More wins than the Bear?

That’s one way to know your legacy is secure. Mark Stoops is now the winningest football coach in Kentucky history, breaking a tie with Bear Bryant with Kentucky’s 26-16 win over No. 12 Florida in The Swamp Saturday night. Kentucky’s had some good players in the Stoops regime, and a couple great ones, but more than anything, it is Stoops who has made Kentucky an upper-tier SEC program. The Wildcats could very well be unbeaten when they play Georgia, and should certainly threaten the 10-win mark again this season either way. Not bad for a coach who started 12-26 at Kentucky.

Let Stoops’ slow start be a lesson to those reading the Top 10 Power Ranking list: a bad week (looking at you, Anthony Ricahrdson), a slow start to a season (Will Anderson Jr.), a conspicuous absence from the list (Cedric Tillman)– none of that means a player won’t be here come late November or December. What it does mean is that we have a significant shakeup in the rankings early in the season.

Remember, this isn’t a Power Ranking of the best NFL prospects in the SEC. Mock drafts across the interwebs take care of that. This is a Power Ranking of the best 10 players in the SEC at a specific point in time, measured on productivity, how a player impacts a game schematically, and importance of the player to the team. Last week’s list is here.

As always, honorable mentions first, limited to 2 players per program.

Honorable Mention: Kool-Aid McKinstry, DB (Alabama); Jalen Moody, LB (Alabama); Raheim Sanders, RB (Arkansas); Ricky Stromberg, C (Arkansas); Ty’Ron Hopper, LB (Missouri); Derick Hall, DE (Auburn); Kilian Zierer, OT (Auburn); Gervon Dexter, Sr. DT (Florida); Brenton Cox Jr., DE (Florida); Kenny McIntosh, RB (Georgia); Christopher Smith, S (Georgia); JJ Weaver, LB (Kentucky); DeAndre Square, LB (Kentucky); Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU); Sai’vion Jones, DE (LSU); Will Rogers III, QB (Mississippi State); Jett Johnson, LB (Mississippi State); Khari Coleman, Edge (Ole Miss); Zach Evans, RB (Ole Miss); Antwane Wells Jr., WR (South Carolina); Jordan Burch, Edge (South Carolina) Antonio Johnson, DB (Texas A&M); Ainias Smith, Playmaker (Texas A&M); Aaron Beasley, LB (Tennessee); Trevon Flowers, DB (Tennessee); Re’Mahn Davis, RB (Vanderbilt).

10. Tank Bigsby, RB (Auburn)

Bigsby was held in check, for the most part, by San Jose State in Auburn’s too close for comfort 24-16 victory Saturday on The Plains. Still, his increased involvement in the passing game this season is a good sign (4 catches for 30 yards against San Jose State) and when Auburn needed tough yards, Bigsby got them, including his 1-yard plunge in the third quarter to help Auburn reclaim the lead for good. The Tigers’ star has 198 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns through Auburn’s first 2 games — a stiffer test awaits when No. 23 Penn State visits Jordan-Hare this weekend.

9. Bumper Pool, LB (Arkansas)

Pool finds himself in the Top 10 of these rankings for the third consecutive season. Could this be the year he finishes in the top 10 instead of simply making a cameo? A tackling machine his entire career, Pool had 7 tackles and a sack in lifting No. 16 Arkansas over South Carolina in the Razorbacks’ SEC opener. Pool has missed just 1 tackle through the season’s first 2 games, a reminder that if the All-SEC linebacker gets a hand on you, you’re likely headed to the turf. Pool’s 20 early season tackles lead the team, as we’ve grown accustomed to the past 3 seasons.

8. Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia)

Grade out in consecutive weeks as one of the top 5 offensive tackles in the sport and you’ll find your way into the top 10 as Jones does this week. Georgia’s offensive line didn’t move the pile as much as they wanted to in the run game against Samford, gaining just 127 yards on 30 carries. The Dawgs did keep it simple though, and it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t have more success on the ground had they wanted to do so. More important for Georgia is that Stetson Bennett continues to rarely come under pressure. Samford had a sack but forced only 4 pressures all afternoon. A big reason for that is Jones, who has surrendered just 2 sacks in his Georgia career.

7. Stetson Bennett, QB (Georgia)

A slight dip for Bennett this week largely due to competition. Bennett played like Bennett, throwing for 300 yards in Georgia’s 33-0 win over Samford. Bennett also doesn’t discriminate– 16, yes 16, Bulldogs caught passes Saturday, with over 10 of those targets coming from Bennett before he gave way to Carson Beck in the second half. Bennett has 668 yards passing and 3 touchdowns through Georgia’s first 2 games and should post big numbers against a rocky South Carolina defense in Georgia’s SEC opener Saturday in Columbia.

6. Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)

A year after coming off the bench to nearly rally the Volunteers to a win over Pitt in Neyland, Hooker finished the job at Acrisure Stadium (Heinz Field!!) this past weekend. The senior was magnificent, throwing for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns and adding 27 yards on the ground in the overtime win. Hooker takes care of the football, impacts scheme by demanding a spy on most every play, and has improved as a precision, accurate passer this year — something that isn’t getting enough attention yet nationally. He’ll take his 67.2% completion percentage, including a career-best 62% on intermediate throws (10-20), into this week’s Florida tuneup against the Akron Zips.

5. Will Anderson Jr., Edge (Alabama)

Anderson drops out of the No. 1 spot after a slow, by Anderson standards at least, start to his 2022 campaign. Add in a costly personal foul in the Texas game and you get an idea of why the drop is justified, even after Anderson Jr.’s 5 tackles, a sack, a blocked field goal and 2 tackles for loss against the Longhorns. To be fair to Anderson, he’s a human being — and some of his quiet start and frustration against Texas came due to Texas.

Not many players can do what Kelvin Banks of Texas did and block Anderson 1 v 1 on the edge. And not many coaches will be as intimately familiar with any small weaknesses Anderson Jr. may have as Steve Sarkisian. Expect Anderson Jr. to look more like the guy who probably deserved the 2021 Heisman Trophy again later this season.

4. KJ Jefferson, QB (Arkansas)

Arkansas has played a tough 2 game slate to start the season and Jefferson is the reason the Hogs leave it 2-0 with a head full of steam as they get closer to a season-defining 4-game slate that will feature games against 3 potentially ranked teams in Texas A&M, Alabama and BYU, along with a road trip to Starkville.

There are some things Jefferson does that are just silly, like how he can power his way through an SEC linebacker corps as a runner, as he did Saturday against the Gamecocks. It’s the fact you have to respect his ability to throw, however, that makes him so lethal: Jefferson has thrown just 11 incompletions this season (36-47), with 385 yards passing and 4 touchdowns to go with his 129 yards rushing. That type of pass-run combo is Tebow-like from a statistical pass-run production standpoint, and the comparison to one of the sport’s greatest ever players seems fair as long as Jefferson keeps finding different ways to get the Hogs in the endzone.

3. Jordan Wright, Edge/LB (Kentucky)

What a difference Wright’s return from suspension made in The Swamp on Saturday night.

If you wanted to make the case that Kentucky has the league’s best starting LB corps, it would be tough to argue. DeAndre Square, JJ Weaver and Wright are all difference-makers. Of them, Wright is the most electric, as his 6 tackles, 2 for loss and huge sack of Anthony Richardson demonstrated on Saturday night. And then there’s this play, which was one of the best interceptions the SEC has seen in quite some time, a 1-handed, bear paw pick on what looked like a huge Florida gain on a flare route.

This play changed the game from one the Gators led by 9 and had momentum to one where Kentucky had momentum and trailed by only a field goal at the half. It takes a special player to do that on the road, and Wright is special.

2. Cedric Tillman, WR (Tennessee)

Peerless Price?

Is that how long it has been since Tennessee had a wide receiver as electric and consistent as Tillman?

Tillman’s 15 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown are impressive, but it’s the way he does it: running tremendous quick routes while also being a take-the-top off the defense vertical threat, that make him so hard to scheme against and defend. By the way, after he runs by you, he can drag a corner into the end zone from the 5-yard line too, just to make his point.

In 2021, Tillman became Tennessee’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter (2012). This year, he has a tremendous chance to be the Vols’ first All-American receiver since Robert Meacham in 2006. Heady stuff. Peerless like, really.

1. Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)

Are you serious?

That’s what I said out loud when Bryce Young avoided what looked like a game-clinching sack and turned it into a long run that put Alabama in position for the game-winning field goal Saturday in Austin. For the second time in Alabama’s past 5 games, the Crimson Tide avoided defeat because they had Bryce Young.

Young has thrown for 408 yards and 6 touchdowns in Alabama’s 2-0 start, but his ability to make plays with his legs has made all the difference, considering Alabama’s struggle to find vertical playmakers. How bad has Young’s supporting cast been? Consider this, from Jordan Rodgers:

Even without much to work with, Young keeps finding a way to win. With 138 yards rushing and counting through 2 games, Young is flashing a side to his game we didn’t see in his 2021 Heisman campaign — and it is one that kept Alabama unbeaten Saturday afternoon.