SEC Power Rankings: Ranking every team heading into Week 1
We made it, y’all! This week, there is actual SEC action.
It all starts Thursday night when the Tennessee Volunteers kick off the Josh Heupel era against Bowling Green. The Week 1 SEC games end on Monday night, when Ole Miss takes on Louisville in Atlanta.
So, how do the SEC teams stack up against one another as we prepare for the opening weekend of games?
Here’s a look at our pre-Week 1 power rankings:
14. Vanderbilt (0-0)
This week: vs. East Tennessee State
Someone has to finish last in the SEC. No offense to new Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea, but this is a multiple-year (at least) rebuild in Nashville. The Commodores went 0-9 against SEC competition in 2020 and only had 3 losses in which they stayed within 1 possession. I think Vandy beats up on East Tennessee State, but then things get tough in a hurry.
13. South Carolina (0-0)
This week: vs. Eastern Illinois
Like the Commodores, the Gamecocks are beginning a rebuilding process. I think Shane Beamer is the right guy for the job, and the school has invested in its football facilities. That will show up on the recruiting trails, and it has already started to make an impact. However, for this season, things are going to be ugly. There are some talented players on this roster (RB Kevin Harris and edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, to name a couple), but the depth to compete in a full SEC season isn’t there.
12. Mississippi State (0-0)
This week: vs. Louisiana Tech
Mike Leach generally takes about 3 years to revamp a program when he takes over. At Texas Tech, he won 9 games in Year 3. At Washington State, it took him until Year 4 to hit 9 wins. So, be patient, Bulldogs fans. The defense will be decent again, but I still don’t expect a ton from this offense against the better defenses it will face (Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas, etc.). They’ll pull off a couple of minor upsets, but reaching bowl eligibility will be a good goal in Starkville this year.
11. Tennessee (0-0)
This week: vs. Bowling Green
This team was absolutely decimated by the transfer portal this offseason. But Josh Heupel’s offenses will score. That we know. Expect the Vols to rout nonconference foes like Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech and South Alabama before struggling in SEC play. Of course, if Joe Milton III — the Vols’ new QB1 — becomes a star, this team could quickly rise up these rankings.
10. Arkansas (0-0)
This week: vs. Rice
Yes, Arkansas has plenty of talent returning, but I need the Razorbacks to prove they’re ready to take the next step. This team went 3-7 last year and lost 4 straight games to end the season, after all. Treylon Burks and Trelon Smith are great pieces for QB KJ Jefferson on offense. The defense has Jalen Catalon, Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool and other talented guys. But the schedule is brutal once again in 2021. We’ll see how the Hogs fare.
9. Auburn (0-0)
This week: vs. Akron
I think Mike Bobo’s offense will be better for QB Bo Nix than Gus Malzahn’s was. But, outside of RB Tank Bigsby, there are a ton of question marks on that side of the ball. The linebacker corps of Owen Pappoe, Zakoby McClain and Chandler Wooten is one of the best in the country. Roger McCreary and Smoke Monday are great pieces in the secondary. But I just don’t see this team finishing in the top 4 of the SEC West this fall.
8. Kentucky (0-0)
This week: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Mark Stoops has built a reputation for his Kentucky teams having strong running games and stout defenses. The running game should be one of the SEC’s best in 2021, featuring Chris Rodriguez Jr. running behind an elite offensive line. Are we sure this defense is going to be good? I’m not, so I have the Wildcats in the No. 8 spot.
7. Mizzou (0-0)
This week: vs. Central Michigan
The Tigers went 5-5 in 2020, to the surprise of many. I have Eli Drinkwitz’s squad improving a bit this fall, but I want to wait to get too high on my alma mater until I see the Week 2 matchup against Kentucky in Lexington. That game will tell us a lot about both teams. If Connor Bazelak takes the next step and becomes a top-tier quarterback, Mizzou can be a surprise team in the SEC East.
6. Ole Miss (0-0)
This week: vs. Louisville (in Atlanta)
The Rebels have an elite offense, even after losing Elijah Moore to the NFL. But Lane Kiffin’s squad still has plenty of question marks on defense. If the Rebels can’t stop anyone once again in 2021, it could start to feel a lot like 2020 pretty quickly. If QB Matt Corral can clean up some of his interception problems, though, he can make up for a lot of mistakes from the defense.
5. Florida (0-0)
This week: vs. Florida Atlantic
Replacing Heisman finalist Kyle Trask, top-10 Heisman finisher Kyle Pitts and first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney is a brutal task for the Florida offense. New QB Emory Jones is going to have his hands full running Dan Mullen’s offense that is going through a bit of a rebuild. The defense wasn’t good under DC Todd Grantham last year, but the Gators brought him back, much to the chagrin of many Florida fans. If that unit doesn’t improve, the Gators could fall as low as 3rd or 4th in the SEC East. If everything goes according to plan, they could possibly take the SEC East crown again. There are so many different possible outcomes for the Gators this year.
4. LSU (0-0)
This week: at UCLA
I believe in LSU this year. QB Max Johnson should be solid. I think WR Kayshon Boutte could lead the SEC in receiving yards. Meanwhile, the defense can’t be any worse than it was in 2020, right? … Right? Derek Stingley Jr. should be healthy. Eli Ricks doesn’t get enough love. I like Ali Gaye coming off the edge. And I think the linebackers should be better, too. This will be a sneaky good Tigers team.
3. Texas A&M (0-0)
This week: vs. Kent State
The Aggies are replacing QB Kellen Mond and a few offensive linemen, but new QB1 Haynes King has all the makings of a star. He’ll need to be great out of the gates, though, because the Aggies can’t afford any missteps in 2021. The defense is one of the best in the SEC. There’s a lot of pressure on Jimbo Fisher’s squad this year. We’ll see if they can rise to the challenge.
2. Georgia (0-0)
This week: vs. No. 3 Clemson (in Charlotte)
Speaking of pressure, no team is facing as much pressure as Georgia this year. Many fans and analysts think this is Kirby Smart’s best chance yet to bring a title back to Athens. However, the receiving corps and offensive line are already dinged up a bit. The secondary hasn’t played together yet. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Dawgs have another loaded RB group (don’t they always?) and QB JT Daniels is back. The defensive line has plenty of talent. And there are plenty of opportunities to make a statement to the rest of the country, starting Saturday against Clemson. We’ll see if the Dawgs can get off to a hot start and get the title talk buzzing even louder.
1. Alabama (0-0)
This week: vs. No. 14 Miami (in Atlanta)
The offense won’t be as dynamic this year. I feel confident saying that. A new coordinator (Bill O’Brien) and new QB (Bryce Young) might take some time to jell. Meanwhile, they’re also replacing Heisman-winning WR DeVonta Smith, star RB Najee Harris and another first-round WR in Jaylen Waddle. Oh, and they lost OL Alex Leatherwood and Landon Dickerson. There’s still plenty of talent on the Alabama offense, obviously, but it likely won’t be the top offense in college football this fall.
The good news? The defense has the talent to be the best in all of college football. The linebacker corps is stacked with Christian Harris, Henry To’o To’o, Will Anderson and Chris Allen. The defensive line is solid, too, and the secondary is led by CB Josh Jobe and S Malachi Moore. The Tide will be fearsome on that side of the ball. Another title run in Tuscaloosa isn’t out of the question.