The Southeastern Conference wrapped up its scheduled slate on Saturday, which brings us to the final regular-season SEC Power Poll of 2012. How do the teams stack up now that they all have a dozen games under their respective belts? This seems to me to be the proper arrangement of the football squads representing the SEC on the gridiron:
1. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1 overall, 7-1 SEC): Impartial observers should be rooting for the ‘Dawgs to win on Saturday. After all, Georgia’s the team whose all-time winningest coach could beat Notre Dame.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1): It’s hard not to be impressed with ‘Bama. The Tide are 11-1 overall. They won their division, which has three teams in the top ten of the BCS standings. They went 4-0 through a non-conference schedule consisting of one division-contending AQ-conference opponent, two minor-league Division I-A opponents, and one Division I-AA team. They went 7-1 through an SEC slate that included Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee, and Auburn, the last of whom was shut out by Alabama. The Tide carded a marquee win over a division rival that tallied a double-digit victory total and is in contention for an at-large BCS berth. Their only loss was to a division rival that went 10-2, and whose only losses were to Florida and LSU. How can you not acknowledge such a squad as a legitimate national title contender? Hey, wait a minute . . .
3. Florida Gators (11-1, 7-1): Using games against SEC teams as a measuring stick, I am forced to conclude that the Sun Belt is a better conference than the ACC.
4. Texas A&M Aggies (10-2, 6-2): This is the most dangerous team in America right now.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2): There was a time when the Garnet and Black would lose a key player or two to injury and go into the tank as a result. That time is past.
6. LSU Tigers (10-2, 6-2): The Bayou Bengals limped across the finish line, surviving scares due to superior talent rather than out-playing or out-coaching the opposition. In recent weeks, by far the most exciting aspect of Louisiana State football has been Les Miles’s postgame press conference.
7. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4, 5-3): The way to prove you’ve arrived as a force in the SEC East is to wrap up the regular season by demolishing an ACC opponent that’s supposedly in your weight class.
8. Mississippi Rebels (6-6, 3-5): It’s easy to focus on the ones that got away for Ole Miss, but getting to bowl-eligibility in his first season was a huge step in the right direction for Hugh Freeze.
9. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4): This is the worst 8-4 AQ-conference team in the country. Well, outside of the ACC, the Big East, or the Big Ten, at least.
10. Tennessee Volunteers (5-7, 1-7): Hey, better teams than the Big Orange beat the Wildcats less convincingly than the Vols did.
11. Missouri Tigers (5-7, 2-6): Please tell me that conference realignment carries the same sort of mandatory three-month probation that a new job does.
12. Arkansas Razorbacks (4-8, 2-6): Playing Louisiana State tough yet losing, in part, due to atrocious coaching decisions is the most Arkansas thing ever.
13. Auburn Tigers (3-9, 0-8): The Plainsmen check in at 13th because they received a Gene Chizik firing bounce.
14. Kentucky Wildcats (2-10, 0-8): I would feel sorry for their fans, if I didn’t know they’d all been checked out since Midnight Madness.
As always, feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments below.