LSU entered as a three-score favorite against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, but the game proved to be much tougher than that as the Tigers had to overcome a slow start and a 10-point first-half deficit to win 34-31 with a field goal in the final seconds.
That was the wildest result in the SEC of the week. In the league’s biggest game, Alabama won comfortably 24-10 over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Kentucky all also earned wins over SEC foes.
We still only have a small sample size from SEC play, but now that every team in the league except Missouri has played at least one conference matchup, we’re starting to get a better idea of where these teams stack up.
Here are our SEC power rankings following the conclusion of Week 4.
Vanderbilt Commodores (2-3, 0-1 SEC)
The Commodores’ loss to Kentucky wasn’t even really as close as the final 45-28 score would imply. Despite some struggles offensively from the Wildcats, Vanderbilt fell in an early 24-0 hole from which it never emerged.
Quarterback AJ Swann, who had been the team’s lone bright spot, struggled mightily. He completed just 16 of 40 passes for 189 yards, and he tossed three interceptions.
Clark Lea faces an uphill battle in Nashville, but this team doesn’t seem to be building off last season’s momentum.
Auburn Tigers (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Auburn is truly fortunate to be 3-1 on the year given its abysmal showing against Texas A&M and the fact that it probably should have lost what was a very strange game to Cal in Week 2.
Against teams that aren’t UMass and Samford, this offense has been horrifically bad. Payton Thorne, Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner all played in this game, but they went a combined 9 of 23 for just 56 yards. Brian Battie and Jarquez Hunter had solid production on the ground, but that wasn’t particularly helpful in a game where the Tigers fell behind early.
This looks like a team that’s really going to struggle against higher-level SEC opponents, starting with Georgia next weekend.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
No one wants to be 0-2 to start conference play, but there could be some reason to be cautiously optimistic about the Bulldogs after a hard-fought 37-30 loss to South Carolina. It’s too early to say for sure, but it seems coach Zach Arnett may be reversing course on the move away from the air raid.
Will Rogers attempted 48 passes, a season-high by a wide stretch, and he rewarded Mississippi State with 487 passing yards. It’s clear Arnett doesn’t think this is a viable strategy long-term, but with a veteran QB in Rogers, it’s probably his best bet to salvage a decent season in 2023.
Arkansas Razorbacks (2-2, 0-1 SEC)
It’s hard to know whether Arkansas’ offense took a step forward or if LSU’s secondary may just be suspect, but regardless, Saturday was about as encouraging a performance as this team could have had in a losing effort.
KJ Jefferson had a good game, and the offense didn’t really seem to miss Raheim Sanders. The Razorbacks held up on defense well in the first half but just couldn’t quite do enough to slow down an LSU offense that may be one of the nation’s best.
This feels like it may be too low to rank Arkansas, but the Hogs could remedy that with a win over the Aggies in Jerry World next week.
Texas A&M Aggies (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
It still feels like we don’t really know what to make of Texas A&M, largely because we don’t know how good Miami is or how bad Auburn is. Still, this team had to overcome some adversity Saturday as quarterback Conner Weigman exited with an injury.
He was spelled by former LSU quarterback Max Johnson, who played well in his stead. Weigman is questionable against Arkansas on Saturday with an ankle injury, but it seems there may not be a major drop-off if he isn’t able to go.
Auburn wasn’t the toughest test, but A&M’s defense looked better. This team seems improved, it’s just hard to say right now exactly how much.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2-2, 1-1 SEC)
This game was certainly closer than South Carolina would have liked, but the Gamecocks controlled the game throughout and never looked to be in significant danger.
Spencer Rattler had a very efficient night, completing 18 of 20 passes with three touchdowns, and his decision-making looks to be improved from last year. There are certainly defensive concerns after Mississippi State’s non-existent passing offense awoke from a slumber in this game, especially with a road game against Tennessee on the horizon.
Missouri Tigers (4-0)
Missouri is very quietly 4-0 after beating Memphis in St. Louis on Saturday, and while the Tigers are the lone team that hasn’t faced an SEC opponent yet, they do have a ranked win over Kansas State under their belt.
Quarterback Brady Cook is having a nice start to the season, in large part thanks to one of the SEC’s best playmakers in Luther Burden, who had 177 receiving yards on 10 catches Saturday.
Assuming Mizzou doesn’t slip up against Vandy on Saturday, it should be 5-0 as it hosts what could be a massive game against LSU in Week 6.
Kentucky Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
The Wildcats are still perfect on the year, but it hasn’t exactly been pretty. Transfer quarterback Devin Leary has had his share of struggles, and he completed just 15 of 29 passes and threw two interceptions against the Commodores on Saturday.
This team does have a dangerous run game, led by Vanderbilt transfer Ray Davis, and the defense is always pretty sturdy under Mark Stoops. It feels like Kentucky has a pretty high floor in any given year at this point, but we may have a better idea of how good this team can be after this coming weekend.
The Wildcats host a Florida team whose number they’ve had in recent years since ending a decades-long losing streak, but the Gators boast a defense that is, at least on paper, the best in the SEC at the moment and an offense that isn’t explosive but avoids mistakes.
Tennessee Volunteers (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Tennessee took care of business against a UTSA team that doesn’t seem to be nearly as good as its recent iterations have been, but it will likely take an SEC game to really know if the Vols have improved since a loss to Florida.
These games are especially hard to draw conclusions from for Tennessee because when it has a talent mismatch, it leans heavily on the run. Simply put, this offense looks very different against Power Five competition than it does against opponents from the lower ranks.
South Carolina cracked Josh Heupel’s code last season, and it will be fascinating to see if the Gamecocks can do so again, this time in Knoxville.
Florida Gators (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
Florida looked pretty sluggish in a 22-7 win over Charlotte, aside from one of the best catches you’ll ever see from Ricky Pearsall (pictured above). The Gators had red zone issues, settling for five Trey Smack field goals, and they never really managed to pull away.
But this is how Florida plays under Billy Napier. The offense avoids mistakes — in large part thanks to Graham Mertz, who leads the SEC in completion percentage — and the defense is much-improved, allowing just 211 yards to the 49ers.
A win on the road against Kentucky would be huge for Florida and Napier, who is just 1-4 in true away games as the coach in Gainesville.
Ole Miss Rebels (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Saturday’s game was very disappointing for Ole Miss, which seemed to be putting things together on both sides of the ball leading up to the 24-10 loss to the Crimson Tide.
To be fair to Lane Kiffin and the Rebels, Alabama’s defense looks like it could be elite in spite of the team’s offensive problems. Still, you would like to see Jaxson Dart and the offense get at least something going.
I’m going to avoid overreaction with Ole Miss for now, but if it’s not more competitive against LSU, the vibes could get significantly worse in Oxford.
Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
Say what you will about the drop-off in Tuscaloosa, but this team still seems to find a way to win games like this when people like me doubt them.
Jalen Milroe isn’t Bryce Young, but it’s obviously apparent that he’s the best option at quarterback moving forward. If he develops and the defense is as good as advertised, this may not be a lost season in Tuscaloosa.
Still, this team has questions that teams like LSU and Tennessee could potentially take advantage of.
LSU Tigers (3-1, 2-0 SEC)
The game over the Razorbacks was a little bit concerning, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m not full-on sounding the alarms yet, especially with how good LSU’s offense has the potential to be.
Jayden Daniels is having a fantastic season, as are receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. The team also seems to have a true No. 1 running back, as well, in Logan Diggs.
We have questions about the defense, primarily the secondary, which is comprised primarily of young players and transfers. But Daniels and the offense should keep this team in any game.
Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
There really just isn’t much to say about Georgia at this point. Giving up 21 points to a struggling Trent Dilfer-led UAB team wasn’t ideal, and the Bulldogs looked a bit sluggish again. Still, they won the game 49-21, so this probably isn’t the time for hot takes.
The Bulldogs don’t look as dominant, which should be expected with all they lost. But they could take a significant step back and remain one of the best teams in the country, so as always, they’re staying here until someone snaps their nation-leading win streak.