An ugly win by the Alabama Crimson Tide complicates the College Football Playoff race depending on what they do against the Georgia Bulldogs in this weekend’s Southeastern Conference championship game. It also complicates our SEC Power Rankings, as we get set to deliver the final list of the 2023 regular season.
Clark Lea’s team started 2-0 and finished 2-10. They had a bye to get ready for a Tennessee Vols team that was on a two-game losing streak and likely quit on the season, and he threw everything at UT that they hadn’t seen, but the Vols still managed to win 48-24. As a result, order is restored, and Vandy remains the worst team in the league.
Rivalry week affected how we shook out our final SEC Power Rankings, and the Razorbacks didn’t put up a fight at all against the Missouri Tigers. As a result, Sam Pittman’s team finishes the second worst in the league. It’s hard to justify him keeping his job after that abysmal performance, especially when they were playing at home.
12. Mississippi State
Playing with an interim head coach, the Bulldogs managed to put up a fight against the Ole Miss Rebels, a top 10 team. They did lose by two scores, but it wasn’t a blowout, so it’s enough for them to finish third from last in the league. Now, MSU moves into the future with Jeff Lebby as head coach after a rough season in which they fired Zach Arnett.
11. South Carolina
Shane Beamer is a weird November of 2022 away from being fired, all because he scored upset wins over the Vols and Clemson Tigers. Both teams beat him this year, with Clemson winning on the road despite having one of their worst teams in years, and it cost Spencer Rattler and co. a shot to reach a bowl game.
Playing the Florida State Seminoles close means little when that team was without Jordan Travis at quarterback and then lost its second-string quarterback in the game. Billy Napier’s team lost at home, and the Gators will miss out on a bowl game for the third straight year, a first for the program since way back in the mid-1940s.
Hugh Freeze and the Tigers are the most impossible team to judge. How do you lose by three touchdowns at home to the New Mexico State Aggies one week and then lose only by three to the Alabama Crimson Tide the next week, all because you gave up a 30-yard touchdown pass on 4th and goal late in the game?
8. Texas A&M
Nobody cares about what the Aggies did against the LSU Tigers this past weekend. They lost a tough one 42-30, finishing in the middle of the pack of our SEC Power Rankings. The story, though, is the fact that they had a wild coaching search over the weekend that started with Mark Stoops and ended with Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Elko.
Beating Vanderbilt was a nice way for Joe Milton III, Josh Heupel and the Vols to finish a difficult regular season with an 8-4 record, but it doesn’t say that much about this program. After all, Vandy is horrible, and they had to drop one spot in our SEC Power Rankings because other teams finished the regular season with better wins.
Just before Mark Stoops was seemingly hired away by Texas A&M and then stayed as Elko then took the job, he led the Wildcats to a huge win over the Louisville Cardinals, the second-best team in the SEC. That was enough to push them ahead of UT even though they lost at home in that game. A top 10 win like that is huge for the program.
Amidst every team in danger of losing a close game during rivalry week, Mizzou managed to absolutely obliterate the Hogs to finish the season 10-2. Eli Drinkwitz has a top 10-caliber program right now, which is crazy to say, and this could be a big deal for them heading into the future. They actually have a case to be No. 3.
Brian Kelly’s Tigers, to their credit, never quit on the season despite not having anything to play for after the start of November. They finished 9-3, with a strong win over Texas A&M and with Jayden Daniels having a very real shot at the Heisman Trophy. If this team had a defense, it would easily be 10-2 or maybe even 11-1 this year.
3. Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin really is maximizing what is possible with the Rebels, and given how much MSU gets up for the Egg Bowl, there’s no shame in not blowing them out on the road. Ole Miss still finished 10-2 with its only losses coming to the two teams playing for the SEC Championship, so they easily deserve to be No. 3 in our final SEC Power Rankings.
This is somewhat by default. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide usually struggle on the road in the Iron Bowl, but they usually aren’t facing a team that lost by three touchdowns to the New Mexico State Aggies. Still, they finished the regular season 11-1, undefeated in league play and set to play for the conference championship, so they do belong here.
It’s very clearly the Bulldogs and then the rest of the pack in this league right now, so we had to make Georgia No. 1 in our SEC Power Rankings. Again, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are a rivalry team, and that game was at GT. Also, GT is better this year, so winning by eight in a game that wasn’t that close isn’t a big deal.