My BlogPoll ballot has been cast (and the preliminary poll has been posted), but it remains for me to commit to paper the poll within the poll, in which I run down the list of Southeastern Conference squads and arrange them in order from best to worst. I doubt whether there will be many surprises in store, but here we go:
1. Alabama: I don’t necessarily think that the best team in the conference is automatically the best team in the country---ah, who am I kidding; of course I do---but, clearly, since I have the Crimson Tide ranked first in the land, I also have to rank them first in the league. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop---I don’t think any team is making it through the S.E.C. gauntlet unscathed---but, for now, ‘Bama unquestionably rules the roost.
2. Florida: All right, I did not see that one coming! While I’m not entirely sure how much of that was quarterbackless, suspiciously-secondaried L.S.U. being overrated and how much was the Gators kicking their innate awesomeness into overdrive, there’s no denying what the Saurians in Orange and Blue ("S.O.B.s" for short) did on the field to the Bayou Bengals.
3. Georgia: You know, I know, and Dr. Saturday knows that the Sanford Stadium scoreboard did not reflect the thoroughness of Saturday’s thumping. With another offensive lineman lost, though, it’s doubtful that the ‘Dawgs will be able to continue playing at that level, and settling for field goals instead of touchdowns will not suffice in Baton Rouge, by the St. John’s River, or even on the Plains.
Remember: Auburn is at its most dangerous when Georgia is ranked and the Tigers aren’t. Thank goodness we get them on the road this year!
4. Vanderbilt: Were the Commodores flat, caught looking ahead, or just plain exposed? I know which answer I’m hoping for this weekend, but, in the meantime, the ‘Dores still control their own destiny in the Eastern Division. Don’t giggle. If we win this Saturday, then you can giggle; until then, you’re just tempting fate.
5. Louisiana State: The Fighting Tigers have their issues, but they’re still supremely talented and well coached. The problem is that they have little to show for their efforts thus far. I’m pretty sure they’re better than they showed last Saturday night, but how good are the Bayou Bengals?
6. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are No. 6 with a bullet after the East Coast U.S.C. started to turn a tendency to lose close games into a propensity for winning them. Don’t count out the Palmetto State Poultry, who may have a shot at playing in Atlanta in December . . . in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, I mean.
7. Kentucky: U.K. has evolved into a moderately consistent middle-tier program with not only a ceiling but also a floor. The Blue and White’s frequent displays of something reminiscent of actual defense---not seen in the Bluegrass State since, oh, the Bear Bryant era or thereabouts---have reminded us all that, in fact, you can’t spell "Wildcat" without "D."
"I am proud and pleased to accept a bid to the Music City Bowl on behalf of the University of . . . what? I have to wait for that to be official? Oh, that’s a bunch of bull . . ."
8. Ole Miss: It’s now process-of-elimination time. The Rebels beat Florida but lost to Wake Forest. Thanks a lot, guys; that’s really helping to keep the A.C.C. message boards on an even keel. Still, a .500 record with a quality conference road win helped Mississippi to rise above the muddle 20,000 leagues beneath the, um, league.
9. Auburn: Yeah, you really could throw the bottom four teams in the S.E.C. in a bag, shake it up, and pull ‘em out at random. The so-called Loveliest Village is home to the second-most dysfunctional orange-wearing, coach-firing Southern Tiger program that used to be coached by John Heisman and has been known to run off Bowdens in mid-season, but, despite having stunk up the place in a loss to the Hogs that left everyone wondering whether Bobby Petrino would be hired as the new head coach at Auburn during the postgame handshake---hey, such a move wouldn’t be entirely without precedent---the Plainsmen still managed to walk away with an overall winning record, which is more than the rest of the teams on this list can claim.
10. Mississippi State: The Croomings will continue until morale improves. The Western Division Bulldogs have assumed the role of perpetual spoiler, but they registered a big win last Saturday.
11. Arkansas: The Razorbacks bagged a big one this past weekend, albeit not as big of one as Mississippi State did. Saturday’s result attests more to the turmoil at Auburn than to the talent in Fayetteville, though . . . and there still is the matter of needing late rallies against patsy opponents to get to 3-3.
"I couldn’t be happier with this big win over a fine Auburn team and I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I have just been hired as the new head coach at Clemson, effective immediately. So long, suckers! I’m long gone like a turkey in the corn!"
That’s how the S.E.C. stacks up at this point, at least in my eyes, but, hey, I’m the guy who thought Florida would be exposed by L.S.U. instead of the other way around, so what do I know? Your constructive criticisms are welcome in the comments below.