Ole Miss ... Arkansas ... Tennessee ... Kentucky? Which is SEC football's third-best team?

Blake Toppmeyer John Adams
USA TODAY NETWORK
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It's Georgia's world, and everyone else is simply trying (and failing) to avoid getting crushed. Sound familiar?

The defending champion Bulldogs remain the team to beat. And within the SEC, Alabama continues to be the top challenger for Georgia's throne, despite its Week 2 scare at Texas.

After that, the conversation gets interesting. Which team deserves the No. 3 spot in SEC power rankings after three weeks?

That's the topic for debate on this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network featuring Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams.

The top four contenders for that No. 3 position:

Ole Miss

Case for the Rebels: Lane Kiffin boasts an admirable reputation for his quarterback development skills, but through three weeks, a throwback "Landshark" defense is leading the charge. Ole Miss has surrendered 13 points. Total. The competition has been subpar, but we've seen plenty of teams sleepwalk to victory (or losses) against inferior foes. Not Ole Miss. It brings the hammer. And the combination of a top-shelf offensive line plus a stable of talented running backs allows Ole Miss to torture opponents on the ground.

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Arkansas

Case for the Razorbacks: Yes, Arkansas struggled with FCS Missouri State, but the Razorbacks reminded us how explosive their offense is while they mounted a furious second-half rally. The combination of dual-threat bulldozer K.J. Jefferson with blink-and-he's-gone running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders gives Arkansas a ground attack that rivals Ole Miss. The Razorbacks' defense hasn't matched Ole Miss' -- not even close -- but they have the better win, having defeated Cincinnati in the opener.

Tennessee

Case for the Vols: Tennessee has a proven quarterback in Hendon Hooker, one of the SEC's best receivers in Cedric Tillman, and a second-year coach in Josh Heupel whose scheme continues to trouble opponents. Plus, a defense that stepped up in a Week 2 win at Pittsburgh. The Vols would burnish their résumé if they beat rival Florida on Saturday.

ADAMS:Tennessee Vols will tout an unusual advantage against Florida

Kentucky

Case for the Wildcats: Mark Stoops' quote after Kentucky beat Florida on the road personifies this team (and many of Stoops' teams): "We may win, we may lose but, by God, we're gonna be tough." Will Levis throws too many interceptions, but he's piling up yardage, and the ground game should improve with the return of Chris Rodriguez in Week 5 after being withheld from competition this month for a reported eligibility inquiry. The Wildcats don't always win pretty, but, as Stoops put it, they're tough.

The verdict

Adams votes Ole Miss as the SEC's No. 3 team, while Toppmeyer points to Arkansas.

We'll gain more clarity within the next two weeks. Arkansas will play Texas A&M on Saturday, and Tennessee will host Florida; then, Ole Miss will host Kentucky on Oct. 1.

TOPPMEYER:Auburn develops an identity under Bryan Harsin -- and it's ugly

Later in the episode

-- Would former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino make a worthy candidate for certain FBS jobs? His Missouri State Bears gave Arkansas fits for much of Saturday's game.

-- Would an Auburn loss Saturday to Missouri be the end of the Bryan Harsin era? Toppmeyer and Adams agree it's a matter of when, not if, Harsin will be fired.

-- Week 4 picks! Toppmeyer's against-the-spread record picks record is 10-5, while Adams is 9-6.

Missouri at Auburn (-7.5) – Adams: Auburn; Toppmeyer: Auburn

Florida at Tennessee (-10.5) – Adams: Florida; Toppmeyer: Florida

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-2.5) – Adams: Arkansas; Toppmeyer: Arkansas

Southern Cal (-6.5) at Oregon State – Adams: USC; Toppmeyer: USC

Lock of the week – Adams: Southern Cal (-6.5) at Oregon State *; Toppmeyer: Tulsa at Ole Miss (-19.5)

* Adams is doubling down on USC by making the Trojans his lock, exercising this option thanks to a lack of clear contest rules.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or check out their SEC Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

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