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SEC Power Rankings: The prime real estate of the SEC Suburbs

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We know the top, we know the bottom, but the middle of the SEC really hasn’t separated itself out yet. This week has a chance to do so.

NCAA Football: Towson at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Josh “The Deputy” Matejka unveiled the first look at 2019’s SEC Power Rankings to much fanfare and celebration. Going forward, I’ll be unveiling each week’s edition of the SEC Power Rankings, math-ing it up and using complicated formulas to better flesh out the pecking order of God’s Conference. And — to be clear — at this point, the SEC is the best conference top to bottom, but the gap is closing. Both the XII and the B1G are coming extremely close from a conference quality standpoint. But, we don’t care about those conferences, so let’s take a look at ours!

Note: In my version of the power rankings, I’ll give you individual rankings, but group them in tiers. Essentially, each team has a ladder match against the rest of the conference, and if that team comes across another team that I don’t think they’d beat, they stay on that rung of the ladder. So, for example, I don’t think any team in the SEC could reliably beat Alabama, so they’re at the top rung; likewise, I think any team could beat Vanderbilt at this point so they’re on the bottom rung.

Tier I - Conference Champion/Playoff Aspirations

Tier I

No surprise that the four best recruiting teams in the conference (and, nearly, the nation) are in the top tier. As far as my money goes, Alabama is king until proven otherwise. They “only” have the second-best defense in the conference — the first is Missouri HEY-OH — but remember that that’s the second-best defense in the conference starting mostly underclassmen, so they’re only going to get better. LSU has been a surprise simply from an offensive standpoint, but no matter what LSU does and how many “September-Heismans” they have... the Alabama buzz saw always cuts them down. Auburn has claimed the best pelts out of this group, but can be exposed through the air, and Georgia, emulating early-Saban-era Alabama, plays a style of offense that mitigates opportunities for mistakes and relies on defense to bail them out. It works! But it’s not impressive and can keep games unnecessarily close.

All four of these teams will be shoo-ins for the Playoff if they win the SEC, but which one comes out of this tier is TBD.

Tier II - Conference contenders with flaws

Tier II

I debated on throwing Florida into Tier I, but for the moment, they’re the top of Tier II. This group is comprised of teams that can absolutely win their division, but have some more debilitating flaws that can hold them back. I need to see more from Kyle Trask and the Gator ground game before I feel confident in throwing them up into Tier I. A&M has all the talent in the world, but is prone to giving up big plays for loss and can’t generate an explosive play to save their lives. We’re all familiar with Missouri’s strengths and weaknesses, and Mississippi State has had massive defensive regression paired with an offensive resurgence behind the freshman bearded-sensation Garrett Shrader. If the teams in Tier I stumble, one of these teams could step up. The likelihood, however, of two teams from Tier II making it in the Championship game are slim, especially since the known weaknesses will definitely hold these four back.

Tier III - Yeah, not happening this year

Tier III

Look at the Strength of Schedule measurement of these four teams: even Top 10 teams would struggle against schedules like this, and these teams are noticeably not Top-10 caliber. South Carolina might be the most competent of the bunch, but their schedule will make it so that 6-7 wins is a huge victory. Ole Miss is in full-on rebuild and trotting out a freshman quarterback. Tennessee is a total trainwreck, but at least has multi-year starters, whereas Kentucky is starting almost an entirely brand-new roster from last year with the addition of a transfer quarterback in his first year with the program. The jockeying for position within this tier might change, but due to several factors, the goal for this group is bowl eligibility and building towards next year.

Tier IV - The speed bumps

Tier IV

Yeah... two interesting teams here. The first is Arkansas, in the second year of Chad Morris’ tenure after a Year Zero situation and they’re somehow... worse? They gave Texas A&M a run, but that’s more of a product of the Aggies’ deficiencies. However, the Razorbacks only have a game performance over 50% once (against Colorado State) and have mostly operated under 40% effectiveness for their 5 games this year.

Vanderbilt is currently fielding the worst defense in the Derek Mason era and it’s not even close. The offense has improved to 41st, but is overly reliant on explosive plays or else they don’t have any movement. The defense? Well, the “strength” of the defense is its 56th-ranked power success rate, while all other categories are 100th or worse. Any SEC team that loses to Vanderbilt this year should be ashamed... which means the Tigers will probably stub their toe on the Commodores in the first conference road game of the season. Fun!