Yelling Kirby

During the Gators' game against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. (UAA Communications photo by Piper Hansen)

Each week of the 2020 season, The Red & Black football writers will rank the teams of the SEC. This week, The Red & Black gives our conference rankings ahead of Week 9 SEC competition.

Tier one: Alabama

Alabama hosts the 3-4 Kentucky Wildcats this week fresh off an unexpected bye week after its matchup with LSU was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. The Crimson Tide are the only undefeated team in the SEC and remain the nation’s No. 1 team in the weekly AP poll. Last time Alabama took the field, it trounced Mississippi State by a score of 41-0, securing its largest margin of victory this season. Alabama, and its 47.2 points per game, will be a handful for Kentucky’s capable defensive unit. Quarterback Mac Jones has drawn comparisons to last season’s Joe Burrow with his 2,196 yards and 16 touchdowns through six games. The Crimson Tide defense has not been as effective as in years past but the offense continues to pick up any slack with a 555.2 yards per game average. — Griffin Callaghan

Tier two: Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia

Like numerous other programs across the country, Texas A&M is still trying to reel in its COVID-19 concerns. Positive tests and subsequent contact tracing has led to the postponement of today’s game against Ole Miss. The Aggies haven’t played since Nov. 7, when they dominated South Carolina 48-3. Florida and quarterback Kyle Trask continue to roll through the regular season. Since losing to the Aggies on Oct. 10, the Gators are outscoring opponents by an average of 22.6 points per game, with Trask throwing for 391.7 yards and 4.7 touchdowns per game. Barely hanging on in tier two is Georgia, who’s rumored to start its third quarterback of the season today with redshirt sophomore JT Daniels. Georgia’s a heavy favorite against Mike Leach’s Mississippi State, so a loss isn’t the biggest concern heading into today. However, a poor showing would only work to enhance the bitter feeling among Georgia fans with little hope of a fourth straight SEC championship appearance. — Austin Roper

Tier three: Auburn, Arkansas, Missouri

It's been three weeks since Auburn has seen the field and will finally return to host a Tennessee group that has lost four straight. The 4-2 Tigers are heavily favored over the Volunteers and quarterback Bo Nix will need to continue his upward trend. The Tigers could have quite a few players absent due to COVID-19, but their previous 48-11 showing against LSU predicts a promising performance against Tennessee. Arkansas lost to Florida last Saturday 63-35, but had strong outings from running back Trelon Smith and wide receiver Mike Woods. The Razorbacks are one-point underdogs against LSU and will need Feleipe Franks to play well in order to be successful today. Missouri is coming off a bye week due to its own COVID-19 issues and is set to face South Carolina. It has been an up-and-down year for the Tigers, and they haven't played since their 41-17 loss to Florida on Oct. 31. With the Gamecocks' uncertainty after the firing of Will Muschamp, Missouri's well-balanced offense could potentially find success in Columbia, South Carolina, today. — Gillian McIntyre

Tier four: LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina

Inconsistency is the hallmark of tier four. Other than Ole Miss, every other team has had at least one game with 40 points or more and one game with fewer than two touchdowns this fall. LSU’s 48-11 loss against Auburn on Oct. 31 is case in point. While its consistently poor defense gave up 506 total yards, its usually potent offense could only scrape together one touchdown in the fourth quarter. A COVID-19 outbreak postponed the Tigers’ Nov. 7 game against Alabama, and a hosting Arkansas looks to use LSU today to return to .500 on the year. Ole miss broke away from South Carolina late last week to put up 59 points, 18 more than its 41-point season average. Quarterback Matt Corral continues to excel — he’s completed 89.3% of his passes for 925 yards and 10 touchdowns in his past two starts. Off this week, Ole Miss prepares for the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State next Saturday. Kentucky travels to face No. 1 Alabama today. Despite its 38-point showing last week, the Crimson Tide has had no trouble fending off even the most productive SEC offenses this season. South Carolina’s middling offense and bottom tier defense host Missouri tonight. The matchup has the potential for a lot of offense, although the Tigers’ strong run defense could limit tailback Kevin Harris, whose 13 touchdowns have been the driver of the Gamecocks’ production. — William Newlin

Tier five: Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Teams in the bottom tier of the SEC have a tough week ahead of them. After escaping with a narrow win over Vanderbilt last week, Mississippi State travels to face a Georgia team looking for a strong statement after its loss to Florida two weeks ago. Tennessee, also coming off a week without a game, travels to Auburn without much of a shot at an upset. Vanderbilt, still seeking its first win of 2020, will host a Florida team riding a high on its pillage through the SEC East. — Augusta Stone