Bama rolling, Georgia surging, Arkansas struggling
The top of the SEC is as strong as ever. Alabama continues to shine, but LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and even Florida are capable of winning a conference title. The SEC East is making a comeback, as well. Alabama and LSU might be the two best teams in the league, but the next best three teams reside in the East.
Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback was superb in Georgia’s 48–3 win over Vanderbilt, completing 18-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Murray ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency through four games.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — He didn’t put up big numbers against Kentucky (56 yards on 13 carries), but Gillislee has been a huge factor in the Gators’ offensive renaissance. He ranks second in the SEC in rushing, with 100.5 yards per game.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The redshirt freshman had another big game for the Aggies, throwing for 174 yards and three scores while adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground in a 70–14 win over South Carolina State. He will have to prove himself against better competition to stay on this list, but Manziel is off to a great start.
Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones returned to action after missing last week with an injury, and the junior outside linebacker was his usual disruptive self. He recorded seven tackles, including three for a loss (including one sack) in Georgia’s dominating win over Vanderbilt.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney, a likely top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, continues to be a force for the South Carolina defense. In four games, he has 7.0 tackles for a loss, including 2.0 sacks. The Gamceocks have given up 23 points in two SEC games.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker led Alabama with six tackles in a 40–7 win over Florida Atlantic. Through four games, he leads the Tide with 29 total tackles and has one interception.
Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — The Crimson Tide have emerged as the clear No. 1 team one-quarter through the 2012 season. Right now, this looks like a team without a weakness.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators are already 3–0 in the SEC with two of the wins coming on the road. The offense, a major question mark before the season, has been sharp, while the defense remains a strength.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs continue to climb up the national rankings. They are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball and are now being mentioned with the elite teams in the nation.
Post-Week 1 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 40–7
The big news in Tuscaloosa is that Alabama was scored on for the first time since the third quarter of its Week 1 win vs. Michigan. When Florida Atlantic quarterback Graham Wilbert connected with Alex Deleon on a 6-yard pass with 2:49 remaining in the game, the Crimson Tide’s streak was snapped at 12 straight scoreless quarters — a run that lasted 192 minutes and 25 seconds of game time. FAU, which lost last week at Georgia, managed only 110 total yards and had only 45 offensive snaps. Alabama had 503 yards and scored on its first seven possessions.
2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 4 result: Beat Auburn 12-10
LSU had won 12 straight games by at least 24 points against teams not named Alabama. The Tigers, however, struggled to beat Auburn. But a win is still a win — especially on the road in the SEC. “We were tested, and we answered the call,” LSU coach Les Miles said. The Tigers, to no one’s surprise, got it done on defense. Auburn totaled only 183 yards of offense and did not have one drive that went longer than 42 yards. LSU has allowed 14 points or less in all four games in 2012.
3. Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Vanderbilt 48-3
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected win over Vanderbilt. Georgia scored on its four possessions — with touchdown drives of 68, 88, 57 and 96 yards — to put the game out of reach in the first half. In three career games vs. Vanderbilt, Aaron Murray is 55-of-86 for 863 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
4. South Carolina (4-0, 2-0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 4 result: Beat Missouri 31-10
Steve Spurrier was kidding, we think, when he offered this critique of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: “Well, he got off to a slow start. He missed the first one, I think.” Shaw’s first pass did fall incomplete, but the junior quarterback connected on his next 20 attempts to finish a near flawless performance with a 95.2 completion percentage, 249 yards passing and two touchdowns without an interception. After surviving a scare at Vanderbilt in Week 1, South Carolina has won its three ensuing games by an average score of 43–9.
5. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 4 result: Beat Kentucky 38-0
Florida became the first team in the nation with three conference wins — and the Gators barely had to break a sweat to do so. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in the big win at Tennessee, but he was still very efficient (18-of-27 for 203 yards with one TD and one INT) for an offense that rolled up 403 yards. The Gators shined on third down, converting 12-of-17 while limiting the Kentucky offense to only 4-of-15.
6. Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 4 result: Beat South Alabama 30-10
There wasn’t much to get excited about in Mississippi State’s win over South Alabama, one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks. The Bulldogs barely outgained the Jaguars (356 to 347); quarterback Tyler Russell completed less than 50 percent of his passes; and the running game was mediocre at best, with an average of 4.2 yards per rush. But the Dogs are 4¬¬–0 for the first time since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
7. Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 4 result: Beat South Carolina State 70-14
The Aggies did what was expected: Beat overmatched South Carolina State with ease. Johnny Manziel once again was sharp, completing 15-of-20 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns and adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground. Texas A&M set an SEC record in only its third game as a member of the league; the Aggies had 246 punt return yards, highlighted by a 96-yard return for a score by Dustin Harris.
8. Missouri (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 4 result: Lost to South Carolina 30-10
Missouri’s first SEC road trip didn’t go too well. The Tigers had only 255 yards on offense — their lowest total since gaining 173 in a loss to Texas in 2009 — and provided little resistance to Connor Shaw and the South Carolina passing game. Shaw completed 21-of-22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin threw for only 92 yards on 18 passes for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. The Tigers head to UCF next week for a tricky road game before returning home for a key three-game homestand.
8. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 4 result: Beat Akron 47-26
The end result looked good: The Vols won the game by 21 points and outgained Akron 633 to 344. But this was far more difficult than coach Derek Dooley would have liked. The score was tied until midway through the third quarter, and the game was in doubt until Tyler Bray hooked up with Justin Hunter for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 9:18 remaining in the fourth. Tennessee was productive running the ball: Rajion Neal led the way with 151 yards on 22 carries, and Marlin Lane chipped in with 47 yards on nine attempts. Akron has now lost 22 straight road games.
9. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 4 result: Lost to LSU 12-10
It was far more competitive than most expected — Auburn was an 18-point under dog — but there are no moral victories, especially at home, for a team that won a national championship as recently as 2010. In two SEC games, Auburn is averaging 199.5 total yards and has scored one offensive touchdown. Kiehl Frazier, in his first season as the starting quarterback, has completed 47-of-89 passes for 546 yards (only 136.5 per game) with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Tigers are 1–3 for the first time since 1998 — the season in which Terry Bowden stepped down after six games.
11. Arkansas (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 4 result: Lost to Rutgers 35-26
Arkansas, ranked in the top 15 in every preseason poll, dropped to 1–3 with a 35–26 loss to Rutgers in Fayetteville. The return of Tyler Wilson, who missed last week’s 52–0 loss to Arkansas with a concussion, wasn’t enough to spark the Razorbacks. Wilson did his part, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns, but the Arkansas defense gave up five touchdowns and over 500 yards of offense. The Hogs are still looking for their first win vs. an FBS opponent; their lone win was vs. Jacksonville State in Week 1.
12. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 4 result: Lost to Georgia 48-3
Vanderbilt never recovered from a slow start and put up little fight en route to its most lopsided loss since being shut out by Tennessee 48–0 in the final game of the 2003 season. In a bit of a surprise, Jordan Rodgers got the nod at quarterback over Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started the previous week against Presbyterian. Rodgers completed 13-of-23 for 218 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Zac Stacy ran well for Vanderbilt with 83 yards on 12 carries. The Commodores have now been outscored by a combined 91–3 in their last two trips to Athens.
13. Ole Miss (3-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 4 result: Beat Tulane 39-0
The Rebels completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 3-1 record after pounding Tulane 39-0 in New Orleans. Ole Miss jumped on the Green Wave early, with four touchdowns in the game’s first 13 minutes. The Ole Miss defense limited Tulane to 159 total yards one week after getting lit up by Texas for 676 yards in a 66–31 loss in Oxford. Tulane, playing without starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, averaged only 2.3 yards per play.
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 Result: Lost to Florida 38-0
Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith was forced to watch from the sideline as Kentucky dropped to 1–3 with a lopsided loss to Florida. Entering the weekend, UK ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
By Mitch Light
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