In what was arguably the greatest opening weekend of college football in the history of the sport, the mighty SEC experienced one of the worst weekends the conference has seen in years. The #hottakes are flying off of the stove and the likes of Danny Kannell and Joey Galloway are circling in on the SEC like vultures ready to pick away at the remnants of roadkill on the side of country road 20.
With that being said, it wasn't all terrible news for the South's finest. #1 Alabama wrecked #20 USC and Texas A&M defeated #16 UCLA in a thriller, giving the SEC a pair of wins over the best two teams in the PAC 12 South. Nick Chubb and #18 Georgia ran all over #22 North Carolina, arguably the best team in the ACC Coastal, in Atlanta. Auburn and #11 Ole Miss gave #2 Clemson and #4 Florida State all they could handle. There are certainly a number of issues that each team in the SEC needs to get figured out, but let's all pump the brakes on the "fall of the SEC" narrative.
Without further ado, here are the inaugural RBR SEC Power Rankings for the 2016 season:
- Alabama Crimson Tide. Covering the spread against a ranked opponent by over 30 points at a neutral site certainly won't lead to a drop in the rankings for the defending champs. Despite the incredibly large margin of victory, Alabama didn't show a ton of consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Jalen Hurts and Blake Barnett both displayed flashes of brilliance, but it took a good while for the offense to get rolling. Regardless, this defense is as elite as it's ever been under Nick Saban, and the Crimson Tide are once again the team to beat early in the 2016 season.
- Texas A&M Aggies. Sure, everyone's heard this story before: the Ags jump out to an impressively fast start to the year only to fade by mid-October. But this win felt different. UCLA should win the PAC-12 South this season, which separates them from the frauds that both Arizona State and South Carolina ending up being the previous two seasons. Also, the Aggies didn't win with a bunch of frills on Saturday. They dominated the line of scrimmage and forced big-time turnovers en route to their 31-24 overtime victory. The Chavis effect is real, and it's spectacular. Trevor Knight seems to be a true leader at the QB position as well.
- Georgia Bulldogs. Kirby Smart's debut as Georgia head coach went about as well as it could have. Nick Chubb picked up right where he left off before his knee was destroyed on the Vols' horrible home turf in Neyland. Jacob Eason showed off some serious skill at times, highlighted by his beautiful bomb to Isaiah McKenzie late in the game to help seal the deal. The Dawgs are only going to get better as the season progresses and this young team begins to gain valuable experience.
- Ole Miss Rebels. Monday night's battle with FSU perfectly displayed how volatile the cardiac Rebels will be in 2016. With an elite passing attack led by Chad Kelly and a dominant defensive front headlined by guys like Marquise Haynes and Breeland Speaks, Hugh Freeze's squad has the ceiling of a legitimate national championship contender. But with a thin defensive backfield (which got even thinner with Ken Webster being lost for the season) and the inability to get consistent production from the running game offensively, they also have the floor of a middle-of-the-pack West team.
- LSU Tigers. Much was made of the Bayou Bengals stunning loss to the Wisconsin Badgers this past Saturday, but this is still an extremely talented team. With Leonard Fournette at runningback and an elite defense, LSU will have a say in who wins the SEC this season. Still, it's almost unfathomable that Les Miles and Cam Cameron apparently did nothing to develop their offense this past offseason. And as good as the defense is, they sure did have some issues getting off the field at times against the Badgers. Brandon Harris simply isn't good enough to be a successful pro-style quarterback.
- Tennessee Volunteers. The biggest winner in the SEC on Saturday may have been the Vols, as their struggles with Appalachian State almost feel like the game happened last season. It's hard to believe Tennessee will play this poorly again the rest of the year, but they've still got major issues on offense. Josh Dobbs and the offensive line haven't developed at all, and the Butch Jones/Mike DeBord offense is incredibly vanilla and conservative. Still, the defense looks really good and Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara make up quite the duo in the backfield.
- Florida Gators. Luke Del Rio put up some pretty solid numbers, yet this team still feels eerily similar to the lifeless group that ended the 2015 season in such a funk. The defense is truly nasty, but the offense struggles to put points on the board. The Gators should never need a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns to seal the deal against a team like UMass.
- Auburn Tigers. Gus Malzahn seemingly allowed anyone who felt like giving it a shot a snap against Clemson, and the offense was predictably anemic. With that being said, the defense played as well as any Auburn defense in a long time against the powerful Clemson offensive attack, limiting Deshaun Watson and company to only 19 points and less than 400 total yards (7.3 yards per pass, 3.4 yards per rush). Kevin Steele will likely find a way to screw this up at some point, but maybe Auburn wlll only have two or three players taking snaps by then.
- Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs' defense stifled Louisiana Tech all afternoon, but a pair of ill-timed interceptions from Austin Allen led to short fields and easy points for the Bulldogs. This game was incredibly similar to the Toledo game from last season, as the Razorbacks surprisingly struggled to open up running lanes for their backs (a paltry 2.7 yards per carry), but this time, at least, the Hogs came away victorious. Who knows what this team will look like in November this year.
- South Carolina Gamecocks. This is how poorly the SEC played on opening weekend. A sloppy, uninspiring, come-from-behind win over Vandy lands you a top 10 spot in the conference. Credit to Will Muschamp though, as the Gamecock defense looked night-and-day better than it has the last two seasons. The Cocks' trip to Starkville will be huge for this team.
- Vanderbilt Commodores. There were a number of bad outcomes in the SEC this past week, but Vandy's loss to South Carolina may be the most regrettable. The 'Dores have a legitimate chance to parlay this strong defense into a bowl invite, but they really needed a win over USC in the home opener. Derek Mason's offense still looks absolutely terrible.
- Missouri Tigers. Mizzou actually moved the ball decently well against West Virginia, but they were unable to cash in much. The defense was a bit underwhelming though, considering how strong it has been over the last few years. Chris Black made a huge impact, going for 102 yards and their lone touchdown.
- Kentucky Wildcats. How is it possible to have a worse performance than blowing a 25-point 2nd half lead to a Conference USA team?
- Mississippi State Bulldogs. Oh. Oh no, State. Not like this.