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SEC Power Rankings After Week 9

The entire SEC has played at least eight games now, giving us a clearer picture for this week's power rankings.

And with the exception of a strange schedule wrinkle for Vanderbilt, bye weeks are officially a thing of the past. We're in the stretch run now. There hasn't been a major shakeup in these rankings in the past few weeks, but with some of the year's biggest games coming up, that could change. Let's dive into our SEC power rankings for this week but with a focus on bowl placement — whether that means fighting for the College Football Playoff, for bowl eligibility, or anything in between.

1. Georgia (8-0)

There's the resounding Bulldogs performance, the likes of which we've been looking for all year but have only seen sparingly. In Brock Bowers' absence, Ladd McConkey stepped up exactly the way he needed to and racked up 135 yards and a score, while quarterback Carson Beck played mistake-free football en route to a thorough, four-quarter domination of the Gators.

It was a clean game overall, as a Florida fumble was the only turnover. But Georgia was able to step up and stifle the Gators when it mattered, limiting them to four third-down conversions on 11 tries and no success on a pair of fourth-down tries. The Bulldogs' pass defense let Graham Mertz get to work underneath but was able to mostly limit the big plays.

Starting next week, Georgia will finally play some football games that will at least theoretically be challenging. Its next three matchups are against ranked opposition, starting next week with Missouri and its extremely prolific pass offense; and the season finale is against a Georgia Tech squad that just took down North Carolina. With no free wins on the horizon, we're about to learn much more about who this team really is and if it can defend its consecutive titles.

2. Alabama (7-1)

The Tide did not get to roll this weekend as they enjoyed a well-placed bye week; they'll certainly enjoy the opportunity to rest up after a big win over Tennessee and to prepare for another major clash with LSU. In many ways, the game with the Tigers — who will also be fresh after a bye — could be the SEC game of the year and is rightfully viewed by many as the last major contest for Nick Saban's bunch in the regular season.

After Alabama lost to Texas, many were writing obituaries for the Crimson Tide and their era of dominance. But if they get past LSU, the path to an SEC title — and, thus, a College Football Playoff spot — is very clear, even if not easy. Beating Georgia is no small proposition, but if you had told Alabama fans after the Texas loss that they'd eventually have a one-game play-in to make a semifinal, they'd have enthusiastically accepted the chance. The Tide have once again fought their way back into contention, and it'll be fascinating to see how they perform against a fellow resurgent squad.

3. Ole Miss (7-1)

In every season since 2017, at least three teams in the SEC have made either the College Football Playoff or another New Year's Six bowl, and a fourth was selected in both 2018 and 2020. If this spot in the power rankings turns out to be the dividing line — as it appears that being in the top three in the conference is the bar to reach one of the biggest bowl games — the shootout win over LSU earlier this season could turn out to really be a huge one for the Rebels.

Ole Miss spent this week securing a very routine win over Vanderbilt, and while they did look good, there's just not much to say about winning at home against probably the conference's worst squad. Quinshon Judkins dominated — as a star running back should in a game where his team spends the entire time leading — while quarterback Jaxson Dart disappointingly threw a pick.

The Rebels will square off against Texas A&M next, and they should win comfortably at home against another disappointing Aggies squad. The upcoming matchup with Georgia is probably a loss; but unless LSU takes down Alabama, the Rebels should be pretty firmly entrenched into this third spot. If the Tigers do pull off the upset, we'll see some interesting discussions about the pecking order in the conference in the second through fourth spots — but we'll wait a week and just see what happens.

4. LSU (6-2)

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Jayden Daniels #5 of the LSU Tigers runs against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 07, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri.

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Like their rivals Alabama, LSU had a bye weekend, as they too were doubtless resting up and preparing for the enormous upcoming clash. If the Tigers are able to secure the unlikely win in Tuscaloosa, they'll be in the fascinating position of potentially becoming the first team to make the College Football Playoff with multiple losses.

Their margin for error would obviously still be zero with a win over Alabama, but one of their losses was a non-conference contest. So an Ole Miss loss to Georgia would send the Tigers into the SEC title game if they beat Alabama and then win out. Even if LSU loses the conference after beating Alabama, their floor is probably a New Year's Six bid. But if they don't beat Alabama and finish 9-3 or worse, they'll stay out of the top 3 in the conference and possibly fall to fifth or worse and be stuck in a lower-tier bowl.

5. Missouri (7-1)

Mizzou was yet another relatively top-tier SEC team that spent this week idle. That being said, this week was still a net positive for Eliah Drinkwitz's squad. The loss to LSU was obviously not ideal; but after Florida was dominated by Georgia, the Tigers are clearly second in the SEC East pecking order.

Of course, Missouri will have to take its turn against the Bulldogs in its next game — on the road in Athens, no less. An upset win would open up all sorts of doors, such as an SEC title game appearance and even a spot in the College Football Playoff if all goes well; and it would at least give Mizzou a shot to make a New Year's Six bowl. They'll still be on the fringes of a bid for the latter if they lose competitively to Georgia, but they'd likely need some outside help.

6. Tennessee (6-2)

After a nice road win over Kentucky — paired with some ineptitude from a team that was above Tennessee in last week's rankings — the Vols are the only team moving up in this week's edition. I've noted in past weeks that despite the head-to-head result, Tennessee should be close to passing Florida, and they earned it this week with a dominant ground performance.

Tennessee imposed its will with 253 rushing yards at a rate of 5.4 per rush. Jaylen Wright was the standout with 120 yards on just 11 rushes, including a 52-yard scamper; but it was really a nice team effort, as four rushers had nine or more totes. After the Gators were demolished by Georgia, these two East division rivals are finally trading places.

That being said, we'll have to see just how long Tennessee can hold on to the sixth spot. Things are about to get tougher, although not this week. A strange home matchup with UConn will probably be a win, but then the Vols are going on the road to play Mizzou, and then will host Georgia. If they can pick up a win or two, they could be in the New Year's Six discussion. But more realistically, they'll probably be going to a less-prestigious bowl after a reality check.

7. Florida (5-3)

The Florida run game was fairly efficient, although 48 of the team's 109 ground yards came on one Montrell Johnson carry. Running back Trevor Etienne was productive as expected but didn't get enough chances after the Gators were forced to the air while trailing most of the game against Georgia. The defense was pretty embarrassing, letting the Bulldogs do whatever they wanted all game long, and will need to be better going forward.

Amazingly enough, after a promising 5-2 start, bowl eligibility is no sort of guarantee for coach Billy Napier's squad. They can secure it this week with a win over a mediocre-at-best Arkansas squad; but if the Razorbacks get the upset, Florida is in trouble. They have road trips to LSU and Missouri in the following two weeks; and then they will host rival Florida State to finish off the regular season, in a game the Seminoles might need to make the College Football Playoff.

Even with a win against Arkansas, 6-6 would be a pretty dismal result for this program, so they'll look to solve some defensive issues against the Razorbacks and have some good performances as they search for a late upset.

8. Kentucky (5-3)

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 28: Kentucky Wildcats running back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye (0) in a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats on October 28, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY.

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Kentucky is at the bottom of a very clear tier in this year's SEC, so it is holding onto this spot for the time being. But a loss paired with a Texas A&M win puts them in a very precarious position in that regard. On a positive note, Devin Leary looked a lot better this week after an absolutely dismal start to the year. But the ground game never got going, and Kentucky couldn't finish the comeback at home. Three straight losses have the Wildcats reeling after a charmed start to the year; and after some preliminary discussions about a fringe SEC bid, we now have to talk about their path to bowl eligibility.

To be fair, it's a very broad and clear path, not a narrow one; Kentucky should have no problem getting one more win. That being said, three of their final four games are on the road, and the home game is against a red-hot Alabama team and should be a loss. Next up is a road trip to Mississippi State, with a visit to South Carolina in a few weeks. But the Alabama game is a problem, and a rivalry week clash with Louisville will be another major challenge for this squad,

9. Texas A&M (5-3)

After a couple of close losses to Alabama and Tennessee, the Aggies picked up a desperately needed win against South Carolina. The defense showed up; and while the rushing attack barely materialized, quarterback Max Johnson and the offense did enough to comfortably boost A&M above the Gamecocks.

Bowl eligibility is now almost a sure thing for coach Jimbo Fisher, an absolute bare minimum as the former national champion attempts to retain his job. The upcoming road trip to Ole Miss is an opportunity to make a statement; but barring an unlikely win in Oxford, they'll still have a couple of chances to get a sixth and almost likely seventh win as well. Home games against Mississippi State and Abilene Christian should be relatively easy wins, but the question still looms: Is 7-5, even 8-5 with a bowl win, enough to save Fisher?

10. Auburn (4-4)

This week's outing was, amazingly, the first SEC win for Auburn after starting with a brutal slate of Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss. It was a well-deserved one, as the Tigers have long been a bit better than their dismal league record indicates, and they can finally start to rack up some wins now.

Hugh Freeze's squad needs a 2-2 finish or better to make it to a bowl, and they should do it for sure. It's not ideal to be going on the road against some very beatable opponents; but Auburn should still be able to, at worst, split the two games against Vanderbilt and Arkansas. If they can do that, a win over New Mexico State at home would secure bowl eligibility, before the Tigers turn their attention to the Iron Bowl and an opportunity to play spoiler to Alabama for the umpteenth time.

11. South Carolina (2-6)

South Carolina makes it hard to keep ranking them above Mississippi State, especially as Arizona keeps looking better. But the head-to-head win factor is a powerful thing; and, frankly, these are the SEC power rankings, and both teams have exactly one SEC win. Mississippi State had a 7-3 nightmare win against Arkansas, which is going to legitimately challenge Vanderbilt for the bottom spot. And South Carolina's lone SEC win is, of course, against Mississippi State itself.

Both teams were unceremoniously dispatched on the road by mediocre teams this week. For the Gamecocks, it was Texas A&M, more or less the epitome of average in this conference. With six losses, South Carolina has absolutely no margin for error in terms of making a bowl. To be honest, it's probably not happening; the rest of the season will be at home, and wins over Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt should be in order. But one or both of Kentucky and Clemson should absolutely come into Columbia and end the Gamecocks' hopes of going .500.

12. Mississippi State (4-4)

AUBURN, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 28: Zavion Thomas #1 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs runs the ball before being pushed out of bounds by Jaylin Simpson #36 of the Auburn Tigers during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Auburn, Alabama.

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Mississippi State was kind enough to donate an SEC win to Auburn, which previously had none. The offense was unable to get the job done against a pretty solid Tigers defense, especially through the air; Mike Wright completed just 50% of his 32 passes for 161 yards. He was also the team's leading rusher; and the ground game was actually pretty effective, but it wasn't the right approach to come back from a 24-3 deficit.

Let's talk bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs should have a win in their future against Southern Miss in the penultimate game of the regular season, but where can they find another? Kentucky is spiraling a bit but could very easily stabilize this week in Starkville; College Station is a tough place to play at; and Ole Miss will be heavily favored in the Egg Bowl. It's looking like 5-7 for coach Zach Arnett's squad, but an upset would likely earn them a spot in the postseason.

13. Arkansas (2-6)

Arkansas definitely enjoyed their bye week, and it couldn't have possibly come at a better time after the team suffered six consecutive losses following a 2-0 start. It's the fourth season of coach Sam Pittman's rebuild, and things have not gone remotely according to plan after relatively high expectations. The Hogs won bowls in 2021 and '22, but they're running out of time to reach one this season.

The margin for error is, of course, zero as they sit at 2-6. Yet winning out is weirdly possible for a team that has struggled mightily to this point. The upcoming game against Florida will be the biggest litmus test as to how viable a bowl push really is; if they can secure a shock win on the road in Gainesville, home games against Auburn and FIU are winnable, setting up a win-and-in situation for the season finale. That's a home game against Mizzou, a much better team. But we all know how crazy college football rivalries can be, so if the Razorbacks make it to that point at 5-6, it would be hard to count them out.

14. Vanderbilt (2-7)

After an uncompetitive loss to Ole Miss, the Commodores became the first SEC team to officially whiff on bowl eligibility, although several are sure to join shortly. Its pass game was completely nonexistent, even against a questionable Rebels defense; Vandy's two passers completed eight passes on 20 attempts, for a total of 60 yards, no scores and two picks.

This has been a lost season for quite some time, and picking up even one additional win would be quite a triumph for this squad. They'll host Auburn this week for their final home game, and then travel to South Carolina and Tennessee for their last couple of contests in a dismal campaign.

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