Uncle Mo’s Power Index: Mizzou's momentum difficult to ignore
The regular season has officially come to a close, and Uncle Mo has put together one final edition of his momentum rankings following a thrilling Rivalry Week in the SEC.
He watched all the games, read all the polls and did all his homework to come up with this week’s rankings, and he feels pretty good about them.
Remember, these are not power rankings, they’re momentum rankings. There’s a difference. Keep that in mind when reading through the list.
There’s plenty of shakeup from last week’s rankings, so let’s jump right in:
1. Alabama: The Tide set an Iron Bowl record with a 55-point performance in a win over Auburn, allowing ‘Bama to maintain its No. 1 national ranking and lock up yet another SEC West crown. The Tide has won seven straight games since its only loss of the season, including three wins over ranked teams. Alabama is as hot as any team in the nation, and it’s impossible to argue any team in America, no less the SEC, has more momentum at the end of the regular season than the Crimson Tide.
2. Missouri: The Tigers continue to find ways to prove us all wrong and win ballgames against quality teams, coming from behind to take care of Arkansas in Friday’s season finale to wrap up a second straight SEC East crown. Simply put, this team knows how to win, regardless of matchups or roster talent or even location of a game (Mizzou has won eight straight SEC road games). The Tigers will be underdogs in Saturday’s SEC championship game, but it’s unwise to pick against a team that has more momentum than any of us care to admit.
3. Ole Miss: The Rebels needed a win over Mississippi State in the worst of ways to avoid a disastrous end to an otherwise promising season. Not only did they get that win despite a number of devastating injuries, but they did so in convincing fashion. Ole Miss ends the year with nine wins, including wins over both Alabama and Mississippi State, and it is as confident as any team in America entering the upcoming bowl season. The Rebels faltered down the stretch, but they’ve got Uncle Mo back on their side this postseason.
4. Auburn: The Tigers actually moved up in these rankings despite a loss to Alabama because, frankly, the Tigers still played really well on offense despite the loss. Nick Marshall had his best game as a college quarterback in the loss and the Tigers got their swagger back in pushing a much more talented Alabama team to the brink with its season on the line. Auburn can’t be thrilled by having to play spoiler this winter, but it’s playing the part perfectly, and even in a loss it picked up a ton of momentum last weekend.
5. Arkansas: Again, like Auburn, the Hogs remain high in this week’s momentum rankings even after a loss to end the regular season. The Razorbacks may have fallen short against Missouri, but they played the two-time defending East champs tough on the road with quarterback Brandon Allen seemingly held together with some duct tape and a bungee cord. Arkansas finally convinced the nation, and itself, it is a quality team to be reckoned with this bowl season and next season in the hotly contested SEC West. A 6-6 record may not impress many fans, but it is a sign the Hogs have picked up plenty of momentum late in the season.
6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs laid eggs against their two best opponents this season — Alabama and Ole Miss — to cost themselves a shot at an SEC West title and a playoff berth this winter. Nevertheless, they won 10 games before their bowl game for the first time since World War II, and put together a season for the ages with wins against LSU (on the road) and Auburn. The Bulldogs may have lost some momentum in last week’s Egg Bowl defeat, but they’re still a confident bunch hoping to close their season in style in whichever New Year’s Six bowl they’re invited to.
7. LSU: LSU won eight games for the 15th year in a row with its ugly road win over Texas A&M last Thursday, compensating for a wealth of young, raw, undeveloped talent to still post what is still considered a quality season in the eyes of many. Les Miles has this group headed in the right direction, and that has helped the Tigers maintain plenty of momentum this season even as the times got tough. The Tigers should play with confidence this bowl season and should be back in the role of SEC West contenders when next year begins.
8. Tennessee: If you were impressed by Tennessee’s narrow seven-point win over Vanderbilt last weekend, don’t be. The Commodores hadn’t played an SEC team within 10 points prior to the loss to UT, and Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw for just 92 yards against a defense ranked in the bottom-half of the SEC in most statistical categories. The Vols clinched bowl eligibility with the victory, which is a huge step for Butch Jones and company, but they barely beat a cupcake team to do so and closed the year with tepid performances against Mizzou and Vandy in back to back weeks. Tennessee has some momentum going forward, but Dobbs has cooled off a lot and this team appears much less impressive since the A.J. Johnson suspension.
9. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost a heartbreaker at home to LSU to close a disappointing 7-5 season, and although they don’t have much positive momentum at their backs heading into the bowl season they remain confident in their young core, including Kyle Allen, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones, Myles Garrett and Armani Watts. (Every player listed was a freshman this year.) Texas A&M lost a lot of talent off last year’s team and actually could have regressed much more than they did, even amid a midseason quarterback change. The Aggies don’t have much momentum, but they’re heading in the right direction nonetheless, which absolutely counts for something.
10. Georgia: The Bulldogs were as perplexing a team as any in the SEC this season, blowing out ranked teams like Missouri and Auburn only to lose to mediocre foes like South Carolina and Florida. Georgia Tech is far from a mediocre foe, but let’s be real — UGA choked that game away in the final 18 seconds of regulation. The Bulldogs cost themselves a New Year’s Six bowl and a hefty pay day with the loss, and they fell to the Yellow Jackets for just the second time since 2001 to forfeit bragging rights in the Peach State. The Dawgs 9-3 record is impressive, but their performance in Week 14 was not.
11. South Carolina: The Gamecocks lost to Clemson for the first time since 2008, and did so against a freshman quarterback playing on a torn ACL. The Gamecocks fate as a mediocre team was sealed well before Saturday’s Palmetto Bowl, but the 18-point loss to the Tigers sucked up any momentum South Carolina might have had entering Week 14. South Carolina will held to a modest bowl game and simply play out the string before trying to start over again next season. That’s not the way most fans thought the season would end when South Carolina began the year ranked No. 9 in the preseason polls.
12. Florida: The Gators lost a game they should have won against undefeated Florida State last Saturday, closing the book on another frustrating season in Gainesville. Florida did earn bowl eligibility this year, something it did not do last year, but the offense remains putrid, the head coach has been fired and the Gators have now lost at least five games in back to back years. If you can find evidence for any momentum they might have gained along the way, feel free to share with the rest of the class. The win over Georgia was a signature win, no doubt, but it also came more than a month ago, and there have been plenty of struggles since then. The Gators will get the fresh start they need as Jim McElwain takes over the program, but they’ll need to rebuild their momentum from scratch.
13. Kentucky: The Wildcats closed a bizarre, thrilling, frustrating 2014 season with a sixth straight loss to miss out on bowl eligibility for the fourth year in a row. They also lost to Louisville for the fourth year in a row, falling 44-40 last Saturday in a back-and-forth thriller. Kentucky played well against the No. 22 Cardinals, far better than they had during the rest of their six-game skid, but it was not enough to salvage a much-needed bowl berth out of this season. The Cats lost five of those six games by double figures, and aside from South Carolina their best win came against either Vandy, Ohio or Louisiana-Monroe — take your pick. Kentucky took a big step in the right direction, but it closed the season with absolutely no momentum behind it.
14. Vanderbilt: The Commodores spent most of the year at the bottom of this list, falling to 3-9 after back to back nine-win seasons. The Dores went 0-8 in the SEC and lost eight of their nine games by double figures. Their best win was either UMass or Old Dominion — again, take your pick. Vanderbilt was a dumpster fire this season and it has already made sweeping changes to the coaching staff by firing offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell and a number of his assistants. Vandy is a young team still building a foundation in the Derek Mason era, and let’s just say it left plenty of room for growth after a dreadful 2014 season.