My SEC Power Poll ballot gets easier to compile each week, particularly since it mostly flows down in "undefeated team X beat once-beaten team Y, which beat twice-beaten team Z" fashion. Here, then, is the short course on how the Southeastern Conference stacks up at this juncture:
1. Auburn Tigers (11-0): Yeah, I think they’re a bunch of dirty rotten cheaters, but I’m ranking teams in the SEC Power Poll, not picking Miss Congeniality. The Plainsmen are putting the proposition that defense wins championships to the test.
2. LSU Tigers (9-1): I continue to be astonished by the fact that the Bayou Bengals have won nine games (and counting) under the guidance of a man whose whole coaching philosophy appears to have been cribbed from Curtis Armstrong’s character in "Risky Business."
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (8-2): I can process the idea of Nick Saban getting outcoached by Steve Spurrier. I can even rationalize the idea of Nick Saban getting outcoached by Les Miles. If, however, I am asked to assimilate the idea of Nick Saban getting outcoached by Gene Chizik, my head may explode.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks (8-2): Geographic happenstance is all that prevented the Hogs from winning the SEC East.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks (7-3): I have to admit that I didn’t see that coming. In my defense, though, "a South Carolina squad apparently entering its annual November swoon soundly defeating an ostensibly resurgent Florida team in Gainesville with the division title on the line" is unprecedented on, like, eleven different levels.
6. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (7-3): If you’re taking the SAT, and you get the analogy "George O’Leary : Ralph Friedgen :: Urban Meyer : ________," the correct answer is "Dan Mullen." Coach Mullen is the conference coach of the year, and it isn’t a close call.
7. Florida Gators (6-4): I still can’t believe we lost to these guys. Honestly, losing to this year’s Sunshine State Saurians at a neutral site was only marginally more embarrassing than losing to the Colorado Buffaloes on the road.
8. Georgia Bulldogs (5-6): This is the best six-loss team in America. The last time the Red and Black lost six games in a single season (in 1996), the Classic City Canines followed it up with a double-digit victory total the following fall. Count on that happening again.
10. Tennessee Volunteers (4-6): Vince Dooley won six regular-season games in his first season at Georgia in 1964, and he followed that up with a bowl victory. Like father, like son.
12. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-8): Robbie Caldwell’s club is Miss Congeniality.
Before anyone asks, yes, as soon as the NCAA declares Cam Newton retroactively ineligible and forces Auburn to vacate all its wins, I’m going to drop the Tigers to No. 12 and bump everyone else up a notch, but, until then, I feel pretty good about those rankings. Naturally, though, I welcome your feedback in the comments.