The SEC has lived by the motto of “It Just Means More” for a while now, but in 2023, the conference has struggled to live up to the moniker. With question marks over a large number of teams, who is set to separate themselves from the others down the rest of the stretch?
Our updated SEC Power Rankings attempt to establish the answers to those questions ahead of Week 6.
SEC Power Rankings 2023
Our SEC Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account a number of factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.
14) Vanderbilt Commodores
Preseason Ranking: 13th
After getting to five wins last season, it honestly felt like the Vanderbilt Commodores were on an uphill trajectory coming into the third year of the HC Clark Lea era. However, it’s once again been a case of more promise than punch, resulting in the Commodores sliding back down to the foot of our SEC Power Rankings. A path to five wins or more this year doesn’t appear to exist right now.
The Commodores haven’t had a season since 2019 where they’ve allowed less than 30 points per game, and they’re averaging 32.4 points so far this year. Lea’s team beat Hawaii to start the year, but not convincingly, and their next dalliance with the Mountain West saw them lose to UNLV. If the defense doesn’t tighten up, the offense doesn’t stand a chance.
13) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Preseason Ranking: 11th
After their Week 5 loss to Alabama, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are the only team with three SEC defeats on their résumé already. They’re also one of just four teams in the conference batting under .500 overall. HC Zach Arnett’s team couldn’t live with the pace of LSU or Alabama, and they came up short against South Carolina.
Despite their defensive head coach, the Bulldogs have struggled on that side of the ball, with only South Carolina and LSU allowing more yards per play than Arnett’s team. Only LSU and Vanderbilt are allowing more points. Regardless of how good Will Rogers is at quarterback, you can’t give away that sort of advantage in the SEC.
12) Arkansas Razorbacks
Preseason Ranking: 6th
Preseason hype has given way to in-season realism for the Arkansas Razorbacks. On paper, Sam Pittman’s team has the talent to be a legitimate threat in the SEC. K.J. Jefferson is an alluring dual-threat quarterback with the frame to bulldoze on the run and the arm talent to throw the ball over a mountain. Additionally, Raheim Sanders is one of the best running backs in the nation.
Football isn’t played on paper, and it’s not been played well on the field by Arkansas so far this season. With wins over MAC bottom-dweller Kent State and FCS Western Carolina on their 2-2 record, they’re one of just two SEC teams without a Power Five win. They played LSU closer than expected in Week 4 but suffered a 12-point loss to Texas A&M in Week 5 to fall to 0-2 in conference play.
11) South Carolina Gamecocks
Preseason Ranking: 5th
Another sharp faller in our updated SEC Power Rankings, the South Carolina Gamecocks got a season of expectation off to a slow start when their offensive line allowed QB Spencer Rattler to suffer against North Carolina. While they kept Georgia quiet early on in Week 3, they fell to a second defeat in a big game.
They barely held off Mississippi State in Week 4, too. They entered Week 5 with a 2-2 record, but they took a three-touchdown loss to Tennessee, highlighting some serious issues to address. However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom in Columbia. When given time, Rattler has flashed high-level talent, while WR Xavier Legette has emerged into the national spotlight. Avoiding Alabama and LSU could also help their cause down the line.
10) Florida Gators
Preseason Ranking: 12th
Forget the pure numbers of the thing — QB Graham Mertz has actually been far more efficient operating the Florida Gators offense than anyone ever imagined heading into the season. That effectiveness has allowed a dangerous running back room to thrive, most notably on the national stage against Tennessee.
That win is one of just a small handful that SEC teams have over a Top 25 opponent. While RBs Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson have impressed — not to mention WR Ricky Pearsall’s ludicrous catch against Charlotte — the defense had been the true power behind the Gators’ 3-1 start. However, that unit was embarrassed by Kentucky in Week 5, with Wildcat RB Ray Davis running wild over the Gators.
9) Auburn Tigers
Preseason Ranking: 10th
The HC Hugh Freeze era with the Auburn Tigers began with three straight wins amidst a charm offensive, a plundering of the portal, and immediate success on the recruiting trail. However, Tigers fans were well aware that last season under Brian Harsin started 3-1, and we all know how that worked out.
Sure enough, SEC play has not been kind to the Tigers. They were humbled in the second half against a Texas A&M squad quarterbacked by backup Max Johnson. While they played Georgia closer than many thought, they are 0-2 in the SEC entering Week 6. Freeze’s team is yet to discover a true offensive identity, with multiple QBs taking snaps each game. That isn’t sustainable in the SEC.
8) Texas A&M Aggies
Preseason Ranking: 8th
Texas A&M was a contentious team when we released our preseason SEC Power Rankings with some heated conversations about where they belong in the conference hierarchy this year. They beat up New Mexico and Louisiana-Monroe, but they failed to meet expectations against Miami (FL) where they fell 48-33.
Despite the 27-10 scoreline in the win over Auburn, the Aggies hardly dominated the Tigers — except on defense. With another 10-plus-point win, this time over Arkansas in Week 5, Jimbo Fisher’s team is now 2-0 in the SEC. There’s so much talent on this team to not be good, but they’re still a step or two away from being great.
7) Tennessee Volunteers
Preseason Ranking: 4th
Outside of the SEC, Tennessee has been impressive so far this season. They’ve scored no less than 30 points in games against Virginia, Austin Peay, and UTSA while averaging just over 13 points allowed in those three contests. In SEC play, however, it hasn’t been as straightforward, losing to Florida in “The Swamp” before putting up a three-score win over South Carolina.
Joe Milton has been a divisive figure at quarterback. There’s no doubting his ludicrous arm strength, but there are holes within his game that limit the potential of this offense. The former Michigan QB completed less than 60% of his passes against Florida and UTSA and threw two interceptions in the win over South Carolina in Week 5. This isn’t the same team that struck fear into opponents a year ago.
6) LSU Tigers
Preseason Ranking: 2nd
This 2023 season had an eerily familiar start for the LSU Tigers, echoing the previous campaign that saw them lose to FSU in Week 1 before sweeping all in front of them and going to the SEC Championship Game. Comfortable wins over Grambling State and Mississippi State suggested a repeat performance, but this isn’t the 2022 LSU team — not by a long shot.
HC Brian Kelly’s team limped past Arkansas in Week 4, a close-fought 34-31 win that you could possibly attribute to the Razorbacks rising to the occasion in a rivalry game. However, a trip to Oxford in Week 5 exposed some severe weaknesses in the Tigers that caused them to tumble down our SEC Power Rankings. After giving up 55 points in a defeat, no team has given up more yards per play in the conference, and only Vanderbilt has given up more points.
5) Ole Miss Rebels
Preseason Ranking: 7th
Is Ole Miss ever going to take the leap into being a top-three team in the SEC under HC Lane Kiffin? A Week 5 victory over LSU eased some growing pressure on the Rebels’ head coach after the start of the season seemed to be following a familiar pattern. They’d beat up on the opposition they were expected to, but a close win over Tulane and defeat to Alabama have exposed some old “big game” execution issues.
Those haven’t completely vanished after the LSU win, but they certainly buy Kiffin some more time. They’re 4-1 in the conference and have outscored every team in the SEC. At some point, however, they’re going to have to play some defense if they’re to be considered anything close to a real challenger for the SEC West.
4) Missouri Tigers
Preseason Ranking: 14th
It’s hands-up time. We wholeheartedly underestimated what this Missouri Tigers team could be when we penned our preseason SEC Power Rankings. Their offense was miserable last season, and we didn’t anticipate a way they’d get any better. We were wrong. The Tigers have been one of the top teams in the conference and have been impressive on both sides of the ball.
Sophomore WR Luther Burden III is enjoying a breakout season, with his ludicrous athletic profile allowing him to dominate at any level of the field. QB Brady Cook has been efficient, and RB Cody Schrader is on pace to smash his career-best production. Led by LB Ty’ron Hopper, the defense is loaded with legitimate playmakers. They get a huge boost in our update after opening the season 5-0 with their first SEC win against Vanderbilt in Week 5.
3) Kentucky Wildcats
Preseason Ranking: 9th
After a down year in 2022, the Kentucky Wildcats are back to being a contender at the top of the SEC. The return of offensive coordinator Liam Coen has made all the difference to a team that is averaging just under 17 points more per game so far than last year. No team had come closer than 11 points to the Wildcats through Week 4.
Although the Wildcats have climbed our SEC Power Rankings, penetrating the top three after ruthlessly trampling Florida in Week 5, it comes with a cautionary tale. HC Mark Stoops’ team has had the weakest strength of schedule so far and has to travel to Athens to face Georgia, face Missouri at home, take on Tennessee, and host Alabama. Any of those teams should be weary of throwing in the direction of CB Maxwell Hairston.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Preseason Ranking: 3rd
A quarterback controversy, substandard offensive line play, barely beating USF, and losing to Texas — this hasn’t been your traditional start to an Alabama Crimson Tide season. Such has been the turmoil in Tuscaloosa that many wondered if we might be seeing the beginning of the end for the HC Nick Saban era. There’s no such luck for teams and coaches across the country.
While there are still real questions to be answered for the Tide, they still managed to roll Ole Miss in Week 4 and made even lighter work of Mississippi State in Week 5. It’s difficult to make a case that any of the teams below them in our SEC Power Rankings would beat ‘Bama right now, especially with DE Dallas Turner emerging as one of CFB’s most dangerous pass rushers.
1) Georgia Bulldogs
Preseason Ranking: 1st
Is Georgia the all-conquering football behemoth that has won consecutive national championships and was largely viewed as the best team in the country ahead of the season? No, they’re not. Is HC Kirby Smart’s team the best in the SEC? Quite probably, which is why they’re at the top of the totem poll in our updated SEC Power Rankings.
There have been a lot of sluggish starts to games, including a scoreless first quarter against Ball State, but they’re undefeated to start the season with a new starting quarterback in Carson Beck. They also have lost their best defensive players to the NFL. Still, there isn’t a game on their schedule that you don’t see the Bulldogs winning right now. The “Threepeat” is still attainable.