Week 9 was largely the calm before the storm in the SEC.
A number of teams were on a bye, including LSU and Alabama, which play this weekend in Tuscaloosa in a game that could once again decide the SEC West. In the biggest matchup of Week 9, Georgia remained unbeaten with a dominating win over Florida. Ole Miss also won again easily against Vanderbilt.
Tennessee knocked off Kentucky on the road, while Texas A&M got back on track with a two-score home win over South Carolina. Additionally, Auburn knocked off Mississippi State to get the first SEC win under Hugh Freeze.
It will be a busy Saturday in the SEC in Week 10 with some high-profile matchups on the slate. For now, here’s where all 14 league teams in this week’s LSU Wire power rankings.
Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 0-5 SEC)
Vanderbilt is really struggling to figure out the quarterback position with AJ Swann unavailable, and it didn’t really get closer to an answer in a blowout loss at Ole Miss last weekend. If the Commodores are going to steal an SEC win this season, it may have to come this weekend against Auburn.
Arkansas Razorbacks (2-6, 0-5 SEC)
Losers of six in a row, things have really fallen off for the Razorbacks in Year 4 under Sam Pittman, and a bowl berth looks exceedingly unlikely as this team would have to win out. It has a major opportunity to right the ship this weekend as it faces an inconsistent Florida team on the road that is still licking its wounds after a blowout loss to rival Georgia.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
Any hopes that the Arkansas win would mark a turnaround for this team were dashed against Auburn on the road Saturday. Starting quarterback Will Rogers was unavailable once again, opening the door for Vanderbilt transfer Mike Wright to get another start. The offense struggled, but the defense was ultimately the bigger issue after allowing a huge day to a struggling Auburn offense and quarterback Payton Thorne.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2-6, 1-5 SEC)
After losing a game at home to Florida that it probably should have won, South Carolina needed a win on the road against Texas A&M if it would salvage the season. Instead, it lost 30-17 to the Aggies in a game in which the defense struggled quite a bit once again.
Auburn Tigers (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
It hasn’t been the Year 1 under Hugh Freeze Auburn fans hoped for in large part due to an offense that has been holding back what is a very solid defensive unit. The Tigers made at least some progress in that regard as Thorne delivered the first three-touchdown passing game in an SEC contest for Auburn since Bo Nix. In 2020. With upcoming games against Vanderbilt, Arkansas and New Mexico State, the Tigers have a chance to put a nice little run together going into the Iron Bowl.
Texas A&M Aggies (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
Texas A&M’s offense has managed the loss of Conner Weigman decently well, thanks to experienced backup Max Johnson, but the Aggies’ real strength is their defense, which held the Gamecocks to just 209 total yards. That unit will face a significantly tougher test against Ole Miss this weekend, and while a win would go a long way for Jimbo Fisher, a loss would drop the team to 5-4 and ramp up the pressure significantly.
Florida Gators (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
Florida has made some strides this season (though it has regressed in other areas, such as along the offensive line). But Billy Napier’s team just isn’t ready to take on the league’s best squads as evidenced by a 43-20 loss to Georgia that in reality wasn’t even that close. Florida’s young defense has been inconsistent, and it had a pretty rough game Saturday. Graham Mertz is capable as the quarterback of this offense, but it just doesn’t do a good enough job of utilizing the limited playmakers that it does have.
Kentucky Wildcats (5-3, 2-3 SEC)
After the blowout win over Florida, it seemed like we could be looking at a high-ceiling Kentucky team. But since then, the Wildcats have dropped three in a row, including a pair of losses at home. It kept things close against Tennessee on Saturday, but despite Devin Leary turning in his best performance of the year, the defense couldn’t get the job done as UK allowed 481 yards to the Vols.
Tennessee Volunteers (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
It hasn’t been the year that the Vols faithful hoped for, but this team is through some of its toughest games and stands at 6-2. Georgia is still on the slate, meaning we probably aren’t looking at a 10-2 team here, but Joe Milton seems to be improving every week while Jaylen Wright is perhaps the league’s most underrated running back.
Missouri Tigers (7-1, 3-1 SEC)
Easily the biggest surprise in the SEC this season, Missouri’s only slipup on the season came at home against LSU in a shootout. The Tigers had the week off as they prepared for a crucial matchup against Georgia, and with a win, this team would control its destiny in the SEC East heading into the final three games.
LSU Tigers (6-2, 4-1 SEC)
Much like last season, LSU is starting to hit its stride now in the back half of the season. That improvement will be put to the test this weekend in Tuscaloosa as an elite Tigers offense meets an elite Alabama defense. LSU’s defense, meanwhile, has struggled and will be without some key players, testing its depth tremendously in this game, especially in the secondary.
Ole Miss Rebels (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
Rebels fans will be rooting for LSU hard this weekend as they hope the Tigers can force a three-way tie atop the SEC West, giving Ole Miss a shot to win the division for the first time. After a dominating win over Vanderbilt, though, Lane Kiffin’s team can’t take its eye off the ball as it hosts Texas A&M in a game that could prove to be tricky.
Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1, 5-0 SEC)
Alabama also had the week off to prepare for what could once again be the de facto SEC West championship game. This team has leaned heavily on its defense all season as the offense figures things out, but it may not have that luxury against what is one of the top scoring attacks in the entire country. Jalen Milroe and these receivers, who have been playing better recently, will almost certainly need to connect on some big plays to avoid an early deficit if Alabama is going to win this game.
Georgia Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
We questioned how Georgia would look without Brock Bowers, and it passed the first test with flying colors against Florida. The Gators have been plucky this year but are a flawed team, and the Missouri game this weekend seems like it will tell us just how good this Bulldogs team is. Still, it continues to look better, and Carson Beck improves with each start.