It’s Thanksgiving Week, and the Tigers have a lot to be thankful for with a 9-2 record, an SEC West title in Year 1 under Brian Kelly and a shot at the College Football Playoff.
However, it’s the final weekend of the regular season, and none of us are thankful for that. It’s rivalry week after much of the league took on Group of Five or FCS opponents last week, but not everyone was so lucky.
Tennessee’s playoff hopes came to an end last week after the team suffered an ugly road loss against South Carolina and lost Hendon Hooker to a torn ACL in the process.
Here’s how the league’s power rankings break down after Week 12.
Texas A&M Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 13
Week 12 Result: W 20-3 vs. UMass
The Skinny: For the first time this season, we have a new team on the bottom of our power rankings. Texas A&M ended a six-game skid against UMass on Saturday, though beating what is arguably the worst team in the FBS by 17 at home isn’t exactly confidence-building. The Aggies are the only SEC team that has officially been eliminated from bowl contention, and they’re looking at a 4-8 finish if they can’t upset LSU this weekend.
Missouri Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 10
Week 12 Result: W 45-14 vs. New Mexico State
The Skinny: Missouri performed as expected against New Mexico State on Saturday, but that doesn’t really do a lot for the overall image of this team, which will miss a bowl game if it can’t spring a win over a tricky Arkansas team at home this week. The Tigers aren’t terrible, but it’s hard to point to a crowning achievement from the Eli Drinkwitz era, especially this season.
Vanderbilt Commodores (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 14
Week 12 Result: W 31-24 vs. Florida
The Skinny: Were the Commodores fortunate to win on Saturday against the Gators, who made a number of key errors in a game they probably should have won? Sure. But Vandy took advantage of those opportunities, so credit to Clark Lea’s team. They’re off the bottom of the power rankings for the first time this year, and the ‘Dores could even reach a bowl game with an upset win at home against a shorthanded and disappointed Tennessee team.
Auburn Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 11
Week 12 Result: W 41-17 vs. Western Kentucky
The Skinny: This game was tied at 17 at the break, but Auburn shut out the Hilltoppers and their electric offense led by quarterback Austin Reed in the second half. This win is arguably more impressive than the Texas A&M one, and Cadillac Williams has the chance to land his biggest win yet against Alabama this weekend.
South Carolina Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 12
Week 12 Result: W 63-38 vs. Tennessee
The Skinny: It felt like the Gamecocks had to put it together with quarterback Spencer Rattler at some point this season, and Saturday was that day. Rattler threw for six touchdowns and dominated the Vols, whose CFP hopes were all but ended in this game. It’s hard to know whether this was a one-off or a sign of real progress, but we may have our answer after this team faces Clemson on the road Saturday.
Florida Gators (6-5, 3-5 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 6
Week 12 Result: L 31-24 at Vanderbilt
The Skinny: Florida had a chance to end Billy Napier’s up-and-down first year on a high note, but an embarrassing and mistake-filled loss to Vanderbilt did away with that. The Gators are disappointing, and it’s hard to like their chances on the road against a very solid Florida State team on Black Friday. Still, a win in that game could salvage some good feelings for Napier, who hasn’t yet defeated a rival in Year 1.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-4, 3-4 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 8
Week 12 Result: W 56-7 vs. East Tennessee State
The Skinny: There’s not much I can say about a blowout victory against an FCS opponent, and despite a relatively strong start, it feels like the Bulldogs need a win on the road in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving to feel good about the way this season has gone in Year 3 under Mike Leach.
Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 3-5 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 7
Week 12 Result: L 16-6 vs. Georgia
The Skinny: Credit to the Wildcats for giving the Bulldogs a tighter game than many expected, but this team just didn’t have enough offensively to compete in this game against Georgia. Fair enough, but the Wildcats need to win against an improved Louisville team on Saturday to avoid what would be a disappointing .500 finish.
Ole Miss Rebels (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 5
Week 12 Result: L 42-27 at Arkansas
The Skinny: It felt like this team was exposed a bit against Arkansas as the Rebels were run all over. The record is good here for coach Lane Kiffin, but Ole Miss has lost pretty much every big game this season with the best win coming in semi-flukey fashion against Kentucky. Winning the Egg Bowl and finishing 9-3 would be acceptable, but the challenge then becomes keeping Kiffin around.
Arkansas Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 9
Week 12 Result: W 42-27 vs. Ole Miss
The Skinny: This was the hardest team to place, and if you want to get mad about it, feel free. I understand. It’s been a disappointing follow-up to last year’s nine-win campaign for the Hogs, but I’m choosing to look at the last two weeks in something of a vacuum. They probably should have beaten LSU with a committee of backup quarterbacks, and they dominated Ole Miss in KJ Jefferson’s return in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score looked. This team is inconsistent and lost to Liberty earlier this month, but it’s very competent across the board when healthy.
Tennessee Volunteers (9-2, 5-2 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 2
Week 12 Result: L 63-38 at South Carolina
The Skinny: Despite the loss to Georgia, Tennessee had a very clear and easy path to the CFP as it just had to beat South Carolina and Vanderbilt while hoping LSU didn’t win the league. Now, those hopes are gone after the team’s ugly showing against the Gamecocks. The injury to Hooker was terrible to see, but it was late and not why the Vols lost this game. Now, they’ll have to find a way to muster the energy to beat a motivated Vandy team on the road with Joe Milton at quarterback.
Alabama Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 4
Week 12 Result: W 34-0 vs. Austin Peay
The Skinny: As Alabama fans continue to melt down about the “down” Tide, Nick Saban’s team shut out an FCS opponent and may at least nominally remains in the CFP hunt if it can get a lot of help down the stretch. In all likelihood, this team will close things out with a win over Auburn and a New Year’s Six appearance, which would be considered “totally fine” at 130 out of 131 FBS programs.
LSU Tigers (9-2, 6-1 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 3
Week 12 Result: W 41-10 vs. UAB
The Skinny: The Tigers didn’t look great in a road win against Arkansas, but there was no such sluggishness on Senior Night against the Blazers as LSU delivered arguably its most complete performance of the year against a solid Group of Five team. The stakes are clear for LSU with Tennessee’s loss: Handle business against Texas A&M and knock off Georgia in the SEC Championship, and you’re likely heading to the CFP.
Georgia Bulldogs (11-0, 8-0 SEC)
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Previous Ranking: 1
Week 12 Result: W 16-6 at Kentucky
The Skinny: This one was a bit closer than expected, but Georgia survived to finish undefeated in SEC play for the second straight season. Barring something shocking against Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Bulldogs will enter the SEC title game with a spot in the playoff likely sealed regardless of the outcome.