How much do we really know about the SEC’s hierarchy after week 1? Well, if you follow what the AP or Coaches’ polls say, you may be comfortable giving me a firm 1-14 ranking. I, on the other hand, like to get eyes on these teams and gather a little more information.
What we can say right now is that the SEC has thirteen 1-0 teams. It also has Tennessee.
The rankings to come out of Week 1 would be all wonky if we just ranked these teams based on how they looked and who they beat, right? I mean, does anyone think Ole Miss or LSU is better than UGA? No, but their wins were certainly more impressive.
Instead we will rank the teams within pods based on the type of Week 1 game they played.
TEIR 1: BEAT A POWER 5 CONFERENCE OPPONENT
1. ALABAMA (51-14 over Louisville)
Forget any fretting or misdirection about what the defending national champions would do under center. We all knew Tua would start and that he would play the majority of the snaps, and that is exactly what happened.
He looked excellent. Bama looked excellent. It was another Week 1 mauling executed so perfectly that the only interesting thing that happened is Nick Saban shouting at poor Maria Taylor for no apparent reason other than he’s insane and insane people shout.
2. LSU (33-17 over Miami)
Once we get to the point that rankings are more reflective of how good these teams really are I expect that LSU will drop, but for Week 1, they looked excellent, and if you say this is what you expected, I will call you a liar to your face. The Bayou Bengals created turnovers, got to the QB four times, and let Nick Brossette be the bell cow when they had the ball.
Joe Burrows didn’t set the world on fire, but with the way the Tigers’ defense victimized Malik Rozier and made DeeJay Dallas a virtual non-factor, literally the only thing the Ohio State transfer had to do was not screw things up. The good news for Ed Orgeron is he did not. The good news for America is even though he did not, we still got to hear Coach O shout cuss words clear as a bell more than once as the Tigers burned through all of their timeouts in the first quarter.
3. AUBURN (21-16 over Washington)
Do not misunderstand me. In terms of who they beat, no one in the SEC or anywhere else in the nation, had a better opening weekend than Auburn. I would still bet dollars to donuts that Washington is in the College Football Playoff conversation at year’s end, and Auburn made Miles Gaskins, one of the Huskies’ biggest stars, look silly.
While the Auburn defense was an absolute wrecking ball, its offense was only above average. Jarrett Stidham looked good, but not great. Kam Martin was serviceable, but not special. Missed kicks and red zone miscues kept Auburn from running away and hiding from Washington early.
4. OLE MISS (47-27 over Texas Tech)
Lest ye forget, there is a whole lot of offensive talent on the Ole Miss roster. It’s not every team that can have a prize QB recruit transfer and its fanbase reacts with a flippant “whatever.” Jordan Ta’amu and his receivers had the kind of day that can make you think that maybe the NCAA sanctions won’t destroy Ole Miss. And they won't...for a while.
Despite uniforms that made them look like Ku Klux Klansmen and a mascot that looks like a rejected Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain, Ole Miss had a really good day. DK Metcalf and AJ Brown looked every bit the part of their preseason “best receiving corps in the country” hype, and Ta’amu seemed equal parts beneficiary and cause of that fact.
TIER 2: BEAT A GROUP OF 5 OPPONENT
1. SOUTH CAROLINA (49-15 over Coastal Carolina)
Did you know the Cocks have a new offense? That fact seemed to be the “Did you know Jake Bentley skipped his senior year of high school?” of the summer of 2018. And look, between Bentley getting more chances to put the ball in the air, a healthy Deebo, and a reliable, two pronged rushing attack, there was a lot to like even if we didn’t see much of the new playbook.
Now, let’s talk about those helmets, because no matter what Kody and the other bosses at GABA claim, this is really an SEC fashion blog. I was not a fan. I don’t mind switching things up, but the garnet helmets are the ones that looked the best in the first place. They didn’t need any plussing. Also, let’s do something bold. Maybe for the Clemson game Carolina takes the field in snazzy chrome helmets featuring that picture of Tee Higgins standing in front of a McLaren 570.
2. VANDERBILT (35-7 over Middle Tennessee)
You would think Vanderbilt would be well aware of this, seeing as how everyone that went to school there is much smarter than everyone that went to school at literally any other SEC institution, but hiring a defensive coordinator is a good thing! Derek Mason called his own plays on defense until this season. Maybe don’t bet the farm on Vandy, because they were playing a Conference USA team, but Vandy’s D looked every bit like what was promised when Mason first came to town!
The Commodores’ first touchdown came on a scoop and score, something that team hasn’t done in almost two years. They also racked up five sacks before halftime. Kyle Shurmer had a rough start, but for a team that everyone expected to show up dead on arrival, Vanderbilt had a pretty good night.
3. KENTUCKY (35-20 over Central Michigan)
Dear Lord, why have you allowed us to lose to this team so many times? I know you are wise and just, but surely a team with as many weapons on offense as the Gamecocks seemingly have this year can beat a team that turned the ball over four times before halftime and at one point trailed Central Michigan by ten, right? If they don’t, I can only assume that you have forsaken us or that it is the work of Satan.
Prayers aside, you will never convince me that Benny Snell actually enjoys playing for Kentucky. That guy has to be counting down the seconds until he can declare for the NFL Draft. Snell again put the Wildcats on his back and bailed them out of trouble. Between he and sophomore teammate Asim Rose, the Wildcats racked up 229 of their 427 yards total. The duo also scored four of the Cats’ five TDs.
TIER 3: WIN WITH A NEW COACH AGAINST AN FCS TEAM
1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (63-6 over Stephen F. Austin)
You knew Mississippi State had big things in mind when it went out and hired Joe Moorhead to replace Dan Mullen. The former Penn State offensive coordinator doesn’t have strong recruiting ties in the Deep South. It looks like a hire that will pay off exactly as expected.
It took one play to show you just how potent the Mississippi State offense can be this year. Even without Nick Fitzgerald under center, the Dogs racked up 35-3 lead heading in to the break and managed to show an offensive attack that got the most out of the QB position, even when the QB (in this case Keayton Thompson) wasn't always so accurate.
2. FLORIDA (53-6 over Charleston Southern)
Let me explain this one, because I wasn’t actually wowed by the Gators. I thought Felipe Franks was fine. I thought the run game did its job. I thought the defense played as expected. The fact that Florida could come out and make things look so one-sided on a day that began with the team finding out a good chunk of starters would be suspended is what I actually thought was notable.
Dan Mullen was clearly excited to be back in Gainesville. He gave the camera a little dance, and put on as much of a show as an already limited offense depleted by suspensions could. If I were a Florida fan, I’d celebrate this one, because Austin Perry’s pick-two may be the most exciting play your team delivers this season.
3. TEXAS A&M (59-7 over Northwestern State)
Texas A&M looks boring as hell. They executed Jimbo Fisher’s 1923 offense with precision, but it was against an FCS team that can’t even settle on a quarterback. For all of his $7.5 million per year paycheck, Jimbo Fisher couldn’t deliver anything on the field that was nearly as memorable as SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic dawning football pants on the sideline.
For all the focus put on the Aggies’ beat down of the Cocks to launch the SEC Network on a Thursday night, ESPN sure is going out of its way to give us turd after turd since as a season opener.
4. ARKANSAS (55-20 over Eastern Illinois)
The biggest news to come out of Arkansas’s bullying of Tony Roma’s alma matter is that Ty Storey seems to have emerged as the Hogs’ starting quarterback. That is big news for Chad Morris, who is trying to transition this roster out of playing the kind of goon ball you would expect from a guy that is now the Dwight Schrute to Bill Belichick’s Michael Scott and towards something more resembling college football in 2018.
There are going to be hiccups, but from the looks of Storey’s arm, this could be a dangerous team for some of the conference’s middling teams. By November, if Arkansas keeps progressing with its new playbook, they could make Thanksgiving weekend hell for Mizzou.
TIER 4: WIN WITH AN OLD COACH VS. AN FCS TEAM
1. GEORGIA (45-0 over Austin Peay)
Just like Carolina, UGA’s goal was to win convincingly without having to show too much. That’s exactly what the Dawgs did. Jake Fromm showed command of the offense, All-World freshman Justin Fields got to come in and dual-threaten everyone, and D’Andre Swift got to stretch his legs without putting himself in any real danger.
Georgia, like Carolina, wanted to win without showing too much, and that is exactly what they did. They are at the top of this category because of last year’s results, this year’s expectations, and the only other team in this category is Mizzou.
2. MIZZOU (51-14 over UT Martin)
Missouri actually did a whole lot right in this game. Barry Odom let Drew Lock put on a show without overworking the SEC’s best quarterback. They showed how bright the future of their passing game could be. Their injury situation was manageable.
The biggest news is that Derek Dooley managed not to set the entire field on fire. His boss even noted that he was impressed by Dooley’s feel for the flow of the game. Now look, coaches are supposed to say those kinds of things about their coordinators, but Derek Dooley is a noted moron. Any praise is worth taking note of.
TIER 5: TENNESSEE
1. TENNESSEE (14-40 loss to West Virginia)
Tennessee continues not to be good at football.