Monday, October 10, 2011
SEC power rankings: Week 7
By Edward Aschoff and Chris Low
After another week of college football and we have some movement in the middle our power rankings. The top, however, isn’t budging at the moment:
1. LSU (6-0, 3-0): It seemed like the Tigers were just going through the motions at times over the weekend. Florida entered Death Valley with a true freshman quarterback and left with its pride shattered. LSU made it look so easy on both sides of the ball and Florida’s offensive and defensive lines were absolutely abused in the process. The Tigers have been on another level compared to their competition so far and LSU is playing out of its mind. The Tigers have also used their two-quarterback system with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson perfectly through two games. How the coaches are ranking the Tigers behind Oklahoma is baffling.
2. Alabama (6-0, 3-0): LSU might be the top team in the power rankings – and the country – but Alabama is a very, very close second. The Tide’s defense has been better statistically and while we still think LSU has the most athletic defense around, Alabama’s is equally as suffocating and has dismantled its opponents with ease thus far. Nov. 5 can’t come soon enough! One thing that Tide fans should be even happier about was quarterback AJ McCarron’s four-touchdown, turnover-free performance against Vanderbilt’s talented secondary. He just gets better every week and is starting to develop more of a downfield passing element.
3. Arkansas (5-1, 1-1): The Razorbacks aren’t on the same level with LSU or Alabama, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good team. The defense took some heat for its struggles against Texas A&M, but we saw a much-needed transformation Saturday against Auburn. Arkansas completely took Auburn’s passing game out of the equation and forced three interceptions in the process. Tyler Wilson and his band of receivers continue to impress us, and while the running game still needs some work, getting big plays out of Joe Adams out of the backfield has really helped. Making sure the defense doesn’t regress will be key for the Hogs going forward.
4. South Carolina (5-1, 3-1): Connor Shaw was exactly what South Carolina’s offense needed. After back-to-back embarrassing showings by Stephen Garcia, Shaw came in and really sparked this Gamecocks offense with his arm in a blowout win over Kentucky. He threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns as South Carolina put up 54 on the Wildcats. It was the strongest showing of the season for this offense and with the defense continuing to play up to its potential the Gamecocks are back to being seriously considered in the East race.
5. Auburn (4-2, 2-1): The early-season defense Auburn was afraid of seeing again reared its ugly head against Arkansas over the weekend. The Tigers were hurt by the Hogs’ passing game and surrendered a 92-yard run by Joe Adams. Quarterbacks Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier struggled mightily and couldn’t get Auburn back in the game. It’s time for coach Gene Chizik to go back and make some adjustments defensively and in the passing game. He made great defensive modifications after Auburn’s first loss, so we’ll see what he’s got in store this weekend against Florida.
6. Georgia (4-2, 3-1): The Bulldogs struggled on offense again, and eventually that has to become pretty worrisome, but the defense shut down Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. Georgia’s defense held him without a touchdown, snapping a 10-game streak of Bray passing for at least two touchdowns in a game, and swallowed up Tennessee’s running game (minus-20 yards). Georgia's defense has steadily improved each week and the Bulldogs are right in the thick of the East race. With the not-so-treacherous road ahead, winning out and making it back to Atlanta is a definite possibility for this team. South Carolina still needs to lose, but Georgia is feeling pretty good about itself after this four-game winning streak.
7. Florida (4-2, 2-2): Florida was down to its third-string quarterback against LSU, but was beaten at every position on the field. Even with a youngster (Jacoby Brissett) making his first start, we expected some sort of creativity in the game plan and the Gators had none. The fact is that this team tremendously misses John Brantley under center and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has to come up with a better strategy while the senior is out. Defensively, the front seven was punished against Alabama and LSU, giving up a combined 464 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks.
8. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2): You gotta feel for the Vols here. Quarterback Tyler Bray was one of the top offensive weapons in the league before he went down with a broken thumb that will keep him out at least four weeks. Top deep threat Justin Hunter was already out and running back Tauren Poole now has a hamstring injury. This team showed fight in both of its SEC losses, but the road ahead is very tough with LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas all meeting the Vols during a five-week stretch. It might get worse before it gets better in Knoxville.
9. Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2): The Commodores are struggling to get anything going on offense. It might be time to hand the keys to this offense over to quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who replaced starter Larry Smith against Alabama after the senior went down with a leg injury. Neither was great when they were in against the Tide, but Vandy’s offense is broken and it needs to get fixed in a hurry. Vandy’s bowl chances might rest on what the offense does in the second half. Defensively, we still like this secondary, but it was shredded by Alabama’s AJ McCarron over the weekend.
10. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3): The Bulldogs might have won over the weekend, but they didn’t look very good doing it. Mississippi actually trailed UAB 3-0 at the half because the offense failed to show up. It wasn’t until Tyler Russell replaced Chris Relf at quarterback in the third quarter that the Bulldogs finally showed offensive life. Russell threw three touchdowns in the second half to keep the Bulldogs from getting upset. Overall, the offensive execution on this team needs major work.
11. Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2): We can only imagine the preparation the Rebels went through during their bye week to get ready for a visiting Alabama team that is just running through opponents right now. Ole Miss is sticking with Randall Mackey at quarterback after his solid performance at Fresno State, and the hope is that the offense finally gets a consistent lift with him out there. We saw a better, more explosive offense with Mackey in the game, but expecting a duplicate performance this week would be like expecting the cast of Jersey Shore to be invited back to Italy after what we’ve seen in Season 4.
12. Kentucky (2-4, 0-3): Can things get any worse for the Wildcats’ offense? Kentucky is last in the SEC in scoring (13 points per game), total offense (229 yards per game), passing (119 ypg), passing efficiency (78.5), turnovers (17) and red zone scoring (75 percent). Quarterback Morgan Newton might be a junior, but he looks worse than he did during his freshman season and it doesn’t help that he doesn’t have consistently reliable targets to throw to. The defense is improved, but it can’t carry this team. Major offensive changes need to take place during the bye week.