LSU and Alabama once again showed their dominance, and the Tigers and Tide can finally focus on one another. Both teams have bye weeks going into their matchup on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa. (By the way, sources tell me that the BCS champion will be crowned after that game, and the remainder of the season will be cancelled. Still waiting on confirmation.) The rest of the SEC — including Arkansas, all of a sudden — continues to sputter along. Aside from the top two teams, this year’s version of the SEC is shaping up to be as mediocre as it was in 2009.
1. LSU, 8-0 overall/5-0 in SEC play (Last week’s ranking: 1) — Les Miles’ team again started slow, allowing Auburn to hang around for a quarter and a half, but the Bengal Tigers bludgeoned Auburn in the last 36 minutes of the game en route to a 35-point win. If LSU defeats Alabama, Miles can go ahead an book his trip to New Orleans for the BCS title game. No team left after Alabama on LSU’s schedule — not even Arkansas — can overcome that defense.
2. ALABAMA, 8-0/5-0 (2) — Tennessee, even without its starting quarterback and best wide receiver, held the Crimson Tide to a 6-6 tie at halftime. That had to be disconcerting for Nick Saban, and he likely let his team know it in the locker room. ‘Bama turned it on in the second half and cruised to a 37-6 win. If A.J. McCarron can play well against LSU, the Tide should be able to come away with the win.
3. ARKANSAS, 6-1/2-1 (3) — Yeesh, what was that from the Hogs? Arkansas trailed Ole Miss 17-0 in Oxford and, after making a comeback, held on for a 29-24 win. They say any win on the road in SEC play is a good win, but the Razorbacks really put that theory to the test on Saturday. We’ll chalk it up to a lack of focus and looking ahead to Vanderbilt. OK, maybe not.
4. GEORGIA, 5-2/4-1 (5) — Don’t look now, but after losing its first two games of the year, Georgia has a decent chance at finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record. Of course, the first step toward that goal is beating Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, something the Dawgs have done three times in the last 21 matchups. Most of the experts are beginning to believe in Mark Richt’s team, but should they? Yes, Georgia has won five straight, but the best win of that bunch was either against 3-4 Mississippi State or a Tennessee team that lost its starting quarterback. We’re not sold on the Dawgs just yet. That being said, they appear to be the best of SEC’s middle class right now.
5. AUBURN, 5-3/3-2 (4) — The Tigers are bruised and battered after a humbling defeat in Baton Rouge, but things could certainly be worse. As everyone knows, Auburn’s three losses have come to top-10 teams on the road, and the Tigers could easily be sitting at 2-6 right now. Despite taking a beating against LSU, Clint Moseley looks like he’s ready to get the passing game back on track. If he does that, Auburn will be tough to beat over the Tigers’ final four games.
6. SOUTH CAROLINA, 6-1/4-1 (6) — The Gamecocks are coming off a much needed bye week and travel to Tennessee this week. Both teams will be missing their quarterbacks that started the season and their best individual players. Carolina’s 6-1 record looks nice, but without Marcus Lattimore, Steve Spurrier’s offense is going to have a hard time scoring points in its final five games. Considering the circumstances, if Carolina can get to eight wins, it should be celebrated. Anything better would be a shock at this point.
7. FLORIDA, 4-3/2-3 (7) — Florida desperately needs consistent quarterback play, and the Gators are hoping to get John Brantley back from his ankle injury against Georgia. If Brantley plays, Florida should win. The defense continues to play well, but as long as Brantley is out, the Gator offense is going to be stuck in neutral.
8. TENNESSEE, 3-4/0-4 (8) — Injured quarterback Tyler Bray recently tweeted that he could return to action sooner than originally expected. While most Vol fans would likely sacrifice their best Bluetick Hounds for Bray’s return, head coach Derek Dooley cautioned that Bray probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s unlikely Dooley would have burned Justin Worley’s redshirt against Alabama if he thought Bray would be back soon. As it stands, Tennessee has a mediocre offense and defense and doesn’t have much margin for error if the Volunteers hope to make a bowl game.
9. VANDERBILT, 4-3/1-3 (9) — Vandy’s offense hit its stride against Army, gaining 530 yards and scoring 44 points. Zac Stacy rushed 21 times for 198 yards, three touchdowns and 9.4 yards per carry. The Commodores still struggle against the SEC’s best, but it’s clear that James Franklin has his team on the road to success. Vanderbilt should be as competitive as its ever been in the next couple of years.
10. MISSISSIPPI STATE, 3-4/0-4 (10) — It’s crunch time for the Bulldogs. State faces Kentucky this week in a must-win game for bowl eligibility. Kentucky has been awful all year, but with Dan Mullen’s team struggling against the likes of Louisiana Tech and UAB, the maroon and white can’t take anything for granted. State’s offense has fallen off the map, and Tyler Russell is going to have to get the passing game going to open up some running room for Vick Ballard.
11. OLE MISS, 2-5, 0-4 (11) — The Rebels put together their best performance of the season in the loss to Arkansas. Unfortunately, when your best performance is a home loss, you know you’re having a rough year. The Ole Miss offense woke up and scored 17 first-half points and gained 370 yards for the game. The defense was even more impressive, as Arkansas was limited to a total of 10 points in the first, second and fourth quarters. If Auburn isn’t careful, the Rebels could give the Tigers fits this weekend. That thought sends chills up the spines of Auburn fans — Houston Nutt has ruined Saturdays on the Plains many times since he took over at Arkansas in 1998.
12. KENTUCKY, 3-4/0-3 (12) — The Wildcats managed to pick up a win against FCS power Jacksonville State. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Kentucky probably won’t win another game this season. That’s OK; judging by fan excitement, it’s already basketball season in Lexington.