Now that college football games finally are being played, we can stop thinking about the fashion police (and, hopefully, the actual police) and focus instead on the teams themselves and what they are achieving on the field. This brings us to the initial SEC Power Poll.
What follows is based predominantly on this weekend’s college football action, although expectations play a role, which is why the Big Orange didn’t rate higher following a 50-0 thumping of Tennessee-Martin. Here are the twelve teams of the Southeastern Conference, arranged in order from toughest to least tough:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide: The Red Elephants are who we thought they were, and nothing about their demolition of San Jose State suggested otherwise.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks: The Palmetto State Poultry have a history of spending their Thursday night openers monkeying around with an inferior opponent for 45 minutes before finally cobbling together a victory. This time, though, the ‘Cocks came ready to play and looked impressive on both sides of the ball in posting a convincing win over Southern Miss.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks: I hated to rate the Hogs this high, but they took care of business with a 23-point second quarter and a 21-point third quarter. I have to ask, though, why Arkansas was shut out in the first and fourth periods, and why the Razorbacks gave up three points to a team even Willie Martinez’s defense held scoreless?
4. Mississippi St. Bulldogs: I know Memphis is a shadow of its former self, but the Tigers have tended to play well against SEC competition, so Dan Mullen’s crew gets credit for building up a 42-0 lead after three quarters.
5. Georgia Bulldogs: Aaron Murray and the 3-4 defense both outperformed expectations against Louisiana-Lafayette, so why aren’t the ‘Dawgs ranked higher? Take a look at the teams I have ranked second through fourth, supra, then take a look at the next three games on Georgia’s schedule. Let’s not start getting
cocky overconfident here.
6. Tennessee Volunteers: So far, I’m feeling pretty good about my prediction of an 8-4 record for the Vols. Derek Dooley’s inaugural Tennessee squad has many more daunting contests remaining on the slate, but it’s hard to argue with a 50-0 start.
7. LSU Tigers: Yeah, they won, but, honestly, there was a while there when I was worried the Tar Heels might have to call on me to suit up for North Carolina. If the Bayou Bengals were offered the opportunity to make a straight-up trade of Les Miles for Butch Davis, how many Louisiana State fans do you think would opt to keep their current coach?
8. Kentucky Wildcats: I know it was a road game against an in-state rival, but the Louisville program is an absolute train wreck. Winning this game by a single touchdown was bad enough, but being outscored 16-10 in the final 45 minutes is inexcusable.
9. Florida Gators: While I suspect that Saturday’s exercise in lulling the rest of the league into a false sense of security will be the wake-up call the Sunshine State Saurians need to begin blasting their way through the remainder of their slate, the Orange and Blue looked awful against an overmatched Miami (Ohio) outfit.
10. Auburn Tigers: Scoring 52 points on a patsy is about right, but giving up 26 points to Arkansas State is cause for concern.
11. Vanderbilt Commodores: I feel a little guilty about ranking Robbie Caldwell’s bunch so low, because they hung tough with Northwestern, but 0-1 is 0-1.
12. Mississippi Rebels: That part about 0-1 being 0-1? Yeah, 0-1 is 0-1, unless the loss was to a Division I-AA team, in which case it counts like it’s 0-1,000. This was take-down-your-sports-weblog-and-start-posting-pictures-of-kittens bad.
Naturally, there will be much reshuffling when teams start taking on actual opposition next weekend, but that is how it looks to me at this point.