SEC Football: Power Ranking the Conference After Week 1

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor ISeptember 4, 2011

SEC Football: Power Ranking the Conference After Week 1

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    The first week of SEC football games is in the books, and what a weekend of games it was!

    Big plays, onside-kick recoveries, blowouts, comebacks and heartbreaks—we seemingly had it all.

    One week of games doesn't tell us everything, it might not even tell us much, but it tells us enough to begin to sort out the pecking order in the SEC.

    Click through the slideshow to see how I power ranked the Southeastern Conference after Week 1.

12. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Score: Vanderbilt 45, Elon 14

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP:  QB Larry Smith; 125 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, plus 34 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

    Standout Stat: Zero turnovers for Vanderbilt; after struggling with turnovers in 2010 and finishing last season with a -4 turnover ratio, the Commodores held onto the ball in Week 1 of 2011.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. Connecticut 

     

    Vanderbilt is happy to get a win in new head coach James Franklin's debut. After being up just 21-14 in the middle of third quarter, the Commodores rallied to score 21 in the fourth quarter and rolled to a 31-point victory over Elon.

    The competition was not stiff, but Franklin and the Commodores will take any win they can get as they try to rebuild the program.

11. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Score: Kentucky 14, Western Kentucky 3

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: S Winston Guy; the star safety made key tackles, grabbed two big interceptions and had a 19-yard kick return.

    Standout Stat: 190 total offensive yards; the Wildcats' offense struggled mightily against a Sun Belt defense.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. Central Michigan 

     

    After losing dynamic stars like Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb from last year's offense, Kentucky is trying to rebuild on the offensive side of the ball—and it showed.

    The defense looked sharp though, and a win is always a nice way to start the season.

10. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Score: BYU 14, Ole Miss 13

     Record: 0-1 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: CB Charles Sawyer; the sophomore corner took an interception back 96 yards for the Rebels only touchdown in the game.

    Standout Stat: Two fumbles lost; you can't lose the turnover battle in close games. The second fumble gave BYU the winning touchdown

    Next:  Sept. 10 vs. Southern Illinois 

     

    Lackluster offense without injured running back Brandon Bolden for most of the game and a costly fumble cost Ole Miss a victory and got their season off to a heartbreaking start.

9. Auburn Tigers

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    Score: Auburn 42, Utah State 38

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: QB Barrett Trotter; a solid start for the new Auburn quarterback. He finished with 261 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    Standout Stat: 227 rushing yards for Utah State; the Auburn run-defense struggled all game long and consistently gave up big chunks of yards to the Aggie runners.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. Mississippi State 

     

    The defending national champions gave their fans a scare by almost losing to underdog Utah State on opening weekend.

    By almost, I mean Auburn needed to recover an onside kick and score with just minutes remaining in the game to secure the victory.

    There is young talent all over the field for Auburn, but there is much work to be done on the Plains. In the end, Tigers fans, players and coaches are just happy to have avoided an ugly loss.

8. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Score: Tennessee 42, Montana 16

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: QB Tyler Bray; the Volunteer sophomore quarterback passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

    Standout Stat: 311 passing yards; Tennessee showed they could have a dangerous passing attack as the season rolls along, with two receivers having more than 100 yards and a touchdown in this opener.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. Cincinnati 

     

    Tennessee came out hot and jumped out to a 28-0 lead over outmatched Montana. Depth issues for the Vols then started to show as Montana outscored the Vols 16-14 from that point on.

    However, the starters looked very solid, and it was a good start for the 2011 season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Score: Boise State 35, Georgia 21

    Record: 0-1 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: TE Orson Charles; the SEC's best tight end got off to a big start for the season, catching six balls for 109 yards and a touchdown.

    Standout Stat: 261 passing yards for Boise State; the Georgia rush-defense was solid, but the secondary gave up too many yards and too many big plays in the loss.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. South Carolina

     

    Boise State beat Georgia soundly on Saturday. Not the way Georgia was hoping to start the season, obviously.

    However, the Broncos are a very good team, and the Bulldogs have not lost all hope for the season. Next week's game against South Carolina looms large.

6. Florida Gators

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    Score: Florida 41, FAU 3

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: RB Chris Rainey; the speedy back ran for 79 yards and a score, and also caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.

    Standout Stat: 197 rushing yards for Florida; the passing game turned over the ball too many times, but the Florida ground game was more than effective. Rainey and fellow running back Jeff Demps both averaged more than seven yards per carry.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. UAB

     

    Will Muschamp won in his debut as the Florida head coach, and it was impressive on both sides of the ball. FAU is not a good football team, but the execution of the game plan was solid for Florida. 

    The Gators may be ranked too low here and could rocket up the list with wins against more quality opponents down the line.

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Score: Miss. State 59, Memphis 14

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: RB Vick Ballard; one of the more underrated players in the nation, Ballard ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries.

    Standout Stat: 645 offensive yards for Mississippi State; the Bulldogs lit up the scoreboard and stat book on Thursday. They ended the game with 336 yards passing and 309 yards rushing for a nice offensive balance.

    Next: Sept. 10 at Auburn 

     

    The Bulldogs steamrolled Memphis Thursday night and got their season off to a hot start. The offense looked dynamic and balanced as Mississippi State began their 2011 campaign. The defense was a little more porous than expected, but did only give up 14 points.

    This team has the potential to be a dark horse in the SEC race.

4. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Score: Arkansas 51, Missouri State 7

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: WR Jarious Wright (the talented wide-out grabbed 6 balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday)

    Standout Stat: 3.1 rush yards per carry (Arkansas may miss Knile Davis more than some thought, 3.1 yards per rush against an FCS program isn't where the Razorbacks need to be)

    Next: Sept. 10th Vs. New Mexico 

     

    After a win over outmatched Missouri State from the FCS division, we still don't know a ton about the Razorbacks.

    However, they did handle their business in impressive fashion with a blowout 51-7 win Saturday. The running game was less than stellar, but the passing game and defense were rock solid.

3. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Score: South Carolina 56, East Carolina 37

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: RB Marcus Lattimore; the star sophomore running back ended up with 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also reeled in three passes for 33 yards.

    Standout Stat: 220 rushing yards for South Carolina; the Gamecocks racked up big run plays from Lattimore and quarterback Stephen Garcia, who ended up with 56 yards on the ground.

    Next: Sept. 10 at Georgia 

     

    South Carolina came out of the gate a little sluggish, but rebounded and ultimately crushed East Carolina. 

    Much-maligned quarterback Stephen Garcia came in as the backup when Carolina was losing 17-0 and seemingly turned the game around. The offense began to click, and the Gamecocks went on to score an impressive 56 points.

    The only concern is the defense, and the 37 points it surrendered in the game. When all is said and done though, it was a good win to start the season against a decent East Carolina squad.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Score: Alabama 48, Kent State 7

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: WR Marquis Maze (the junior wide receiver hauled in eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown)

    Standout Stat: 5 rushing touchdowns for Alabama (Trent Richardson lead the Tide with 3 rushing touchdowns on Saturday and Alabama had two others find the end zone running the ball behind a talented offensive line. This group will be hard to stop near the goal line.)

    Next: Sept. 10th at Penn State 

     

    Alabama could easily be listed first in this ranking, but a Kent State victory doesn't compare well with a win over Oregon (which LSU accomplished on Saturday).

    So for now, Alabama will be quite content with a 1-0 record, and a team that looks elite on defense and in the running game. The Tide must cut down on turnovers (they had five against Kent State), but otherwise looks the part of a championship contender.

1. LSU Tigers

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     Score: LSU 40, Oregon 27

    Record: 1-0 (0-0)

    This Week's MVP: RB Michael Ford; the sophomore running back had a huge performance in this big game, gaining 96 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns on just 14 carries.

    Standout Stat: 95 rushing yards for Oregon; LSU held the Ducks' running game, including Heisman hopeful LaMichael James, to just 96 yards rushing for the game.

    Next: Sept. 10 vs. Northwestern State 

     

    The LSU Tigers, even with all the off-the-field distractions (including losing starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and star wide receiver Russell Sheppard to separate suspensions), were able to beat a highly-ranked Oregon team in Arlington Saturday.

    The offense, especially the running game, was impressive, and the defense looks nasty. This could be a hard team to beat in 2011.