After sitting at number two all year, the Tide move into the number one spot in the SEC Power Rankings with a little help from their friends. Make no mistake, Alabama is stacked this year and their defense made a statement this week by holding Arkansas to only 7 points.
While Florida may be the better team by the end of the year, if these two teams played head-to-head next week, Alabama would have the edge with the injury to Tebow. One thing that Alabama has is the ability to make big plays. Quarterback Greg McElroy has had three straight games with over 70 percent of his passes completed and is averaging over 10 yards per attempt.
While we don’t know the severity of Tebow’s injury, all indications are that John Brantley has the ability to fill the roll and maintain some level of productivity on offense. If Florida keeps playing defense the way they have, they don’t need to score much.
They lead the SEC with 7.3 points allowed per game. The bye week will help the Gators regroup and prepare before heading into the toughest part of their schedule. Look for a strong performance against LSU in two weeks.
With two unimpressive outings from LSU and Mississippi, Georgia slides up in the rankings. Expectations are low, but Georgia has shown they can win the close ones. Nail-biters in the last three wins were only by six points, on average.
When the offense is hot, UGA can put up big numbers, but their defense is giving up nearly 30 points per game. This week will be a big test with LSU traveling to Athens. If the defense can contain and Joe Cox has a mistake-free game, then it looks promising for the Bulldogs.
This week scared Tiger nation as LSU struggled to put away one of the SEC’s worst teams, Mississippi State. Once again, highly-touted running back Charles Scott was a no-show, as he carried only six times for 15 yards. After nearly 1,200 yards on the ground last year, Scott is only averaging 45 yards per game in 2009.
Another weakness that could be exposed against Georgia is the nearly 200 yards passing they have given up each game. On the positive side, Jordan Jefferson has been a stud with over 700 yards passing and seven touchdown tosses. Look for a great game from him as he tries to exploit the weak Georgia pass defense.
While their defense isn’t scaring anyone, their offense has been lights-out on a consistent basis. They are averaging 45.3 points per game; almost identical to Florida’s numbers. Auburn has an SEC best 1,060 yards passing and second-best 1,045 yards rushing.
This week is a great test of that balanced attack, as the Tigers face one of the best defenses in the SEC in Tennessee. Look for a big day out of Chris Todd, as Auburn will try to move the ball through the air if Tennessee focuses on taking away the run.
We don’t know if the loss to South Carolina was just a hiccup or a true indication of the talent level of the Rebels. One thing is for sure, though; Mississippi has a lot of improvement that needs to be made in two weeks before they face Alabama.
As bad as the final score was against the Gamecocks, it still doesn’t show how effectively the Rebels offense was shut down. Of their 248 total yards, 125 of them came in the fourth quarter and a late touchdown was all that helped them save face. The upcoming game against Vanderbilt should be a good indicator of whether Mississippi can regroup or if they are a flop this year.
Despite the loss to Alabama, the Hogs are still a tough group to deal with. Alabama did a good job of defending against the pass and that is the only way to beat Arkansas. The Achilles' heel for the Razorbacks is the lack of defense, with an SEC-worst 32 points per game allowed. The run defense has been fairly solid, but opponents are burning them for 263 yards through the air every game.
Those kinds of numbers are not going to win too many games in the SEC. Arkansas has a tough four-game stretch ahead of them with Texas A&M and Auburn at home, followed by Florida and Mississippi on the road. Don’t expect more than two wins in the next four for the Hogs.
The Tennessee defense had somewhat of a lapse this week as they allowed 319 passing yards to Ohio. This is one game that can go in the positive column for Jonathan Crompton, as he threw two touchdowns and only one interception. There are still big question marks for the offense, most notably the eight picks thrown by Crompton.
The defense does have the ability to win them a lot of games, though. Tennessee heads into the toughest stretch of their schedule as they host Auburn and Georgia, take their bye week, travel to Alabama, then face South Carolina at home. If Tennessee can shut down the high-powered offense of Auburn and get a win, it will be a good step towards a bright future in Knoxville.
9. South Carolina
While their Thursday night win was a big one against Mississippi, the Gamecocks are still a long way from being a contender in the SEC. They have good yardage statistics, but their offense has failed to be consistent and have only put up 24.5 points per game; second worst in the conference.
South Carolina is still one of the hardest teams to read because of how high and low their swings have been. They looked very mediocre against North Carolina State in their opener, but in the Georgia game, their offense showed flashes of brilliance. October 17th is the day when expectations will either be confirmed or denied as South Carolina travels to play Alabama.
10. Mississippi State
This week was a great performance from the Bulldogs. They stood toe-to-toe with LSU in every major statistical category except one; turnovers. Three interceptions and a fumble gave LSU a win they did not deserve after the Mississippi State defense shut down the LSU running game.
While the Bulldogs are not going to be competing for a SEC title this year, they have suddenly become scary with a scrappy defense and a good running game. They could be a good sleeper team, as they have five ranked teams still on their schedule. Look for an upset this week as they host a deflated Georgia Tech at home.
One of the most surprising units in the SEC this year could be the Vanderbilt defense, which has given up only 13.8 points per game. They lead the SEC with only 106 yards passing allowed per game and have already racked up five interceptions.
They could be the next team to upset Mississippi this week, as their defense squares off against Jevan Snead. The Commodore offense has improving to do in the passing game, as they have only scored one touchdown through the air all year.
It’s hard being near the bottom of the conference and having to go up against the number one team in the nation. Kentucky couldn’t move the ball Saturday as they accumulated only 179 yards of total offense all day.
To make matters worse, the schedule looks gruesome for the Wildcats with three straight SEC games looming against Alabama, South Carolina, and Auburn. After that, the pain may ease with a manageable schedule until the last two weeks of the season. Be prepared for a tough stretch in Lexington.
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