The Southeastern Conference is no longer the unquestioned leader of the college football world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another conference as deep.
It’s still early and the numbers will even out over the next few weeks, but the SEC currently has eight teams in the Top 20 of ESPN’s SP+ rankings. The only conference to come close is the Big 10, which has four. So while Clemson may be the leader of the pride, the same truth holds — competing in the SEC is dangerous terrain, one that leaves some of the best teams in the country by the side of the road
With the bye week coming here at Ole Mizzou, we figured now was as good a time as any to start keeping an eye on the rest of the conference. Welcome to the first edition of the SEC Football Power Rankings!
1. Auburn (T-1st in West; 10th in SP+)
The numbers may say Tuscaloosa rules, but it’s Auburn who has been the most impressive on the young season. Not only did they mount a comeback against one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Justin Herbert, but they also knocked off the Aggies in College Station. If they can get sneak past Florida in a few weeks, the late-October match up in Death Valley could be the biggest game of the year.
2. Alabama (T-1st in West; 1st in SP+)
The numbers say they’re the best team in the country, and it’s hard to argue against. Their closest game was a 24-point snoozer in South Carolina. They’ve got a few more tuneups — including a visit to College Station in a little over a week — before LSU comes to town in the fight for SEC West supremacy.
3. Georgia (T-2nd in East; 4th in SP+)
Notre Dame gave them a scare, but the Bulldogs should have a relatively easy path to Atlanta once again. They visit Gainesville in early November in what should be the only real challenge for the East crown... unless of course Missouri wants a repeat of 2013.
4. LSU (T-1st in West; 7th in SP+)
Joe Burrow is having a Heisman season so far, and LSU currently sports maybe the best win in college football this year. Florida and Auburn are coming to town in the next few weeks, giving the Tigers an inside track to going undefeated into Tuscaloosa.
5. Florida (1st in East; 8th in SP+)
Florida has looked as good as you could have expected this early in the season, riding a traditionally stout defense (8th in SP+) and the hot hand of Kyle Trask, who has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes since taking over behind center.
6. Texas A&M (T-6th in West; 18th in SP+)
There’s no getting back into the SEC West race for the Aggies, but you can’t fault them too much for their two losses. Kellen Mond hasn’t been the fire-starter fans hoped he’d be, but he’s been more than solid, especially when you consider the defenses he’s had to face. The Aggies should be able to pile up a few more wins in this next third of the schedule, Alabama notwithstanding.
7. Missouri (T-2nd in East; 15th in SP+)
A surprisingly elite defense has bolstered an offense that has struggled to maintain consistency under Kelly Bryant. The next four games could be tricky, but if the Tigers can go 4-0, they waltz into Athens with a likely Top 20 ranking and a chance to unseat the Bulldogs at the top.
8. Mississippi State (T-1st in West; 14th in SP+)
The Bulldogs have been better than their on-field results show. Their loss to Kansas State doesn’t look as bad as it might’ve, but their only conference win came against hobbled Kentucky. They barely skirted past Louisiana-Lafayette in the opener. Hold on tight: three of their next four come against ranked teams.
9. Mississippi (T-1st in West; 53rd in SP+)
The Rebels two losses came at the hands of very good teams — Memphis has an elite defense thus far — but they also tried to drop a game at home to an FCS school. They’ll need to find two wins outside of New Mexico State and Vanderbilt if they want to go bowling.
10. Kentucky (T-5th in East; 52nd in SP+)
They nearly did it again against Florida, but it seems more and more like a transition year for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats. Sawyer Smith has been serviceable since taking over for Terry Wilson, but they’ll have to play catch up with a lot of teams moving forward.
11. South Carolina (T-5th in East; 45th in SP+)
Someone find Will Muschamp a landing spot! The Gamecocks’ schedule is buh-rutal from here on out, meaning they’ll have to be more than perfect to just snag six wins. After some promising weeks under center, Ryan Hilinski looked like a true freshman against Missouri. They’ll have a fight on their hands against Kentucky before heading to Athens to face another shutdown defense.
12. Arkansas (T-6th in West; 82nd in SP+)
Things were looking slightly up for the pigs before they dropped a home game to San Jose State. Nick Starkel has not been as advertised, throwing nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns. Chad Morris will likely be the latest coaching casualty out of Fayetteville in a few months.
13. Tennessee (4th in East; 63rd in SP+)
Will Jeremy Pruitt make it to Thanksgiving? The Volunteers aren’t nearly as bad as they’ve looked so far, but it’s hard to convince anyone of that when the only team not smacking you around is an FCS school. There’s a decent chance that a month goes by before they log their second win of the year.
14. Vanderbilt (T-5th in East; 108th in SP+)
We’re in Year Six of the Derek Mason era of Vanderbilt football, and he has yet to log a winning season. Yes, two of the first four games came against Top 5 teams, but it seems like the Commodores won’t have the offense to keep up if their defense continues to be porous.