SEC Football Power Rankings: Week 11

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2018

SEC Football Power Rankings: Week 11

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    With Alabama, LSU and Georgia taking care of business, there were no changes in the top three of the SEC power rankings besides the Bulldogs pulling into a tie with the Tigers at No. 2.

    There's no question those three are the cream of the league and will remain that way for the remainder of the 2018 season.

    But the rest of the rankings continue to be all over the place as the SEC keeps beating up on itself.

    This week, it was Kentucky's turn to free-fall. The No. 11 Wildcats waltzed into Neyland Stadium and limped out with their 17th consecutive defeat to the Vols in Knoxville. South Carolina blew a massive second-half lead to lose to Florida.

    Missouri came back to beat a Vanderbilt team that can't finish, Texas A&M stopped its two-game slide with a win over Ole Miss, and LSU held off a late rally by Arkansas to win by seven.

    Alabama and Georgia remained unchallenged in recent weeks.

    So, where did everybody fall after Week 11? Let's take a look at the SEC power rankings as we head into the final two weeks of the regular season.

14. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    There was a point in the fourth quarter in which LSU was handling Arkansas 24-3, and it looked to be another dominant defensive performance.

    That's when the Hogs caught fire with two quick-strike touchdowns to pull within a score late. But LSU controlled the ball, and running back Nick Brossette salted away the rest of the clock, choosing to fall down twice in the final minute rather than score another style-points touchdown.

    The Tigers finished with a 24-17 road win over Arkansas that looked much uglier than it was.

    Though head coach Chad Morris' Razorbacks continued to have some of the same issues that plagued them all season, such as a lack of a running game (Arkansas finished with 16 yards on the ground), there were some positives.

    Coordinator John Chavis' unit had perhaps the best defensive performance of the season against a good team. Also, quarterback Ty Storey threw for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was key to the comeback attempt that fell just short.

    It's clear this late in the season that progress isn't going to be measured in wins and losses for Arkansas, but there were some glimmers of hope. If Morris' scheme is going to adapt to SEC play, he has to learn to grind. The Hogs did that against LSU.

    It wasn't enough to get a victory, but they won some respect.

13. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    For much of Saturday afternoon, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason's Commodores looked like they were going to come away from Columbia, Missouri, with an all-important fifth win.

    If Mason's job is going to be completely safe, the 'Dores need to make it to the postseason, especially after such a strong start to the year that culminated with a near-upset of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

    Even though VU built a two-score lead against the Tigers, quarterback Drew Lock led back his team and wound up with a fourth-quarter go-ahead score to win 33-28.

    The loss drops Vanderbilt to 1-5 in the SEC and 4-6 on the season. The 'Dores need to win the season's final two games against Ole Miss and Tennessee to guarantee a postseason berth.

    "It's been the same story all season," frustrated Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney told The Tennessean afterward. "We just can't finish, for whatever reason."

    Saturday was more about a defensive collapse than anything. Lock's second-half heroics gave him the edge in a battle of strong senior quarterbacks with Kyle Shurmur. Now, Vanderbilt has to find a way to pick up the pieces yet again and win an important game.

    It can probably make a bowl game at 5-7, and with rival Tennessee left on the schedule, getting that one would be sweet. But this team needs six wins to feel safe. An opportunity slipped through the Commodores' fingers Saturday.

12. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss had a golden opportunity to pick on a vulnerable Texas A&M team at Kyle Field on Saturday.

    Instead, the defense ran into its same old problems, and the Rebels didn't get any early help from the football gods when star running back Scottie Phillips went down early with a game-ending injury.

    That made the team more one-dimensional than it wanted, and though the game was close throughout, Ole Miss allowed a game-breaking Trayveon Williams touchdown late to lose 38-24 on the road.

    Senior quarterback Jordan Ta'amu (22-of-35, 373 yards, one touchdown) played well again in the loss, and Ole Miss continued to flex its muscle in the receiving corps. But it had no answers for Williams, who had over 200 rushing yards. Or for quarterback Kellen Mond, who accounted for four touchdowns.

    After a good start to the season, the Rebels have come crashing back to earth thanks to its consistently awful defense that is 125th out of 130 FBS teams with 499.4 yards allowed per game and has continued to fail them in SEC play week after week. 

    With such a dynamic offense, it's a shame Ole Miss is wasting big-yardage outbursts. But if there was ever a year to deal with the frustrations, it would be this one, which can't end in a bowl game thanks to sanctions suffered under former coach Hugh Freeze.

    The team needs to move beyond this and fix its defense if it's going to win the way it wants in the Matt Luke era.

11. Tennessee Volunteers

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    This was the contest Tennessee has been looking for all season.

    The Vols put together a complete game in Saturday's 24-7 domination of No. 11 Kentucky at Neyland Stadium, and the victory gave them their 17th consecutive victory over the Wildcats in Knoxville.

    Tennessee controlled the action with a fast, aggressive defense that focused on running back Benny Snell Jr., got after quarterback Terry Wilson and recorded four sacks from outside linebacker Darrell Taylor as well as a pair of interceptions from Marquill Osborne.

    A huge 39-yard Hail Mary completion from Jarrett Guarantano to Marquez Callaway gave Tennessee all the momentum and a 17-0 lead at halftime, and UK never could close the gap.

    A Vols offensive line that's been atrocious all season opened holes for 215 rushing yards, and it gave Guarantano enough time to burn Kentucky downfield throughout the game. The victory moved Tennessee to 5-5 on the season, and it now needs to beat either Missouri or Vanderbilt to get bowl-eligible.

    That won't be easy, as the Vols have proved all year they have a small margin for error with a team that is lacking talent and consistent big-play ability.

    Tennessee got both Saturday, and it resulted in a huge win—perhaps the biggest one of the Jeremy Pruitt era if UT can take it and turn it into a late-season surge into the postseason.

10. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Will Muschamp probably never wants to see Ben Hill Griffin Stadium again.

    The one-time Florida football coach was fired after a struggling tenure with the Gators and took over the South Carolina program, leading the Gamecocks to high expectations to start this season.

    After Saturday's collapse, this year won't be considered anything but a disappointment for a team that was supposed to contend with the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC East. The Gamecocks held a 31-14 second-half lead over UF, and quarterback Jake Bentley had the hot hand.

    Then, all of a sudden, Florida turned up the heat on offense, and South Carolina couldn't muster anything on its side of the ball.

    The Gators used a dynamic rushing attack and shredded the Gamecocks to come back and win 35-31. A Carolina offense that had been clicking gained just 23 fourth-quarter yards. Now, South Carolina must play No. 2 Clemson before ending the year against Akron.

    Brad Crawford of 247Sports called it a "meltdown of epic proportions," and social media let Muschamp have it after his team couldn't bail out itself from a third consecutive defensive letdown. 

    Muschamp's job will be safe this year, but his seat got a little hotter Saturday. There is no excuse for blowing a lead like that in a big divisional game.

9. Missouri Tigers

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    This season hasn't been the fairy tale Missouri head coach Barry Odom hoped it would be.

    After Drew Lock spurned the NFL draft to return to Columbia for his senior season, the Tigers were hoping to ride their dynamic passing attack to challenge Georgia in the SEC East.

    Instead, they had to settle for moral victories in semi-competitive losses to Georgia and Alabama before breaking through with a big road win at Florida last week.

    The Tigers nearly fizzled on the return home Saturday but used a late fourth-quarter rally to hold off a Vanderbilt team that looked ready for the upset. VU quarterback Kyle Shurmur's final heave-and-hope was batted down in the end zone as time expired to finally secure the win.

    "I just turned 22 today, but I feel at least 25 right now," Lock said afterward, according to Saturday Down South's Adam Spencer. "That was a little stressful. That's what we play the game for, though—fun times. It’s good to have a little different outcome in a game like that. That was fun."

    After winning by three scores against the Gators, Mizzou proved it could win an ulcer-inducer.

    Clinging to a two-point lead, Vanderbilt decided to go for a touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but Missouri stuffed running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn before he got in the end zone.

    The stop was huge, but so was the ensuing 14-play, 99-yard march that culminated in a rushing touchdown from Lock. From there, Mizzou hung on, and now the team heads to Knoxville to try to keep things going next week.

    Saturday's win got them bowl-eligible, but the Tigers want more.

8. Auburn Tigers

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    After coming back at home to beat Texas A&M in Week 10, Auburn needed to keep things going with a road win over one of its two biggest rivals to continue a late-season surge.

    With a victory over Alabama looking like a long shot in the Iron Bowl in a couple of weeks, the Tigers traveled to Athens, Georgia, on Saturday with the hope of smacking down the Bulldogs.

    It didn't happen.

    The Tigers could never sustain anything offensively, and the Bulldogs wound up taking control late with their ground game, led by super sophomore D'Andre Swift and his 186 yards. It wasn't the type of game AU has been used to with the way its defense played the past couple of years. 

    UGA won 27-10. The questions will continue for head coach Gus Malzahn, who is getting paid a ton of money to lead mediocrity, which is what the Tigers are this year.

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley wrote:

    "Under Malzahn, Auburn has become that lighting-in-a-jar program: It nearly won the BCS title in 2013, and it beat both Georgia and Alabama when each was ranked No. 1 by the College Football Playoff committee last season. But here's the Tigers' record since upsetting the Crimson Tide on the final Saturday of the 2017 regular season – 6-6. And that's with an even better Bama to come."

    Things don't look so rosy for the rest of the year, and this season is going to be a disappointment. But if the Tigers could somehow upset Alabama in the Iron Bowl, it sure would cure a lot of ills. They have to play a whole lot better than they did against UGA.

7. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Though Kentucky went 1-1 in Weeks 9-10 with a last-second win over Missouri and a loss to Georgia in a game that determined the SEC East, the Wildcats got much better quarterback play from Terry Wilson.

    It made them look not quite as one-dimensional as they had for most of the season.

    Saturday, it was back to the early-season Wilson. Tennessee's aggressive defense applied pressure to the sophomore quarterback, who never could get going, and running back Benny Snell Jr. couldn't reach the 100-yard mark either.

    When you throw in all the big plays Kentucky allowed to the Vols, it was the recipe for yet another Neyland Stadium nightmare in a 24-7 loss. The Wildcats still had plenty to play for. They entered the game 7-2 with the chance to close the season with 10 wins, but they fell flat.

    They didn't look like an SEC powerhouse. Instead, it looked like all those years in which Tennessee straight-up owned Kentucky. The Vols did again Saturday, and head coach Mark Stoops had no answers.

    "Not a very good effort," Stoops said afterward, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay. "It starts with me and really ends with me."

    It has been a good and perhaps program-changing season for Kentucky, but the Wildcats blew a major chance and need to regroup and win out to keep the positivity flowing.

    This was a crushing blow to all the goodwill Stoops had built.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

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    It wasn't quite like when Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks shushed his own crowd after a Gators touchdown Saturday, but the Texas A&M Aggies quieted the naysayers for a week at least as they stifled their own two-game slide with a 38-24 win over Ole Miss on Saturday.

    It was the kind of victory that may have been expected but was impressive nonetheless. Even though the defense had moments in which it struggled, coordinator Mike Elko's unit made some big plays. Offensively, head coach Jimbo Fisher's team made some massive plays too.

    None was bigger than Trayveon Williams' 46-yard touchdown to ice the game with 1:39 remaining on the clock. The run pushed him over the 200-yard barrier for the fourth such showing of his career.

    After two frustrating games, Gators quarterback Kellen Mond returned to his exciting early-season form with four total touchdowns.

    With a good UAB team coming up before hosting LSU to end the season, the Aggies needed a win in a game in which they were favored. They took care of business and got their sixth victory of the season in the process.

    Now, Fisher's team needs to finish strong and help build for the future.

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    There's no question Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's unit is the truth this year, and the Bulldogs proved it again against the nation's best team Saturday.

    Unfortunately, they didn't get any help from the offense.

    Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and the rest of the crew on that side of the ball looked better than they did against LSU a few weeks ago but still nowhere near good enough. Alabama blanked the Bulldogs 24-0 in a lopsided win at Bryant–Denny Stadium.

    The Bulldogs got to Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa several times and ultimately knocked him out of the game. But they were rarely a threat to score. Two touchdowns on one second-quarter possession were wiped out due to penalties, and then MSU missed the field goal.

    After that, Alabama took control for good.

    The Bulldogs had built up plenty of momentum going into the game and played Alabama better than anybody has this year, but moral victories won't cut it for head coach Joe Moorhead's team at this point of the season.

    Several questionable calls went against Mississippi State, but that can be expected in Tuscaloosa. Moorhead seemed frustrated afterward but didn't blame anything on the officiating.

    "We're not going to beat anybody by scoring zero points," Moorhead said, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger's Tyler Horka. "We certainly had some opportunities throughout the game but too many miscues."   

4. Florida Gators

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    Say what you want about this season for the Gators, but they may wind up being the most surprising story of the SEC.

    That was probably Kentucky before Saturday's loss to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Florida avoided its own upset by storming back from a 17-point second-half deficit to beat South Carolina 35-31. It's the second time this season they came all the way back from a big deficit. They also wiped out an 18-point lead by Vanderbilt.

    "They believed they were going to win the game. These fans believed they were going to win the game,"  head coach Dan Mullen told the ESPN TV crew after the game. "You saw the excitement, energy, and juice here in the Swamp. That's what we need to be successful. The students, all of Gator Nation, they did a great job today to help us win this game."

    The crowd definitely was into it as they helped the Gators end a two-game slide. It looked like it was going to be three in a row. But Feleipe Franks improved as the game went on, and UF got plenty of mileage out of 100-yard rushers Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine.

    When you throw in a defense that allowed just 23 total yards in the fourth quarter, it was a full team effort, even if it didn't start until late.

    The only thing that matters for the Gators is it wasn't too late.

T-2. Georgia Bulldogs

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    The Georgia Bulldogs are still waiting on last year's version of late-season Jake Fromm to emerge to make them a complete team, but until then, they'll just have to win games in rugged SEC fashion.

    That's the way Saturday's 27-10 home victory over Auburn played out as UGA's young defense continued to grow up and show up in dominating the Tigers offense. While Auburn moved the ball early on, it couldn't muster anything much in the final half as the Dawgs built their lead.

    The Bulldogs let the running game do the rest, much like they have over the past two dominant seasons in which they've piled up just three losses. Last year, it was Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. This season, D'Andre Swift has gone from freshman changeup in 2017 to star in the past three games.

    Though he was nursing injuries for much of the season, he looked more like the phenom we all expected against the Tigers, finishing with 186 rushing yards and a score. While Elijah Holyfield is doing a great job with the tough between-the-tackles yards, Swift can do that and provide the home run threat.

    On Saturday, his 77-yard scamper ended any hopes of an Auburn comeback. Truthfully, it was already over then, and the Bulldogs are climbing into championship form before the end of the year.

    They still have to come through with wins over Massachusetts and Georgia Tech before playing Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1, but the College Football Playoff is still in grasp if they continue to develop.

T-2. LSU Tigers

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    Playing Alabama takes a lot out of teams, and that has proved itself to be true all year. LSU saw that on Saturday night in a sluggish 24-17 win over Arkansas.

    After the Tigers lost an emotional game against the Crimson Tide in embarrassing 29-0 fashion last week, head coach Ed Orgeron had to get his team up for a late-night road trip to Fayetteville. The Tigers looked up to the challenge for much of the game, building a 24-3 advantage into the fourth quarter.

    That's when they let down their guard and gave up two late scores to make things look a little less impressive.

    Nick Brossette ended any hope of style points when he slid down twice rather than score within the final minute. So, the box score isn't going to suit LSU fans, but the Tigers did little to make others believe they aren't one of the league's best.

    Are they better than Georgia? That's going to be a subjective argument the remainder of the year, but the fact remains that the Tigers whipped the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge even though Georgia may be playing better right now.

    So even though LSU has one more loss than the Dawgs, the team is tied for second because Georgia hasn't played Alabama.

    If LSU finishes strong, it will play in a New Year's Six bowl game, which will be a solid response in Orgeron's second full season at the helm. But the Tigers aren't quite on Alabama's level.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    There should be plenty of worry surrounding Tua Tagovailoa.

    The Heisman Trophy front-runner got hit multiple times Saturday, and Mississippi State knocked him out of the game with a hit on his sore right knee. If coach Nick Saban did the smart thing, he'd sit his star against The Citadel next weekend to give him a rest.

    But if he does that, will it hurt Tua's Heisman hopes? It may be a gamble worth taking.

    Alabama is going to be able to name its number in the game against the FCS Bulldogs, and the Crimson Tide don't need Tagovailoa to do it. They have a stable of capable running backs, one of the top offensive lines in the SEC and a defense that is jelling at the right time.

    Speaking of that defense, Alabama now has a pair of shutouts in a row, and it will be extremely hard for The Citadel to break through on the scoreboard. With the way Auburn's offense is struggling, it's at least conceivable UA could go throughout November without allowing a point.

    There's a long way to go until that happens, but right now, the Tide are far and away the best team in the country and are really just trying to one-up themselves.

    Will they remain that way if Tagovailoa isn't 100 percent? As championship season draws near, it's worth at least some concern.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.