College football came back in the only way it knew how: the way nobody predicted.
After weeks of speculation, analysts were fooled this weekend with top teams experiencing close calls or getting upset. The first week usually yields these surprises, yet fans fall for it each season.
This week’s power rankings feature some big risers and some who suddenly have their work cut out for them after embarrassing performances.
1. Alabama (1-0, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) Prev. 1
Part of me doesn’t know why I’m putting them here.
Alabama’s 33-23 win against West Virginia seemed lackluster, especially compared to some of Nick Saban’s other season-opening victories. Quarterback Blake Sims’ performance gave hope to Jacob Coker, even if the job mostly entails handing it off to T.J. Yeldon.
The worrisome part is the defense, which showed weakness against a Mountaineers team that only won four games last season. Saban defenses don’t allow more than 20 points the first week, so after last season’s Sugar Bowl debacle, the threat level is rising in Tuscaloosa.
2. Georgia (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 2
Todd Gurley is a cheat code. There’s no way someone can be that big and fast.
By now, most have seen Gurley’s performance Saturday when he scored four touchdowns en route to a 45-21 win against Clemson. Gurley is the leading Heisman Trophy candidate in the clubhouse, and if he can give 80 percent of what he gave Saturday he’ll run away with the award.
The Bulldogs are beyond one player, however, with quarterback Hutson Mason and a revamped defense making smart plays to help Georgia pull away.
In a few weeks, Georgia will face a tougher test when it goes to Columbia in a huge SEC East showdown. If it wins that game, it might find itself at the top of the rankings.
3. Auburn (1-0, 1-0 SEC) Prev. 3
The defending champions took a while in their home opener against Arkansas, but once the defense got started, Gus Malzahn’s madman offense couldn’t be stopped.
Quarterback Nick Marshall was suspended for the first half, but nobody could tell. Backup Jeremy Johnson threw for more than 240 yards in the first two quarters, and Marshall kept the train going in the second half.
Auburn’s gameplan looks similar to the one they had last season: get a few stops on defense and let Malzahn’s offense gain 500 rushing yards to blow the opposing defense away.
4. LSU (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 5
The Tigers had major positives and negatives to take away from Saturday’s win against Wisconsin. There’s no need to make any absurd assumptions about the team’s impending doom or success.
Aside from Georgia, LSU’s performance didn’t differ from the teams ranked above them. If they can figure out the quarterback situation, the Tigers may be able to make moves in the rankings.
5. Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 SEC) Prev. 6
People keep leaving, but things just stay the same.
Kevin Sumlin is proving he is worth all the money A&M pays. The Aggies annihilated South Carolina in Columbia on Thursday, laying 52 points on a defense that allowed more than 30 last season. New quarterback Kenny Hill broke Johnny Manziel’s single game passing record, and the offense looked almost identical to Sumlin’s first two seasons.
Kliff Kingsbury left in 2012, and Johnny Manziel left last season, but the system is still in motion. A&M is officially the dark horse of the conference.
6. South Carolina (0-1, 0-1 SEC) Prev. 4
The Gamecocks were embarrassed Thursday, but one game does not define them. The season can still be salvaged by putting the blowout behind them.
Quaterback Dylan Thompson showed signs of life, throwing for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns. There needs to be more balance between run and pass for South Carolina to thrive, and the defense needs to improve after getting torched by Hill.
7. Ole Miss (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 7
Who cares if they won? The Rebels’ performance for the majority of their win against Boise State shouldn’t move them any higher than where they previously were.
Bo Wallace may have caught fire late, but what he did for three quarters would result in a loss against an SEC team. Credit defensive back Cody Prewitt and the Rebels’ defense for shutting down Boise’s offense, but they have to become more stable offensively to maintain success.
8. Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 9
The big question for Mississippi State coming into the season was Dak Prescott’s accuracy. He took a small step into answering that question on Saturday.
It was against Southern Miss, but Prescott threw for a career-high in passing touchdowns and yards and was less reliant on scrambling. He’s beginning to develop into a more natural quarterback, making State’s meeting with LSU on Sept. 20 all the more interesting.
9. Florida (0-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 10
The Gators’ game against Idaho was canceled due to weather, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they would’ve beaten the Vandals. Whatever happened, it still doesn’t tell me much about the team.
For now, Gator fans will wait patiently until the team travels to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama in three weeks. It isn’t exactly fair that it’s Florida’s first big test, but it’s the type of thing that happens when you’re in the SEC.
10. Tennessee (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 13
The Vols looked impressive in their 38-7 win against Utah State on Sunday, with new quarterback Justin Worley throwing three touchdowns. The offense was led by youth, as the top three wide receivers were sophomores.
The defense played aggressively, forcing three turnovers and keeping Utah St. scoreless for three quarters. Assertive play is essential if Tennessee wants to make some upsets this season.
11. Missouri (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 8
Missouri’s first game back after losing nearly all of its skill players from last season wasn’t great. Mizzou struggled for most of the game against FCS opponent South Dakota State before quarterback Maty Mauk and runningback Russell Hansbrough put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Struggling with a team nicknamed the “Jackrabbits” is never a good sign. Missouri has to get its act together before SEC play begins.
12. Arkansas (0-1, 0-1 SEC) Prev. 12
Give credit to the Hogs. They kept up with Auburn for two quarters until they fell behind double digits and had to rely on quarterback Brandon Allen. Stay patient Arkansas fans. I promise that SEC win is coming.
13. Kentucky (1-0, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 14
Somehow a team that hasn’t won an SEC game since 2011 has moved up in the rankings.
Kentucky did exactly what any other FBS team should do to Tennessee-Martin, winning by 45. But The Wildcats’ meeting against Vanderbilt on Sept. 27 should be a doozy.
14. Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-0 SEC) Prev. 11
A 30-point loss. At home. Against Temple. I’m not wasting any more words on this team.