After two weeks of mostly cupcake games, week three got SEC play going in full force, and we were able to learn about quite a few teams. Mississippi State and Vanderbilt showed that they are for real with wins over two top 25 opponents, and South Carolina not only lost their game to Kentucky, but also lost their big play threat in receiver Deebo Samuel for the season. Throw in a couple tough losses in non-conference play, and the SEC has begun to take shape in 2017.
14. Missouri (Last week: 14)
Missouri welcomed Purdue to town for a third straight home game to start the season, and the Tigers were throttled 35-3. Missouri has struggled moving the ball the last two weeks and play absolutely no defense. Can we send Missouri back to the Big 12, maybe trade them for Oklahoma or something?
13. Ole Miss (13)
The Rebels (Bears? Sharks?) traveled to Berkley to take on the Cal Bears (really, just the Bears), and it was a tale of two halves for Matt Luke and company. Ole Miss built a 16-7 lead at the half, which is not overly impressive but a lead on the road nonetheless, but were outscored 20-0 in the second half. Shea Patterson struggled all night, tossing three interceptions, including a pick six to seal the win for Cal. Ole Miss was shutout in the 2nd half by a bad Pac 12 defense, and they struggled to stop the run again. Perhaps the most shocking statistic in the loss: Ole Miss gained just 416 yards of offense (53 rushing on 29 carries) against a Cal defense that gave up 571 yards to Weber State just a week prior.
12. Arkansas (11)
Arkansas had a bye week last weekend and will face Texas A&M in Arlington this week. It’s a big matchup for both teams, and could potentially end Kevin Sumlin’s career in College Station.
11. Texas A&M (9)
The Aggies trailed Louisiana-Lafayette 21-14 at halftime Saturday. At home. In a statement game opportunity. A&M would end up scoring the final 31 points of the game to get the win 45-21, but it felt ugly the whole time. Like kissing your sister ugly (looking at you Alabama). Despite storming back to win easily, nothing about the game increased my confidence in the Aggies. Sumlin’s days are numbered, and Arkansas has had two weeks to prepare for their annual battle in Dallas.
10. South Carolina (8)
South Carolina had a golden opportunity last week to cement themselves as a top team in the East with a win over Kentucky at home, but they weren’t able to get it done. Not only did they fall to Kentucky, they also lost their big play threat in Deebo Samuel for the season. The talented receiver was a kick returner and the number one option for Jake Bentley in what was shaping up to be one of the best offenses in the conference. Without Samuel, the rest of the season could be tough sledding. It will be interesting to see how they respond against La Tech next week.
9. Kentucky (12)
After two weeks of being fairly unimpressive, the Wildcats went to Columbia, South Carolina, and pulled out a big win on the road. This team is at its best when they are able to play great defense and run the football. For the first time this year, that actually happened. Benny Snell Jr. rushed for over 100 yards, and after a 63 yard touchdown on the first play of the game for Deebo Samuel, the Wildcat defense held South Carolina to just 300 yards of offense. Kentucky has an opportunity this weekend for a statement win when Florida comes to Lexington.
8. Tennessee (7)
Following another loss to Florida, Tennessee fans are calling for Butch Jones’ head. Jones made multiple questionable decisions throughout the game, including allowing a receiver to beat prevent defense for a last-second Hail Mary loss to the Gators twice in the last three seasons . It would surprise me if Butch Jones is still in Knoxville next season.
7. LSU (3)
The Tigers traveled to Starkville last week, where they were dominated in all three phases to the tune of a humiliating 37-7 loss. The Tigers have problems all over the field that need to be addressed, starting with the ridiculous number of penalties (30 for 272 yards through three games). Luckily for Ed Orgeron and the Tigers, they have two inferior non-conference opponents ahead of them to get these issues worked out. But the SEC is not the league to make mistakes in, and the Coach O era in the bayou is off to a rocky start.
6. Vanderbilt (10)
The Commodores just continue to impress, this week against a talented Kansas State team lead by Bill Snyder. Vandy is doing it with outstanding defense, running the football effectively and by getting consistent play out of quarterback Kyle Shurmer. This was the first win against a ranked non-conference opponent since 1946 for Vandy. Needless to say, Derek Mason is riding a high after the best win of his career. However, this week Vanderbilt will get a chance to turn the entire college football world on its head when Alabama comes to town. Or not.
5. Florida (5)
The Gators needed a Hail Mary at the end against Tennessee to sneak away with a win on Saturday, as the offense continues to struggle in the Swamp. Florida doesn’t look like a world beater by any means, but give me one reason why they can’t win the East (ok, ok, besides Georgia). Their defense is elite, and I expect true freshman Felipe Franks to continue to get better each and every game. If they get a few more breaks, they could have an opportunity to get rolled by Nick Saban again in Atlanta this season.
4. Auburn (4)
The Tigers struggled a bit with Mercer on Saturday, but were able to leave the plains with a 24-10 victory. Auburn turned the ball over five times, but was able to overcome that and win a game that was never truly in doubt. While the Tigers have a lot of improving to do before facing off against Mississippi State in two weeks, there isn’t much reason to drop them in this weeks power rankings. Gus Malzahn has a lot to figure out before facing Todd Grantham’s defense though.
3. Mississippi State (6)
The Bulldogs throttled LSU at home to the tune of 37-7 this past Saturday in front of a raucous crowd at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. The Bulldog defense put the entire SEC on notice by coming as close to stopping Guice as you can get, holding the future NFL back to 76 yards on 15 carries. Aeris Williams and Nick Fitzgerald ran all over LSU in a game that was never in doubt, as the Bulldogs scored 30 unanswered points in the biggest victory between the two West Division rivals. Mississippi State will get a chance this week to cement themselves as the second best team in the conference when they travel to Athens to take on Georgia. If the maroon-clad Dawgs can pull out a victory Between the Hedges, this 2017 season begins to shape up like the magical 2014 team that defeated three straight top 10 teams en route to a number one national ranking. But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.
2. Georgia (2)
Georgia took care of business against Samford like an SEC team should in a 42-14 win. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was an efficient 8-13 for 165 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, but Samford was clearly out-classed on the field. Georgia will welcome Mississippi State to Athens this week in a battle of Bulldogs, and the stakes certainly couldn’t be higher. Georgia has a chance to get back to Atlanta this year, and a win over a West Division opponent is a big step in the right direction for Georgia.
1. Alabama (1)
The Crimson Tide rolled over Colorado State 41-23 this past weekend, but did show some vulnerability, especially on the front seven. With that said, it isn’t abnormal for Nick Saban-led teams to not play to their potential against weaker opponents. Bama will get a chance to prove themselves this week against a solid Vanderbilt team on the road. This is a sneaky good matchup, as this year’s Tide just aren’t what we have come to expect in Tuscaloosa over the last decade. But until you beat the man, you can’t be the man. And Alabama is still the man.