While many in the college football universe were debating whether the decade of Georgia had begun, whether it was finally safe to board the Vol Navy hype vessel, or the merits of Joey Freshwater’s Ole Miss, have we all, to quote a great poet, “forgot about Dre?”

In this incarnation, the role of Dre is played by Nick Saban and while the haters have mounted, all Saban and Alabama have done is roll to a 5-0 start.

Saturday’s win at No. 20 Arkansas was the most impressive yet for Saban’s forgotten Tide. Alabama lost Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young leading 28-0. Arkansas roared back, and just as it looked like the Crimson Tide were going to fold without their star quarterback, Saban, like Dre on the 2001 album, went back to his roots. Alabama ran the football at will, just like the good old Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy and Derrick Henry days.

Behind the power run game — to which dual-threat backup QB Jalen Milroe contributed — Alabama rattled off 21 of the game’s final 24 points to cruise to a 49-26 victory. Saban won’t ever let us know just how badly Young is hurt, but until he’s not in pads at kickoff, let’s just assume his shoulder injury isn’t serious and he’ll be back Saturday night when Texas A&M visits Tuscaloosa (8 pm, CBS).

As long as Young plays, Saturday’s adversity in Fayetteville will be one of those “circle the calendar” moments. This was the half Alabama found balance on offense again for the first time since 2020. This was the game that made this offense lethal again. That’s a frightening proposition for the rest of the league, and yet even as Alabama moves back to No. 1 this week, it’s one that hasn’t been discussed among a sea of other September (and Week 5) stories in the SEC.

Speaking of September and Week 5 stories, the list is back and while a bye week for last week’s leader, Hendon Hooker, does not create a change at the top this week,  there is plenty of turnover on the list yet again. We begin, as always, with Honorable Mentions, limited to (at most) two players per school. Last week’s list is here. 

Honorable Mention: Jahmyr Gibbs, Playmaker (Alabama); Bryce Young, QB (Alabama); Beaux Limmer, OG (Arkansas); Raheim Sanders, RB (Arkansas); Donovan Kaufman, S (Auburn); Ventrell Miller, LB (Florida); Austin Barber, OT (Florida); Christoper Smith, S (Georgia); Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia); Jordan Wright, LB/Edge (Kentucky); Will Levis, QB (Kentucky);  Sai’vion Jones, DE (LSU); Nathaniel Watson, LB (Mississippi State); Ty’Ron Hopper, LB (Missouri); Dominic Lovett, WR (Missouri); Khari Coleman, Edge (Ole Miss); Jared Ivey, DE (Ole Miss); MarShawn Lloyd, RB (South Carolina); Antonio Johnson, DB (Texas A&M); Layden Robinson OT (Texas A&M); Cedric Tillman, WR (Tennessee); Cooper Mays, C (Tennessee); Anfernee Orji, LB (Vanderbilt).

10. Derick Hall, DE (Auburn)

Hall was all over the place in Auburn’s narrow loss to LSU Saturday night. The Tigers defense played beautifully, holding LSU to just 238 yards and an exceptional 3.2 yards per play. At the center of it all was the team’s captain, Hall, who collected a sack, forced a game-high 6 pressures and tallied 2 tackles for loss. He also ended an LSU drive by moving around just prior to snap and causing LSU to illegally shift to account for his movement — a testament to Hall’s ability to impact games from a production and scheme standpoint. Hall is the best player on a very good Auburn defense, and that’s true regardless of how much of a mess it is on the other side of the football for the Tigers.

9. BJ Ojulari, Edge, LSU

The LSU defensive end had a marvelous night on The Plains Saturday, registering 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss in LSU’s 21-17 comeback win.

While Ojulari’s ability to defeat double teams with a rare blend of speed and power get the press and love from NFL scouts, the play that stood out to SDS this week was when Auburn caught LSU in a zone blitz concept and Ojulari was isolated 1-on-1 on the edge against an Auburn wide receiver. Ojulari was within a step of the Auburn receiver, and while he didn’t break up the pass, the sheer athleticism displayed by Ojulari on the play was special. LSU didn’t have a great night defensively, giving up 438 yards to Auburn. But the Tigers forced 4 turnovers and Ojulari’s dynamic play on the edge was a big reason they escaped with a win.

8. Quinshon Judkins, RB (Ole Miss)

Judkins continues to pace the Power 5’s most potent ground game, gaining 106 yards on 15 carries in Ole Miss’s 22-19 win over No. 7 Kentucky. Judkins is well on his way to SEC Freshman of the Year honors, with 535 yards rushing through the Rebels’ opening 5 games. A 3-star recruit largely because there were questions about his speed, he certainly appears fast enough when he gets to the second level:

It takes a special player to do that against Kentucky’s sensational linebacker corps. Judkins continues to show he’s special every week.

7. Will Rogers III, QB (Mississippi State)

It’s time we give Rogers his due, isn’t it?

The SEC’s leading passer threw for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns in State’s decisive win over No. 17 Texas A&M Saturday in Starkville. The Bulldogs piled up 473 yards of offense on an A&M defense that entered the game ranked in the top 20 nationally. The biggest play? This 75-yard strike to Rara Thomas to put the game out of reach.

On the year, Rogers III leads the SEC in touchdown passes (19) as well and unlike last season, when he was done in a bit by 9 interceptions, Rogers III has protected the football this year, tossing just 3 INTs through State’s first 5 games. That’s how you shed “system quarterback” allegations and land on the list.

6. Stetson Bennett IV, QB (Georgia)

Bennett wasn’t perfect Saturday night in CoMo, but his poise and leadership were the reason Georgia rallied to win. Under pressure all night (Missouri generated a Drinkwitz-era high 21 pressures on Bennett’s 43 attempts), Bennett had a turnover, but recovered and guided Georgia on 4 consecutive scoring drives in the second half. Georgia also marched 42 yards on 8 plays over the game’s final 4 minutes to run the clock out on a hard-earned road win.

Bennett’s numbers remain spectacular: 1,536 yards passing (2nd in SEC), a 9.2-yard per attempt average (3rd in SEC), and a 156 pass efficiency ranking (2nd in SEC). Bennett doesn’t have gaudy touchdown numbers (only 5), but that’s more a product of his playing the fourth quarter only twice this season and a Georgia run game that is brutally effective in the red zone and ranks 20th nationally in yards per attempt. As Georgia’s schedule stiffens, expect Bennett’s touchdown numbers — and perhaps his Heisman profile — to improve markedly. Bottom line? He is still one of the best football players in the country.

5. O’Cyrus Torrence, OG (Florida)

Speaking of best football players in the country, Torrence is the highest-rated offensive guard and No. 2-rated offensive lineman in the sport through 5 games, per PFF. Torrence’s run blocking grade of 92.8 is the highest in the nation, and would place 2nd among all linemen over the past 5 seasons, should it hold at that number. Not only is Torrence dominant, the big fellow can move — as his downfield sprint on this Ricky Pearsall touchdown run Sunday demonstrates:

Torrence and the Gators’ outstanding offensive line rank 3rd in the country at present in blocking rating but face the best defensive line they have played all season Saturday when Missouri visits The Swamp (Noon, ESPN U).

4. Drew Sanders, LB (Arkansas)

The Arkansas linebacker didn’t get the storybook ending he wanted against his former school on Saturday, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sanders led the Razorbacks with 12 tackles, picked up a sack (his hit injured Young) and a tackle for loss, and tallied 3 pressures in the 49-26 defeat. On the season, Sanders continues to pace the SEC with 7 sacks (2 more than his former roommate, Will Anderson Jr.), and his 43 tackles rank 2nd on Arkansas behind tackling machine Bumper Pool. Sanders grades out the highest of all Arkansas linebackers through 5 games, per Pro Football Focus. Whether he maintains this torrid production pace will likely dictate whether Arkansas can halt its 2-game losing skid Saturday at No. 23 Mississippi State.

3. Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)

Bowers was quiet in the first quarter but made a ridiculous catch (below) and came to life in the second quarter, bringing the Bulldogs to life with him. Bowers also came up big when it mattered for Georgia in their comeback win over Missouri. No play was bigger than Bowers powering his way to the goal line late in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard tight end screen.

On the season, the Bulldogs sophomore has 20 catches for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns as a receiver, and has added 82 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Bowers seems destined to be a top 10 NFL Draft pick once eligible, and he may become just the second tight end (Kyle Pitts) in history to finish in the top 10 in the Heisman vote as well. He’s that dominant.

2. Will Anderson Jr., Edge (Alabama)

Will Anderson Jr. just keeps doing his thing. Saturday, he helped the Alabama defense set the tone against Arkansas early as the Crimson Tide built a 28-point lead, and then came up big down the stretch with 2 pressures as Alabama quelled the Razorbacks’ rally. Anderson finished with a sack and 2 tackles for loss, bumping his season totals in both categories to 5 (2nd in the SEC behind Drew Sanders) and 8 (leads the SEC). Anderson’s impact on the game schematically remains immeasurable — especially against zone read and power option teams like Arkansas.

It’s plays like this that separate Anderson from every other defender in America right now, and why he remains in the top 2 on the list.

1. Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)

A well-earned week of rest for Tennessee’s Heisman candidate quarterback, who is 1-0 in what may be the defining 3-week stretch of Tennessee’s season. Keeping Tennessee focused on a tricky road game at LSU this weekend ahead of the Oct. 15 showdown on Rocky Top with No. 1 Alabama will be a true test of Hooker’s leadership. Win both games, and Hooker can make a reservation in New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.