SEC Power Rankings after Week 1: Well, hello, LSU.
What a Week 1 it was, unless you happen to be a Tennessee fan. The SEC in general kicked butt, took names, and leveled opponents in route to a 13-1 opening week. Sure, six of those opponents were FCS schools, but at the same time, the SEC knocked off two Top 10 opponents.
Barring an unthinkable collapse, SEC West will close Week 1:
4-0 vs. other Power 5s
2-0 vs. other Power 5s in top 10.
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) September 3, 2018
In a week where almost everybody won, it’s hard to rank the squads of the SEC. But it’s what we do, so here are your week one SEC power rankings. Bear in mind, as ever, our rule is that we don’t necessarily rank teams on where we think they’ll end up, but on what they’ve showed us so far.
14. Arkansas (1-0, beat Eastern Illinois, 55-20)
Sure, Arkansas won its opener by 35 and passed the ball all over the field. But if you go deeper into the stat sheet, there are some scary things here. Eastern Illinois, which went 6-5 as an FCS team in the Ohio Valley Conference last year, had more first downs than Arkansas, 21-18, and outrushed the Razorbacks, 127-80. Sure, EIU lost 5 fumbles, but some gaudy passing stats against a woeful secondary are hiding some weaknesses that the daunting West will expose. Somebody has to be No. 14, and while Arkansas didn’t play the worst game of the week, they look like a team that will get exposed.
13. Tennessee (0-1, lost to West Virginia, 40-14)
UT played the worst game of the week and was miles behind a very decent West Virginia team. The good news is that the next two on this list are teams UT could beat on a given day, which after an 0-8 SEC season and a start like this, is no small consolation.
12. Kentucky (1-0, beat Central Michigan, 35-20)
Kentucky’s defense played better than the score suggests, holding CMU to 255 total yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Kentucky’s passing game was unspeakably bad, creating turnover after turnover and nearly negating a 299-yard rushing performance. That won’t fly in the SEC.
11. Vanderbilt (1-0, beat MTSU, 35-7)
This was a workmanlike effort that is probably indicative of about the ceiling of Vandy performances. Even at their best, the Dores won the yardage battle by 52 and gave up more first downs than they gained.
10. Missouri (1-0, beat UT-Martin, 51-14)
There’s a big gap between Vandy and Mizzou. The Tigers passed all over the field and looked reasonably good on defense against an outmatched opponent. How will either of those hold up in the SEC? We don’t know yet. Because we couldn’t learn much, they’re ranked No. 10, when they could easily be, say, No. 6.
9. Florida (1-0, beat Charleston Southern, 53-6)
Mizzou, Florida and South Carolina all essentially played the same game in Week 1 —they each played terrible opponents, and dominated easily. You could draw any of these three out of a hat and feel pretty much identical about their chances. UF passed well, ran acceptably, and played good defense. They also played an FCS team with no real passing game.
8. South Carolina (1-0, beat Coastal Carolina, 49-15)
This ranking is less a case of Carolina doing something wrong — they didn’t — than it is a case of the West just lighting people up. Carolina showed impressive balance, rushing for 263 yards and passing for 294, and looked like a team that could well end up second in the East again.
7. Ole Miss (1-0, beat Texas Tech, 47-27)
The 336 yards passing didn’t surprise us, but Scottie Phillips’s 204 rushing yards did. Defensively, Ole Miss can’t give up 486 yards in the SEC West and win … but they dominated a reasonably decent Power 5 program. That will get them style points over the three teams ranked just behind them.
6. Texas A&M (1-0, beat Northwestern State, 59-7)
758 yards. Sure, it was Northwestern State, but that was impressive. Any time your rushing yardage (503) doubles your opponent’s total offensive yardage (251), you did some things well.
5. Mississippi State (1-0, beat Stephen F. Austin, 63-6)
The Bulldogs opened up a can of something or other on Stone Cold Stephen F. Austin. No Fitzgerald was no problem for Joe Moorhead as State rolled up 618 yards without their starting QB. They could compete for the East title — and might well end up 4th in the West. Life isn’t always fair, but our power rankings try to be.
4. Georgia (1-0, beat Austin Peay, 45-0)
Calm down, UGA fans. No, you didn’t do anything wrong. You just played Austin Peay, and the schools above you demonstrated their skills against much better competition. There’s no reason to think UGA doesn’t end up No. 2 in these rankings, and we’ll be watching next week to see if they could move up immediately.
3. Auburn (1-0, beat Washington, 21-16)
This is the kind of win that will carry some extra weight in the CFP selection process, which by the way, now would include Auburn. The Tigers have to run the ball better and did give up nearly 300 yards passing, but their defense made the big plays it had to make, and Jarrett Stidham gives the offense just enough punch to keep plowing on.
2. LSU (1-0, beat Miami, 33-17)
Miami probably isn’t very good, but LSU looked like it was. The Tigers were outgained, and Chapter 1 of Joe Burrow’s LSU career was pretty pedestrian, but when LSU’s defense plays like this, they’re a factor in the West on any given Saturday. Or Sunday.
1. Alabama (1-0, beat Louisville 51-14)
The Tide outrushed Louisville 222-16. When you add in Tua Tagovailoa, it’s just unfair. Alabama really didn’t play terribly well and absolutely destroyed a competent Louisville team. What if they don’t have 111 yards in penalties, miss an extra point and a short field goal, and pull their stud QB to play the backup?