By virtue of its memorable 21-17 win over LSU, undefeated Alabama remains at the top of the conference’s heap. Where does the remainder of the league’s premier teams – five of which are in the BCS top 10 this week – fall?
Here are this week’s SEC Power Rankings:
1. Alabama (9-0, 6-0)
LSU put a scare into Alabama, but the Crimson Tide and quarterback AJ McCarron proved again that nothing fazes them. Last-minute deficit? Against a nasty defense? No problem. Alabama remained No. 1 in the BCS standings thanks to its victory over LSU and moved closer to the SEC Championship game.
2. LSU (7-2, 3-2)
The Tigers had Alabama in the perfect place after playing an excellent game, but couldn’t stop the Tide on the final drive. They lost the game, but might have gained a wiser and more decisive quarterback. Zach Mettenberger played his best game as a Tiger and showed that he could be a force the rest of the season.
3. Georgia (8-1, 6-1)
Yeah, the Bulldogs won and LSU lost, but the Tigers were more impressive in their defeat than Georgia was in beating Ole Miss. LSU still looks like the better team, even though Georgia has the better record. The defense is gradually becoming the unit everybody thought it was entering this year, and the Bulldogs can return to the SEC title game win a win over Auburn on Saturday.
4. Florida (8-1, 7-1)
The Gators still don’t have much bite offensively, but relied on their defense to shut down Missouri. Florida has wrapped up a share of the title, and will be the world’s most rabid Auburn fans on Saturday, because they need Georgia to lose so they can go to the conference championship game.
5. Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2)
If the Aggies want to feel like they truly belong to the SEC, here’s their chance. They get No. 1 Alabama at the ultimate time, since the Tide are coming off an emotional and grinding win at LSU. Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel struggled against Florida and LSU, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can get loose in Tuscaloosa.
6. South Carolina (7-2, 5-2)
A week has passed since Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a severe knee injury, so the Gamecocks have had time to work on finding answers at tailback. They can’t go to the league championship game, but a 10-win season isn’t out of their grasp, but this week’s game against Arkansas is first.
7. Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2)
A lot of folks doubted the Bulldogs, and the past two weeks have shown why. Both Alabama and Texas A&M have scored 38 points, and LSU is next. Mississippi State can go a long way in salvaging its season by beating the Tigers, who could be vulnerable after their heartbreaking loss to ‘Bama.
8. Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3)
Three straight wins. Two shutouts. One win away from bowl eligibility. The countdown has begun to one of Vanderbilt’s best seasons in school history, but the Commodores need to continue their winning ways at Ole Miss on Saturday. It might be strange to think this, but Vandy could be on its way to an eight-win season.
9. Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3)
The Rebels did just what they needed by jumping on Georgia early, but they didn’t have anything left after that. The Bulldogs scored 37 consecutive points and Ole Miss was left without answers. The Rebels need to beat Vanderbilt for bowl eligibility, because LSU and Mississippi State fill out the schedule.
10. Missouri (4-5, 1-5)
The “Welcome to the SEC” Tour has been disastrous. Quarterback James Franklin has been banged up, the offensive line is a mess and the defense hasn’t played well, although it held Florida within striking distance on Saturday. The Tigers should find room to roam against Tennessee this week.
11. Arkansas (4-5, 2-3)
Wideout Cobi Hamilton (69 catches for 1,077 yards) has been one of the few highlights, but the Razorbacks can still salvage what started out to be a terrible season. They’ve won three of their past four games. Life is an uphill climb, though, with games at South Carolina and Mississippi State the next two weeks.
12. Tennessee (4-5, 0-5)
Will Derek Dooley be the next SEC coach to go? Tennessee pulled out a win by rallying to defeat Troy, but the Volunteers have the worst defense – both scoring and yards – in the SEC and show no signs of improvement. Quarterback Tyler Bray showed spark with 530 yards passing – second in SEC history – and five touchdowns in the win.
13. Auburn (2-7, 0-6)
It’s been a terrible season, but the Tigers know they can spoil Georgia’s year by upsetting the Bulldogs. Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace received some much-needed experience in the win over New Mexico State and his teammates were able to gain some confidence in ending a five-game losing streak. Georgia can’t overlook the Tigers.
14. Kentucky (1-9, 0-7)
The Wildcats are no longer playing for Joker Phillips’ job. He was the first SEC coach to go, being fired Sunday after Kentucky lost its eighth straight game, this one to Vanderbilt. A season-ending loss to Tennessee would mean the Wildcats would go winless in the SEC for the first time.