowed to dream.

Next: Idle

13) Mississippi State (1-1); LW, 13

Last week: beat Alcorn State 51-7

Arguably the two best players the Bulldogs have on offense — quarterback Tyler Russell and tailback LaDarius Perkins — sat out their glorified scrimmage against Alcorn State over the weekend.

Auburn won't be as accommodating if both are absent this Saturday.

Next: vs. Auburn (2-0), 7 p.m. | ESPN2

14) Kentucky (1-1); LW, 14

Last week: beat Miami (OH) 41-7

The good news: Kentucky beat Miami (OH) rather easily last Saturday, dispatching the WarHawks 41-7 to give Mark Stoops his first victory as the Wildcats' head man.

The bad news: It will take a flawless performance (and probably a bit of an off game from its opponent) for the Wildcats to knock off Teddy Bridgewater and arch-rival Louisville on Saturday. Good luck with that.

Next: vs. No. 7 Louisville (2-0), Noon | ESPN

More SEC Power Rankings:

SEC Power Rankings: Week 2

SEC Power Rankings Rewind

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