Highlighted by the No. 6 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Tennessee double-overtime thriller, week six had a heavy dose of SEC play. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Matthew and poor rescheduling efforts, Florida and LSU were unable to play their scheduled game in Gainesville. Alabama, Auburn and Georgia all enjoyed road wins. Lastly, in the battle of the true conference powerhouses, Kentucky pulled out a home win over Vanderbilt. Here’s how things shape up in this week’s power rankings.
1. Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week: No. 1
A road matchup against a top-20 team proves worrisome for most teams, but Alabama isn’t one of them. The Crimson Tide took control early on in Fayetteville, using turnovers (five forced on the day) and a rushing attack that garnered over 250 rushing yards. Of the five turnovers created, two were returned for touchdowns. Stud defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick had a career-high three interceptions and the defense as a whole came away with six sacks. The combined pass rush and strong secondary play just reminds us of what we already knew: this defense is special.
This week: at No. 9 Tennessee
2. Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week: No. 2
Fortunately for the Aggies, they were able to force seven turnovers to survive Tennessee, 45-38. Texas A&M won the game, but blew a 21 point lead, couldn’t tackle anyone and missed a potential game-winning field goal as regulation neared its end. At the end of the day, a win’s a win, and Kevin Sumlin is finally 6-0. Despite the concerns, there are positives to take from this game. Trevor Knight and Trayveon Williams combined to rush for 327 yards while Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk were a problem for the Vols’ secondary. On the other side of the ball, a banged-up Myles Garrett was still disruptive, highlighted by his strip sack. It’s a shame we didn’t get a fully healthy Myles Garrett-Derek Barnett matchup, because we deserved it.
This week: Bye
3. Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
Last week: No. 3
It’s a shame Tennessee lost in College Station. While the seven turnovers were a major problem, the Vols proved (once again) their resiliency to come back from a multiple-possession deficit. Tennessee out-gained Texas A&M by nearly 100 yards (684 total yards), and Alvin Kamara — only “wow” can describe his performance. Kamara finished with nearly 300 total yards (127 rushing and 161 receiving) and it was comical watching the Aggies’ defense attempt to tackle him. Defensively for Tennessee, allowing 350 yards on the ground was concerning. At the same time, the third-down defense played a critical role in Tennessee’s comeback efforts, allowing Texas A&M to convert just five of its 16 attempts. After going down 28-7 less than five minutes into the second half, the defense gave up just one more score in regulation. Oh, and here’s your weekly reminder Derek Barnett is that good.
No big deal here, just 265-pound DE Derek Barnett successfully covering an All-SEC wide receiver man-to-man 25 yards downfield. pic.twitter.com/CDGPagt7rb
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) October 10, 2016
This week: vs No. 1 Alabama
4. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
Last week: 4
After enjoying a week six bye, No. 12 Ole Miss returns to action this week in a road matchup against No. 22 Arkansas. Following that, the Rebels face another test on the road with a week eight matchup at LSU. These two weeks are critical to prove Ole Miss’s validation as a top-15 team despite the two early season losses.
This week: at No. 22 Arkansas
5. Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC)
Last week: 5
Despite having a game scheduled last week, the perceived trajectory of Hurricane Matthew forced No. 18 Florida to cancel its game with LSU. With the Tennessee loss in College Station, Florida could take lead of the SEC East by the end of week 7, given that the Gators take care of business at home against Missouri and the Vols lose a second-straight game when they play host to Alabama. Florida’s extra week off surely helps with some injury issues, and quarterback Luke Del Rio could be fully ready to go on Saturday. His health is critical to Florida remaining a contender in the SEC East race.
This week: vs Missouri
6. Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC)
Last week: 8
The quarterback play continues to be subpar, but the defense and running came continue to uplift the No. 23 Auburn Tigers. Following its 38-14 win over Mississippi State, the defense continues its streak of holding opposing offenses to under 20 points at six games. The top-10 ranked rushing attack showcased another strong performance on Saturday, rushing for 225 total yards. Kamryn Pettway led the way with 169 yards on the ground and three scores. At the halfway point of the season, Auburn already has two running backs with over 500 yards.
This week: Bye
7. LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC)
Last week: 7
Like Florida, LSU enjoyed a week off, which gives Leonard Fournette’s ankle extra time to heal. After a non-conference matchup with Southern Miss, the Tigers face their toughest stretch of the season. Over the next three weeks, they’ll play at home against Ole Miss and Alabama followed by a trip to Arkansas. It’ll be interesting to see if interim head coach Ed Orgeron can help this team reach its full potential.
This week: vs Southern Mississippi
8. Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week: 6
Faced with the daunting task of opening SEC playing against Texas A&M and Alabama, the No. 22 Razorbacks blew their shot at a statement win in both cases. Quarterback Austin Allen continues to prove himself as one of the best pure passers in the SEC. While the suffocating Crimson Tide defense recorded six sacks and intercepted him three times, Allen managed to throw for 400 yards and three scores, putting him over 1,600 yards on the season. However, the run defense continues to be abysmal. In its two conference games, Arkansas has allowed an average of over 300 yards rushing.
This week: vs No. 12 Ole Miss
9. Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC)
Last week: 8
Georgia’s relied heavily on its dynamic rushing attack in Saturday’s 28-14 win over South Carolina. The backfield combination of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined for roughly 250 of the Bulldogs’ 326 rushing yards. The dominant ground game carried freshman quarterback Jacob Eason through his worst performance of the season. Going forward, Georgia simply can’t afford Eason to complete only 5-of-17 passes for 29 yards. Its impact might not show against opponents like the Gamecocks, but it’ll expose itself against stronger competition.
This week: vs Vanderbilt
10. Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week: 10
Another SEC team with a week six bye. Missouri returns to action on the road against Florida. Given the team’s 0-2 start in conference play, Saturday is essentially a must-win game for the Tigers. If they manage to pull off the upset over the Gators, they then enter their Nov. 19 matchup at Tennessee after a manageable four-game stretch in a game that could have SEC East implications. But first, Mizzou has to win on Saturday, and a key matchup within the game is Drew Lock’s improved arm against arguably the nation’s top secondary.
This week: at No. 18 Florida
11. Mississippi State (2-3, 1-2 SEC)
Last week: 11
Mississippi State lost to Auburn, 38-14, at home over the weekend, but the game was over by halftime. Trailing 35-0 going into intermission, the Bulldogs managed to move the ball past midfield one time in the first half. A few plays later, they lost a fumble. To put it simply, this isn’t a good football team. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is attempting his best Dak Prescott impersonation, but it’s going rather horribly.
This week: at BYU
12. South Carolina (2-4, 1-4 SEC)
Last week: 12
Through six games, South Carolina’s offense is still averaging a mere 14 points per game. It wasn’t until their sixth possession against Georgia before the Gamecocks managed to pick up a first down. The lone bright spot? Holding Eason to 29 yards passing.
This week: Bye
13. Kentucky (3-3 2-2 SEC)
Last week: 14
Kentucky has more conference wins that six other SEC squads. While this certainly won’t last, credit the Wildcats for taking care of business during their winnable home games on the schedule. It may have been ugly, but Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt ensured Kentucky’s exclusion from the cellar of the SEC East. To put their matchup with Vanderbilt in perspective, Tennessee outgained both teams against Texas A&M by nearly 100 yards. Both teams combined to go just 7-of-27 on third downs.
This week: Bye
14. Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
Last week: 13
The Commodores are averaging just under 10 points per game in their three conference matchups. In addition, the only touchdown against Kentucky came off a fumble return. Vanderbilt’s three conference losses have all come by a single touchdown. Is is really that hard to put the ball in the end zone just once? For this offense, it is. The inability to create scoring opportunities will make it difficult for the Commodores to even come away with one victory in the SEC.
This week: at Georgia
Edited by Nathan Odom and David Bradford
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics