Burton

Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton (7) during a game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

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 12 SEC competition.

Tier one: Alabama

Still the best in the conference and the country, No. 1 Alabama travels to 3-6 Arkansas today. The Crimson Tide bring with them the SEC’s top-rated quarterback Mac Jones, top-scoring running back Najee Harris, top-scoring wide receiver DeVonta Smith and linebacker Christopher Allen, who leads the conference in tackles for loss. Although the Razorbacks are on a three-game slide, backup quarterback KJ Jefferson proved he could produce in place of Feleipe Franks, securing 274 yards and three touchdowns in Arkansas’ 50-48 loss to Missouri last week. But with an average of 53.3 points over Weeks 9-11, Alabama is poised to close out the regular season undefeated. Its next real test will be the Dec. 19 SEC championship game in Atlanta. — William Newlin

Tier two: Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia

No. 5 Texas A&M is the highest ranked team in tier two, ahead of No. 6 Florida and No. 9 Georgia. The Aggies are idle today following their 31-20 win over Auburn last week. They were scheduled to play Ole Miss this week but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Florida draws LSU this week in its final regular season game before an SEC Championship matchup with Alabama. The Gators do not need to win this week to maintain their position but are in a prime position to do so, riding a six-game win streak compared to LSU's back to back losses. Quarterback Kyle Trask has been outstanding in 2020, throwing for 3,243 yards and 38 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Trask added 433 passing yards and four touchdowns to his resume last week against Tennessee. Georgia has two games left on its schedule as well, but the Bulldogs will not be competing in the SEC championship as they have the last three years. Georgia will play a No. 25-ranked Missouri team, which has heated up considerably since these two teams were scheduled to play on Nov. 14. The Bulldogs are still heavy favorites over the Tigers, but this week could be their biggest challenge defensively since their loss to Florida earlier this year.  Griffin Callaghan

Tier three: Missouri, Auburn, Ole Miss 

After coming away with a close 50-48 victory over Arkansas last week, Missouri plays its postponed game against Georgia today. Both the Tigers and the Bulldogs come in on an offensive upswing, but cold and potentially wet conditions could serve as a neutralizer between the two. Missouri found itself ranked in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings at No. 25 and is looking to take the second spot in the SEC East with a win against Georgia. Auburn lost to Texas A&M last week, its second straight, and looks to rebound against 2-6 Mississippi State in the Tigers’ last game of the regular season. Ole Miss paused its football program due to COVID-19 this week and will not play against Texas A&M, bringing the Rebels to their second consecutive week without a game. — Augusta Stone

Tier four: LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky

LSU and Arkansas won't catch a break today playing the two teams heading to the conference championship. Traveling to No. 6 Florida, the 3-5 Tigers may not be strongly invested in the rest of what could be LSU's first losing season this century. With a self-imposed bowl ban this year and last Saturday's 55-17 defeat to Alabama, it's hard to think that the Tigers will be able to hold their own, or be motivated to do so, against Florida's Kyle Pitts and Kyle Trask duo. Florida's offensive ensemble should thrash LSU's weak passing defense tonight. Arkansas hosts the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide today. The 3-6 Razorbacks are coming off a heartbreaking 50-48 loss against Missouri, but Arkansas has improved under head coach Sam Pittman compared to its winless conference record in 2019. Although an upset over the Crimson Tide may be out of reach, the Razorbacks could still receive a bowl invite and an opportunity to finish its season on a high note. Kentucky took care of business against South Carolina on Dec. 5, closing out its 10-game regular season with a 41-18 win. But its season might be over yet not over yet as the 4-6 Wildcats are also in a position to accept a bowl bid. — Gillian McIntyre

Tier five: Mississippi State, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

Look away while you can, there’s not much pleasing to the eye from tier five. Mississippi State has scored 24 points in three straight games, which is an improvement from the 14.8 it averaged through five games, but the Bulldogs are 2-6. Head coach Mike Leach’s first year hasn’t gone as hoped by many. Mississippi State faces Auburn on Saturday, with the Tigers looking to end their two-game losing streak. Speaking of losing streaks, one will end Saturday when Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee. The Commodores and Volunteers are riding a combined 14-game losing streak. Vanderbilt has already made an in-season coaching change, and if Tennessee were to lose its seventh-straight game, it might look to do the same. South Carolina is one of four SEC teams not playing in Week 12. The Gamecocks wrapped up their season last Saturday by losing 41-18 against Kentucky to finish at 4-6. Austin Roper