We've hit that point in the SEC season at which things begin to look like they were expected to. Coming into the season Alabama was a nearly unanimous selection at the top, and Kentucky and Arkansas were expected to be terrible. But along the way Alabama looked merely quite good rather than dynastic. And the Wildcats and Razorbacks each showed early signs of life. Everyone in between looked a little better or worse than we all expected and no one knew which way things would go.
But things have a way of sorting themselves out. While there are still some questions (can Georgia survive recent injuries to stay at the top of the East? Can Texas A&M just continue to outscore everyone?) things are looking a lot more like they were expected to. Confirmation of your preconceptions is the new revelatory moment. Here's how I have 'em ranked:
1. Alabama. Beat up on Georgia State, and this time I didn't even have the pleasure of listening to Bill Curry talk about it afterwards.
2. Georgia. If Aaron Murray, deprived of his top two tailbacks and three of his top four wide receivers manages to will the 'Dawgs to victory this weekend, his name really deserves to be in the Heisman discussion. I can't believe I just said that.
3. Texas A&M. Casual Defense Saturday is the new Casual Friday.
4. LSU. Still only one loss on the ledger, and a victory over Alabama away from being in the national title discussion.
5. South Carolina. I asked Jadeveon Clowney if I should move the Gamecocks. He said he didn't want to go anywhere.
6.Missouri. I keep telling myself that it was just Vanderbilt. But that's having zero tranquilizing effect.
7. Florida. Tyler Murphy may not be Murray, Manziel, Mettenberger, or McCarron. But he's probably the fifth best SEC QB with a surname ending in M, which may be good enough for the Gators to win the East if injuries continue to mount for the Bulldogs.
8. Auburn. Played a surprisingly consistent game, and have eclipsed their win total of last season. I hate to admit things look bright on the Plains, but such is the case. And we're forced to ask exactly how much of a disaster the latter days of the Chizik regime were if Malzahn has managed to turn things around this fast.
9. Ole Miss. I sense they've hit the wall. As evidenced by Saturday's 30-22 loss to Auburn and their early season victory over Vandy, the Rebels are a little worse than the teams above them and a little better than the ones below them.
10. Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt also seems to have found their place in the SEC firmament, a little better than the reclamation projects below them, but not on par with the real up-and-comers and perennial contenders above them.
11. Tennessee. The Volunteers did a great job capitalizing on Bulldog mistakes and misfortune. If Pig Howard had given a little less effort in overtime, they probably win this one. Nevertheless, this was probably as close as this Tennessee team gets to pulling off a major conference win this year.
12. Mississippi State. Hung within a touchdown of LSU headed into the fourth before the wheels came off in a hail of unforced errors and Mettenberger artillery volleys. Tennessee secured their moral victory. The Bizarro Bulldogs were close to a moral victory before ultimately just getting shellacked.
13. Arkansas. Somehow my estimation of the Razorbacks keeps dropping, yet I still can't shake the eery feeling that I may yet be overrating them. Played with Florida for a while, but simply don't have the horses to compete just yet. The two teams above them on my ballot lost to better teams, and hung with them longer. But really, this is the chitlins, trotters, and snouts section of my ballot. It's really just a matter of which ones I recoil at least.
14. Kentucky. Kentucky is merely not very good, which is actually a step up from "fully involved dumpster fire", their default setting for the last few weeks of the Joker Phillips era. There's a definite ceiling for Kentucky football, but I sense that Coach Stoops is working toward it rather than the previously plumbed floor of Wildcat pigskin potential.
So where am I wrong? Let me know in the comments. Until later . . .