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Georgia running back Kendall Milton (22) runs the ball. Scenes from the second half of UGA’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020 in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

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 4 SEC competition.

Tier one: Alabama, Georgia

Following Florida’s unexpected loss last Saturday against Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia find themselves alone in tier one just in time for their primetime matchup on Saturday. History is on the Crimson Tide’s side, as they hold a five-game winning streak in the series. Saturday’s contest will feature strength versus strength, as Alabama and its third-ranked offense will have to prove efficient against Georgia and its second-ranked defense. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones has seamlessly stepped into the starting role and enters leading the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 220.3. Georgia’s secondary faces easily its most challenging test at this point in the season, as Alabama’s trio of wide receivers — Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and John Metchie — have already accounted for a combined 1,010 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. If Georgia is going to match Alabama in scoring, then quarterback Stetson Bennett must continue his impressive start to this season, and running backs Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh will need to follow. — Austin Roper

Tier two: Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida

No. 11 Texas A&M is on the rise after knocking off then-No. 4 Florida 41-38 after a game winning field goal as time expired. Quarterback Kellen Mond racked up 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Gators. The Aggies will face Mississippi State this Saturday and could struggle against the Bulldogs defense that already has 15 sacks through three games. Texas A&M is favored by 5 points and this will be an opportunity for the Aggies to prove they should keep climbing to join the top-10 contenders. After Tennessee's loss to Georgia, the Volunteers will head to Kentucky seeking revival. Tennessee's quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano, was sacked 5 times and was forced to commit three turnovers against Georgia. The team had a total of minus 1 yards on the ground last Saturday. Tennessee is favored by 6 points in this matchup and needs a win to remain an SEC contender. After losing to Texas A&M, Florida status in the SEC East took a tough blow. Florida's game against LSU this Saturday has been postponed after a COVID-19 spike on the team. — Gillian McIntyre

Tier three: Auburn, Missouri

Auburn comes off an unconvincing win over Arkansas, where it took a 39-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to secure the victory. The Tigers ran the ball effectively against a good Arkansas defense, to the tune of 259 yards. Tank Bigsby led the charge with 20 carries for 146 yards. Auburn takes on South Carolina this week, which allows just 96.3 rushing yards per game. The Tigers will be tested through the air, where quarterback Bo Nix has only completed 56.8 percent of his passes for an average of under 200 yards per game. South Carolina does, however, surrender a more forgiving 234 yards per game through the air. Missouri jumped into tier three this week after downing LSU 45-41 a week ago. The Tigers, though, will not play this week because of Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 outbreak that left the Commodores without enough active players. The game is scheduled to be made up on Dec. 12. — Griffin Callaghan

Tier four: Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State

Kentucky and South Carolina jumped a tier following their first wins of the season, and Arkansas dropped from its unusual tier three position to join Mississippi State this week. Despite negligible offensive production, Kentucky’s six interceptions and NCAA eighth-best run defense yielded a 24-2 home victory over Mississippi State last week. It will be on the Wildcats’ offense to beat a slightly deflated No. 18 Tennessee team today. South Carolina literally ran up the score against a winless Vanderbilt in Week 3, punishing the Commodores’ defense with 289 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Today will likely be less breezy against No. 15 Auburn, although the Tigers barely squeaked out a win against Arkansas last week, allowing 119 rushing yards. Mississippi State has to see better quarterback decision-making and avoid another pick-palooza to overcome No. 11 Texas A&M, which played its best football of the year in its high-scoring upset of No. 4 Florida. Finally, Arkansas faces Ole Miss and its 41.7 points per game average at home. Arkansas has the advantage in terms of scoring defense but allowed Auburn to rack up 446 total yards last week. Look for another high-scoring contest in Fayetteville, Arkansas, today. — William Newlin

Tier five: LSU, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt

Head coach Ed Orgeron called LSU’s defensive effort in its 45-41 loss to Missouri “embarrassing,” and it’s a fitting word for the Tigers as they’ve fallen from grace since last year’s College Football National Championship winning season. LSU finds itself in tier five without a chance to redeem itself this week as its Week 4 matchup with Florida was postponed to Dec. 12 due to the Gators’ coronavirus outbreak. Ole Miss gave a solid effort but couldn’t come up on top of Alabama in its recent 63-48 loss and has a chance to get out of tier five with a road trip to Arkansas this week. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is dealing with a COVID-19 spike like the Gators, postponing its scheduled matchup with Missouri to Dec. 12 like Florida and LSU. Vanderbilt sits at the very bottom of the conference having not yet won a game this season. — Augusta Stone

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