I've been known to moan in this space about my general confusion about where to rank the 14 SEC football teams. Oh, how do you distinguish a 3-2 Vanderbilt squad from a 3-2 Mississippi State?
I now realize these are collegefootball blogger problems equivalent to standing in Starbucks and vacillating between the pumpkin spice and caramel lattes. If I ever kvetch about this sort of dilemma again, remind me of this week. It's sure to shut me up.
For those who keep track of these things, and God help you if you're that guy, SEC Power Poll ballots are due in the virtual ballot box by 11:59 p.m. eastern, Monday night. I usually take some pride in getting mine in well before the deadline. Last night this was not the case. Last night I hit the "cast ballot" button within an hour of the time it was due, for a couple of reasons.
For one, I was procrastinating about exactly how low to rank my Georgia Bulldogs. It's one thing to facetiously place the 'Dawgs in the middle of the pack in a show of Munsonianism when you feel that Coach Richt is fielding one of the three or four best teams in the league. It's another thing altogether when you know that you're going to have to legitimately consider ranking Vanderbilt and Ole Miss ahead of the Classic City Canines.
For another, I truly have no idea where to rank anyone else other than Alabama and Missouri at this point. None. If you told me right now that Arkansas is as good a football team as Florida, I might disagree with you, but I really don't have a lot of ammo. Ditto if you told me Ole Miss would handle Georgia. The past two weeks have reoriented the SEC landscape in a way that I never recall seeing previously. It's a mess, and the Bulldogs are a big part of that mess right now. Since it's not gonna get any better, at least for now, here's my attempt at a ranking. Spoiler: It's wrong. It's all so, so horribly wrong.
1. Alabama: Driving down a desolate highway with a mushroom cloud in the rearview and hoping the desert winds push the fallout in the other direction.
2. Missouri: The Tigers have gone from being haughtily dismissed to essentially clinching the East in two weeks. Good show, Coach Pinkel. Good show.
3. LSU: Welcome to the funhouse, kids. A pair of last minute losses to Ole Miss and Georgia is a winning hand when you're playing Derper's poker in this particular saloon.
4. Auburn: The WarPlainsTigerOfferingPlateStuffers join Missouri and Alabama as the only three SEC teams in control of their own conference destiny. Where the devil are we, and what are we doing in this great big bloody hand basket?
5. Texas A&M: The Aggies had their moment of revelation in which they found out that you really can't just outscore everybody. Todd Grantham nodded along knowingly from home while Gary Pinkel prank called him from a bar in Columbia. Or maybe Colombia. Who's to say?
6. South Carolina: Lost at the last possible moment to Tennessee. The team below them beat the Volunteers at the last possible moment not so long ago. If their dates with the Vols had been reversed chronologically, I believe the results would have been as well. Like everything else at this point, that's just one man's sad hunch.
7. Georgia: I'm glad I've DVRed this entire season of Bulldog football so I'll have something to watch when the first 5 minutes of "Up" is just more zany hilarity than I can handle. The 'Dawgs are simply not the same football team they were when they played LSU, whether physically, emotionally, metaphysically, socially or spiritually. I'd like to believe the return of Todd Gurley goes a long way to fixing that, but at this point there's really no guarantee.
8. Ole Miss: The recipients of a drive-by Les'ing over the weekend. I still expect this young team to do what young teams do, follow an outstanding performance with a gut-punch to the collective Hotty Toddy midsection. Nevertheless, the boys from Oxford have more to optimistic about than just about anyone in the league.
9. Florida: I've stopped calling what Florida does "offense." I also have no idea what the outcome of the WLOCP will be in a couple of weeks, but I know it will set the course of collegiate football back a good three decades. I half expect a soaking wet undead girl to come crawling out of the screen and drag me to the underworld at halftime. Remember, if you watch it, you will die. Or tear your ACL. Or both.
10. Tennessee: Butch Jones finally got that signature win that Gary Danielson so desperately wanted him to have. I'm sure they hugged afterwards.
11. Vanderbilt: Perhaps I should have the Commodores higher, but I just can't shake off how badly they played prior to this past Saturday or how much help they got from a couple of over-officious jerks to get the W against Georgia. The Bulldogs did plenty on their own to lose that one, but Vanderbilt has work to do before they get the benefit of the doubt from me in the long haul.
12. Mississippi State: Slightly better than Arkansas and Kentucky, and that's about it. I do note that Hugh Freeze is making Dan Mullen's life uncomfortable in Starkville even though they haven't even played this season. If Ole Miss dominates the Egg Bowl, Bizarro Bulldog fans will struggle not to wonder how they got lapped in the Magnolia State college football sweepstakes. Mullen's job security, such as it is, would suffer as a result.
13. Arkansas: It's gonna get better Razorback fans. Just not right now.
14. Kentucky: Didn't lose this weekend. Really that's about all you have a right to ask for at this point, Wildcat fans.
Feel free to attack the above ballot mercilessly in the comments. Until later . . .