LSU’s victory over Oregon at the Cowboy Classic has pushed the Tigers atop the SEC power rankings on ESPN. LSU should be heavily favored against Northwestern La. this weekend in Baton Rouge. A big win by Bama at Penn St. this weekend could vault the Tide back to the #1 spot.
1. LSU: The Tigers (1-0) have a strong case to be the top team in college football after taking down No. 3-ranked Oregon last Saturday in Arlington, Texas. It’s only one game, but LSU looks every bit as fast, deep and talented on defense as we heard John Chavis’ unit would be coming into this season. Simply, it’s the kind of defense you win championships with, but the Tigers still need to put some more pop into that passing game.
2. Alabama: It’s not that Alabama (1-0) did anything to lose its hold on the No. 1 spot, but more a reward for LSU leaving home and winning convincingly over a top-5 team. The Crimson Tide get a chance to flex their muscles this weekend on a big stage when they travel to Penn State. They were dominant defensively in the opener, holding Kent State to 90 total yards.
3. Arkansas: In a lot of leagues, the Hogs (1-0) would be a solid No. 1. They were extremely impressive in all three phases in their season-opening 51-7 win over Missouri State. Tyler Wilson threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns. The defense held Missouri State to 163 total yards, and Joe Adams returned two punts for touchdowns. It’s probably going to be a similar story the next two weeks, meaning Arkansas won’t get its first real test until it visits Alabama in Week 4.
4. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (1-0) have a little extra time to prepare for this Saturday’s key game at Auburn after destroying Memphis 59-14 last Thursday. Dan Mullen felt like this would be his best team, and there’s no reason to doubt him after seeing Mississippi State roll up nearly 650 yards in total offense in its opener. This also appears to be a more explosive Mississippi State team with a quarterback (Chris Relf) who just keeps getting better.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks (1-0) dropped a spot even though they ended up winning going away in a 56-37 victory over East Carolina. The thing that’s difficult to ignore is South Carolina’s sloppy start and the fact that the Gamecocks turned the ball over four times. They fell behind 17-0, and to their credit, had more than enough resolve and firepower to fight back. It’s obvious this team responds to senior quarterback Stephen Garcia, too. When he entered the huddle, the game changed.
6. Florida: The Will Muschamp era at Florida has begun, and the Gators (1-0) breezed past outmanned Florida Atlantic 41-3 in the opener. We still don’t know a whole lot about this team and probably won’t until the Tennessee game the third week of the season. But judging from last Saturday’s performance, the Gators are super athletic in their front seven on defense and are going to lean hard on speedy running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps on offense.
7. Tennessee: The Vols (1-0) took care of business against Montana in the opener, and sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray looked sharp with three touchdown passes. Going back to last season, he’s thrown 18 touchdown passes in his last six games. Tennessee still needs to rev up that running game and may need to do so this Saturday when Cincinnati comes to town. The Bearcats romped 72-10 over Austin Peay last week and scored points in bunches.
8. Georgia: There’s no shame in losing to No. 5-ranked Boise State, which has made a habit of knocking off teams from BCS conferences. That said, it’s the way the Bulldogs (0-1) lost that is so disturbing. They simply didn’t measure up on the lines of scrimmage and will be without one of their best defenders, linebacker Alec Ogletree, for the next four to six weeks after he broke his foot.
9. Auburn: The Tigers (1-0) were one big bounce from suffering an embarrassing defeat in their opener, but they pulled out a 42-38 victory over Utah State after recovering an onside kick in the final minutes and scoring the game-winning touchdown. The good news was that quarterback Barrett Trotter played well in his first game as a starter, but Auburn has a long way to go defensively if the Tigers are going to be any factor in the West race.
10. Ole Miss: What looked like it was going to be a huge season-opening win for Ole Miss turned into a nightmare in the fourth quarter. The Rebels (0-1) blew a 13-0 lead with 10 minutes to play and lost 14-13 at home to BYU. Ole Miss played well enough to win on defense. BYU scored just one offensive touchdown, and Ole Miss’ only touchdowns came on a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Sawyer. The Rebels also lost top running back Brandon Bolden for a couple of weeks with a slight fracture in his ankle.
11. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (1-0) could equal their win total from each of the last two seasons if they defeat Connecticut at home this coming Saturday. They pulled away from Elon for a 45-14 victory in the season opener. First-year coach James Franklin had to like the way his team finished the game with 24 unanswered points. He’ll find out a lot more about his team this weekend when the Huskies come to Nashville.
12. Kentucky: The good news is that Kentucky (1-0) kept Western Kentucky out of the end zone and intercepted four passes in a 14-3 season-opening win. The Wildcats wanted to be a more aggressive defense under first-year coordinator Rick Minter, so it was a good start on that front. But offensively, the Wildcats were almost bad enough to lose the game. They were limited to 190 total yards and didn’t put the game away until the final five minutes. If this team can’t run the ball better this season, it’s in big trouble.