Power ranking the Top 10 players in the SEC through Week 10
It’s one thing to get to the summit of Rocky Top.
It’s another thing to stay there.
Tennessee’s stay at No. 1 was short-lived, as the Vols were manhandled by Georgia 27-13 in Athens last Saturday. The game was never really competitive, as Georgia led by 11 after a quarter, 18 at halftime, and was up 21 points before Tennessee finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The win doesn’t mean the Vols’ College Playoff hopes are over. Far from it: Tennessee has great wins over LSU and Alabama and good wins over Kentucky, Pitt and Florida. That résumé will hold up come December, especially if Georgia wins the SEC championship. Put plainly, Tennessee may not officially control its College Football Playoff fate, but if the Vols win out and don’t go to Atlanta, it is difficult to envision a world where they are left out of the Playoff.
The SEC East and College Football Playoff rankings aren’t the only things that received a shakeup following Georgia’s dominant win Saturday afternoon. The list looks mighty different too — with a new number one, a couple of fresh faces in the top 10, and suddenly, a wide-open race again to see who joins Nakobe Dean and DeVonta Smith as season winners on “The List.”
Last week’s rankings are here. As always, honorable mentions are first, limited to two per school.
Honorable Mention: Brian Branch, DB (Alabama); Will Anderson Jr., Edge (Alabama); Ricky Stromberg, C (Arkansas); Drew Sanders, LB (Arkansas); Derick Hall, DE (Auburn); Owen Pappoe, LB (Auburn); Ventrell Miller, LB (Florida); Austin Barber, OT (Florida); Stetson Bennett, QB (Georgia); Jamon Dumas-Johnson, LB (Georgia); Will Levis, QB (Kentucky); Jordan Wright, LB/Edge (Kentucky); BJ Ojulari, Edge (LSU); Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU); Emmanuel Forbes, CB (Mississippi State); Jett Johnson, LB (Mississippi State); Ty’Ron Hopper, LB (Missouri); Isaiah McGuire, DE (Missouri); Nick Broeker, OL (Ole Miss); Zach Evans, RB (Ole Miss); Zacch Pickens, DL (South Carolina); MarShawn Lloyd, RB (South Carolina); Devon Achane, RB (Texas A&M); Layden Robinson, OL (Texas A&M); Trevon Flowers, CB (Tennessee); Cooper Mays, C (Tennessee); Anfernee Orji, LB (Vanderbilt); Will Sheppard, WR (Vanderbilt).
10. Malaki Starks, DB (Georgia)
The freshman from Jefferson, Georgia, keeps getting better. Against Tennessee, he led the Dawgs in tackles with 10 and broke up a pass as well. One of 3 true freshmen on this week’s list, Starks has now started 8 of Georgia’s 9 games, collected 40 tackles, intercepted 2 passes, broken up 6 others, and graded out behind only Christopher Smith among players on Georgia’s supremely talented defense, per Pro Football Focus. Starks and the Dawgs leave the Tennessee game ranking 5th nationally in total defense, 8th in yards allowed per play, and first nationally in SP+ defensive efficiency. Starks is a huge reason for the success and should challenge for All-American honors this season.
9. Mekhi Wingo, DT (LSU)
Wingo and the Tigers humbled the Alabama run game Saturday night in Death Valley, limiting the Crimson Tide to just 4.6 yards per carry and more impressive, a humble 40% success rate on the ground. Wingo collected a huge tackle for loss on a vital 3rd down, and also harassed Bryce Young early and often, registering 4 pressures and deflecting 2 passes.
— Lonn Phillips Sullivan LSUOdyssey.com (@LonnPhillips) November 6, 2022
Wingo was disruptive even when he didn’t get in the stat sheet, as on this bull rush that forced an errant Young throw, and another play where he appeared to tip a 3rd-down pass, only to have review be unable to confirm he did, resulting in a key pass interference penalty on LSU was upheld. The talented lineman grades out as LSU’s best defensive player this season, and he was certainly impactful in the win over Alabama.
8. O’Cyrus Torrence, OG (Florida)
Florida ran for 296 yards in their 41-24 win over Texas A&M, and over 150 of those yards came on runs toward O’Cyrus Torrence. The big man is the NCAA’s highest-rated run blocker, per Pro Football Focus, and his overall grade of 90 is over 5 points higher than the next-closest guard in the country. In other words, this is the best offensive lineman in the best league in America, and that warranted a return to the list after a dominant game in College Station.
7. Jalin Hyatt, WR (Tennessee)
Hyatt caught 6 passes for 63 yards in Tennessee’s loss at Georgia, but his 10.5 yards per catch total was his second-lowest output of the season (Pitt) and he was kept out of the endzone for the first time since the Florida game. With 970 yards receiving on 51 receptions this autumn, Hyatt is still the SEC’s leading receiver by a staggering 306 yards, and he remains the lone SEC receiver with double-digit touchdown receptions. He just wasn’t as good Saturday in Athens, and partly as a result, the Volunteers have fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten.
6. Harold Perkins Jr., LB (LSU)
Are you kidding me? That’s what comes to mind when you watch LSU’s true freshman play linebacker. A blossoming star, Perkins was all over the field Saturday night against Bama, collecting 8 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, a game-high 7 quarterback pressures and 3 quarterback hurries in LSU’s thrilling overtime win.
— Off The Bench (@OTB_ESPN) November 8, 2022
Perkins’ best play? It came without question on the play featured above, where he spied Bryce Young, tracked the Heisman winner as he rolled right, and then failed to be faked out before wrestling Young down with an explosive tackle. It’s just an astounding football play, and it was made by a kid who is still 18 years old. Again: Are you kidding me?
On the season, Perkins has 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, an interception, and 24 pressures, which ranks 2nd on the team behind edge rusher BJ Ojulari. With that type of production, it’s easy to forget that Perkins is just getting started.
5. Quinshon Judkins, RB (Ole Miss)
Judkins was off Saturday, awaiting a showdown against Alabama in Oxford on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, CBS). The freshman sensation ranks 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards with 1,036, No. 1 in rushing touchdowns with 13, and 8th in yards per carry at 5.76. Ole Miss has a staggering 63% success rate when Judkins runs the football, and the Rebels remain alive in the SEC West largely as a result of his production.
4. Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)
Bowers should win the John Mackey Award as the nation’s finest tight end going away, but he slips a bit this week after a “quieter than usual” performance in a big game on Saturday. Bowers won’t care at all about his numbers (3 receptions, 27 yards on 6 targets, 7 yards rushing on one carry), because the Dawgs won. But it was interesting to see how Tennessee managed to neutralize the big man, who grades out as the 4th best tight end in the Power 5, per Pro Football Focus.
3. Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)
Hooker falls to No. 3 after his first genuinely poor game as a Volunteer. The super senior threw for just 195 yards at a dismal 5.9 yard per attempt clip, and Georgia stifled his attempts to get involved in the run game, limiting him to 17 yards on 18 attempts. It wasn’t for lack of trying — Hooker broke 5 tackles on his 18 runs, per Stats Solutions. That was 2 more than all other Volunteers combined on Saturday! But Hooker’s accuracy was off on downfield throws, and he settled too often under pressure, as this passing chart from SEC Statcat shows.
Hendon Hooker's pass chart vs UGA
74.2% Adj Comp
36.8% Depth Adj Acc
18.2% Pressured Pass
36.4% Play Action
70.3% Air Yardhttps://t.co/nQPCISSaoi pic.twitter.com/l2E2vGIrPs
— Clark Brooks (@SEC_StatCat) November 8, 2022
Hooker will absolutely still factor in the Heisman race — and he should. But he takes a week off from topping this list after taking 4 quarters to get into the endzone against Georgia.
2. Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)
I’m not sure what else Bryce Young has to do to prove how very average this Alabama team would be without his services. Saturday night, he nearly willed the Crimson Tide to a win in Baton Rouge, throwing for 328 yards and a touchdown in defeat. Young, pressured a season-high 20 times, managed to escape often, as he always does. The most amazing play? His touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks, which came after he managed to escape a sack 3 times, keeping his eyes down the field the entire time.
Bryce Young is a magician playing QB pic.twitter.com/VV9jrmzvmN
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 6, 2022
Alabama won’t be a College Football Playoff team this winter, and unless they find a way to beat Ole Miss this weekend, they may not be a New Year’s 6 team, either. But plays like the one above show you that the Heisman winner is doing his part, and Alabama fans should enjoy their last few chances to see Young in the crimson and white.
1. Christopher Smith, Safety (Georgia)
The SEC’s best football player is also the best player on the best team. That’s often the case, but it’s a fascinating case at Georgia, where the likes of Brock Bowers or The Mailman Stetson Bennett IV get the eyeballs but Smith just keeps chugging along, leading the nation’s most efficient defense and serving as Kirby Smart’s quarterback of the defense on the field. Like Smart did in Athens, Smith plays with exceptional intelligence, and his football IQ is almost always mentioned when he’s discussed as the top safety prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft. Entering the Tennessee game, Smith was far and away the best safety in the Power 5:
Christopher Smith through 8 games:
• 234 coverage snaps
• 7 receptions allowed (56 yards)
• 2 INT
• PFF’s highest graded SEC safety
The Bulldogs safety has been on an absolute TEAR ? pic.twitter.com/XUoQtqqYOO
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 5, 2022
He didn’t disappoint against the Volunteers either, surrendering just 2 receptions Saturday despite a season-high 7 targets against on coverage snaps. The Dawgs’ pass defense stymied the electric Vols passing attack, and as a result, Smith now captains and leads the No. 1 team in the country as Georgia hits the home stretch. That’s good enough to top the list, too.