The first two weeks of the 2016 season were full of big-time non-conference contests for the members of the SEC, but the lack of intra-conference play (there were only three conference games during that span, two of which involved rebuilding South Carolina) made it slightly difficult to truly stack the teams against each other.
Week Three of the college football season made sure to alleviate that headache for those of us looking to compile and order college football teams by our
totally accurate and unbiased completely subjective ranking systems. Erik already provided his take on the top 25 throughout the country. With three separate SEC West battles and a late night duel in Columbia, Missouri between the Midwest Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs, this past Saturday widened the sample size of the season by a significant margin.
To the poll:
- Alabama Crimson Tide. No surprises here. Alabama remains king of the conference as the Tide were able to overcome an early 24-3 deficit to stun the Ole Miss Rebels 48-43 on Saturday. This game was reminiscent of the 2013 Texas A&M game, where an emotional Tide squad exacted revenge upon a high-powered, volatile West opponent in a sloppy game. No doubt about it, there is a decent amount of fine tuning to be done, but this Alabama team grew up on Saturday in Oxford. Jalen Hurts is officially the man now, and his ability to attack defenses in a number of ways should open up the playbook even more for the offense.
- Texas A&M Aggies. Why am I buying into the Aggies this year despite what the past two seasons have taught us? Because this is a completely different team. For the first time since joining the conference, Texas A&M looks like a classic upper-echelon SEC team. The offense is no longer all flash with little substance, and the defense is legitimately top-tier, albeit still a bit thin. Trevor Knight has embraced his role as a rare Air Raid game manager, the skill position talent is top-notch, and the offensive line has played at a much higher level than the previous two seasons. The Aggies kept grinding away in Auburn Saturday night, and that kind of performance stood out way more than any of their 40-point shootouts of yesteryear.
- Arkansas Razorbacks. Speaking of grinding away, Bielema's Hogs have finally put it together in September for once. The Razorbacks crushed Texas State the way an SEC team should do so, and now they turn their attention to Jerry World and their battle with Texas A&M. The strangest thing about this week's matchup? Arkansas might be the better passing offense and A&M might have the better rushing attack. It's bizzaro world up in here and it's amazing.
- Ole Miss Rebels. Credit Chad Kelly and that Ole Miss passing attack, because it is phenomenal. The top 6 guys on the defensive front are also incredibly good at creating havoc and wrecking offensive game-plans. The problem is that the disparity between those two groups and the rest of the team is quite large. The secondary has become completely depleted, the rushing attack is once again nearly non-existent, and the lack of depth on defense eventually leads to deeper, more talented teams exerting their will in the 2nd half of games. Ole Miss needs to do a better job of keeping games at the right tempo, because if they control the pace, they are really tough to beat.
- Florida Gators. There have been a number of SEC defenses that have disappointed to varying degrees early on this season. The Florida Gators are not one of them. A week after intercepting as many Kentucky passes as the Wildcats completed, the Gators held North Texas to 53 total yards. For the entire game. On 50 snaps. That is absolutely outrageous no matter the competition. Luke Del Rio's injury may cause some restless nights for Florida fans who remember how anemic the offense became last year after Will Grier's suspension, but this defense is outstanding.
- Tennessee Volunteers. Three weeks into the season, and the Vols still look like all hype. The offensive line has been horrific, Josh Dobbs still can't get anything going in the passing game, and the defense is starting to drop like flies. This is still a very talented team with a high ceiling, and maybe they will put it together soon, but the Vols are incredibly fortunate to be 3-0. Seriously, they've recovered 16 out of a possible 18 fumbles in their first three games, including the game-winning fumble recovery in the endzone against Appalachian State. That's insane fumble luck.
- LSU Tigers. The move to bench Brandon Harris in favor of Danny Etling just reeks of desperation. With Malachi Dupre being a pretty substantial disappointment, the truth of the matter is that LSU just doesn't have many options on offense. Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in the backfield and Travin Dural on the outside represent their only offensive weapons. The wheels could come falling off at any point for Les Miles, and that could be sooner rather than later with three capable SEC opponents on the schedule the next three weeks.
- Auburn Tigers. If someone could give Gus Malzahn a tip on how to run an offense, the Auburn faithful would really appreciate it. Who would have thought anyone would be saying that two years ago?
- Georgia Bulldogs. As was stated last week, Georgia will likely find itself further up this poll sooner rather than later, but for now, a one point win over Missouri, the 10th-ranked team on this list, makes this spot seem just right. Jacob Eason is starting to come into his own as a quarterback, and Isaiah McKenzie is emerging as the kind of reliable play-maker that Georgia so desperately needs to free up Nick Chubb in the backfield.
- Missouri Tigers. There have been a number of surprises early on this season, including Mizzou's somewhat average defensive play, but easily the most surprising development of the 2016 season has to be how potent the Tigers' offense has been. Drew Lock is looking like a future star at the helm, the receivers have been explosive, and the completely rebuilt offensive line has come together nicely. Watch out for this young team.
- Mississippi State Bulldogs. Quarterback battles have taken center stage in the SEC this season, but State's may be the most confusing. After looking like the next Dak Prescott against South Carolina, Nick Fitzgerald once again got pulled in favor of Damian Williams in Baton Rouge Saturday night. The Bulldogs really need someone to take hold of that spot, because they just don't have much else to work with on offense. Defensively, this team still looks the part, they just need some more experience.
- South Carolina Gamecocks. Brandon McIlwain had some explosive plays (which was encouraging with Deebo Samuel out) and the defense came up big when it needed to, but really, this team should have lost to ECU. Will Muschamp has his hands full with this rebuild.
- Vanderbilt Commodores. Remember when Derek Mason's squad could at least be counted on to field a stingy defense? Georgia Tech ran through the 'Dores like crap through a tin horn, and Vandy's offense reverted back to its old ways like a turtle retreating into its shell.
- Kentucky Wildcats. The good news? The Wildcat offense had an explosive day that ended in 62 total points, a week after doing absolutely nothing against Florida. The bad? They still gave up 42 to a hapless New Mexico State team. Stephen Johnson could provide a big spark at quarterback for Kentucky moving forward.