SEC Week 3 Power Rankings: Alabama cements spot atop list, with surprising challengers trailing

Alabama's second-half push against Ole Miss protected its spot atop the SEC heap, but it has somewhat unexpected company near the top of the leaderboard.

Who expected Texas A&M and Arkansas to be undefeated and already ahead of the LSUs, Tennessees, Floridas and Ole Misses by now? That's where the Aggies and Razorbacks sit after comfortable victories against Auburn and Texas State, respectively, on Saturday.

Here's a look at our SEC power rankings after Week 3:

1. Alabama: It wasn't pretty, but the Tide survived an onslaught by Ole Miss, overcoming a 21-point deficit on the road thanks to a pair of scores on defense and a punt-return TD. -- Alex Scarborough

2. Texas A&M: After the past two seasons, it's not about how the Aggies start. It's about how they finish. But as Kevin Sumlin said after Saturday's 29-16 win at Auburn, winning an SEC game on the road is nothing to take lightly. There's still room for improvement, but Texas A&M is beginning to look like one of the best teams in the conference. -- Greg Ostendorf

3. Arkansas: The Razorbacks made quick work of Texas State with a 42-3 win and now head into conference play with a lot of confidence. A showdown with Texas A&M at JerryWorld -- where the Hogs have lost in OT the past two seasons -- awaits. -- Sam Khan Jr.

4. Florida: The Gators took care of business, blanking North Texas 32-0 but lost quarterback Luke Del Rio to a third-quarter knee injury. Coach Jim McElwain said afterward that Del Rio probably won't play Saturday at Tennessee; Florida has to hope the injury doesn't linger beyond that. -- Khan

5. Tennessee: Another ugly home victory for the Vols (28-19 over Ohio), but a win's a win, right? Well, not exactly. This one came at a cost, with injuries to cornerback Cameron Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Overall, this team has to play much better if it has it sights on getting to Atlanta, because SEC play begins next week and the Vols have a brutal four-week stretch awaiting them, starting with Florida. -- Khan

6. Ole Miss: In what was a season built on high expectations, the Rebels lost a shootout in Oxford to No. 1 Alabama by five. What stings more is that the Rebels became the first Power 5 team in the past 10 years to blow 21-point leads in two games in a single season. Alabama shredded Ole Miss' defense for 334 rushing yards at 7 yards per carry. -- Edward Aschoff

7. Georgia: The Bulldogs got an SEC road win, 28-27 over Missouri, and learned some things: This team has some grit to it and freshman quarterback Jacob Eason can handle pressure -- he led an impressive winning drive late before finding Isaiah McKenzie for the go-ahead score. -- Khan

8. LSU: The Tigers dominated Mississippi State for 55 minutes and nearly choked up a big lead with a horrible final few minutes. Les Miles might have seen his LSU career flashing before his eyes when State took over for a potential winning drive with 2:15 to play before Arden Key finally locked up the victory with a fourth-down sack and forced fumble. LSU held on for a 23-20 victory and looked better on offense with Danny Etling at quarterback. The Tigers are 1-0 in SEC play heading into their visit to Auburn, but it's still difficult to say whether this team will be any good. -- David Ching

9. Auburn: If Saturday was indeed a must-win game for Gus Malzahn, a 29-16 loss to Texas A&M doesn't bode well for the fourth-year Auburn coach. We'll see what it means for his future, but he had better figure out the offense in a hurry with LSU coming to town in Week 4. -- Ostendorf

10. Missouri: Losing to Georgia after leading most of the fourth quarter is a gut punch for Barry Odom's crew, but there's reason for optimism. The Tigers' offense showed it has a pulse against SEC teams after struggling in conference play last season. Five turnovers did them in, but this team looks as if it can play with anybody in the SEC East. -- Khan

11. Mississippi State: Damian Williams provided a major spark in the final few minutes against LSU, nearly leading a miraculous comeback at Tiger Stadium. State fans have to be wondering what might have happened if Williams had replaced the struggling Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback earlier. It was too little, too late as the Bulldogs lost 23-20 and are now 1-2 (1-1 SEC) entering Saturday's neutral-site game against UMass at the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium. -- Ching

12. South Carolina: The Gamecocks won with a true freshman QB making his starting debut (Brandon McIlwain) and there was some good mixed in with some freshman moments. The defense came up with four turnovers in a 20-15 victory over East Carolina, but the offense has to be a lot better than it was (312 yards, 3-for-12 on third downs) moving forward. -- Khan

13. Vanderbilt: It might be time to start taking a serious look at where this program is in Derek Mason's third season. The offense scored only one touchdown for the second time in three games, and the defense -- the strength of this team -- was gashed by Georgia Tech to the tune of 511 yards in a 38-7 loss. A team that had bowl aspirations suddenly doesn't look as if it has many possible wins left on the schedule. -- Khan

14. Kentucky: The Wildcats needed a win and got it -- 62-42 over New Mexico State -- but they had to work for it. Lots of head-scratchers in this one for Stoops' Troops, such as giving up 35 first-half points at home and committing three first-half turnovers. On the bright side, Kentucky rolled up 692 offensive yards and found that backup quarterback Stephen Johnson -- who filled in for an injured Drew Barker -- is a capable field general. -- Khan