I have already posted my BlogPoll ballot for this week, but that only provides an overview of what I consider to be the top 25 teams in Division I-A and does not offer a breakdown of all twelve S.E.C. programs and where they stand relative to one another. For that, you need . . .
1. Alabama: Granted, the Crimson Tide nearly got upended by Kentucky at home, but this is a decent Wildcat team and ‘Bama found a way to win despite coming down off of the biggest victory by the Red Elephants in the last 15 years. Even if I deducted points from the Tide’s score for the close call against U.K., Alabama had enough of an edge to retain the first-place ranking on my ballot.
2. Vanderbilt: On the biggest of stages, playing at home at night with "College GameDay" on campus, taking on a Western Division opponent from the Yellowhammer State in the largest test yet of what previously had been an undefeated season, the Commodores closed the deal . . . which is more than I can say for some other teams I could name. Embrace the Vandemonium!
Here’s to snooty private schools and robber barons! What better way to celebrate the Wall Street bailout?
3. Louisiana State: It’s not that I doubt the Bayou Bengals’ ability to rocket to the top, but, for crying out loud, play someone already! What’re you, a Big 12 team?
4. Georgia: The Bulldogs still are one of the elite teams in the league. Thank goodness we get the ‘Dores between the hedges.
5. Florida: To the Gators’ credit, they didn’t try to assemble a slate made up of patsies, but, with Arkansas, Miami (Florida), and upcoming season-ender Florida State all tanking, U.F. must contend with the simple reality that all four of the Saurians’ victims boast 2-3 records. The one 3-3 team the Gators faced beat the Orange and Blue in Gainesville. What happens when Urban Meyer’s club starts playing teams that are above .500?
6. Kentucky: The ‘Cats acquitted themselves as well in Tuscaloosa as might have been expected. Vanderbilt’s success so far has overshadowed the fact that Rich Brooks has turned this program around and placed U.K. in a position of perennial respectability on the gridiron. The difference, of course, is that Coach Brooks won’t be hired to replace Tommy Bowden at Clemson at the end of the regular season.
Bobby Johnson . . . bound for a bowl game, a truckload of cash, and a house overlooking Lake Hartwell!
7. South Carolina: Put away the "big, powerful team" jokes, Bulldog Nation; the Gamecocks finally registered that elusive S.E.C. win, and it was a pretty big one for the Palmetto State Poultry, who went on the road and bagged an upset in Oxford. It was a solid performance by a team that now looks like a bowl contender again, but, anytime your team considers beating Ole Miss an upset, there are unresolved issues remaining.
8. Mississippi: The Rebels were on a roll after registering a big upset in the Swamp, but the Big Chickens brought them back down to earth a bit. Nevertheless, Houston Nutt has Ole Miss headed in the right direction. The Rebs are talented, but they need to work on their consistency.
9. Auburn: There is no longer any shame in losing to Vanderbilt. There is, however, considerable shame in the inability to score above the mid-teens in a conference game. I continue to live in mortal terror that the Plainsmen are going to get it clicking halfway through the first quarter of their game against the ‘Dawgs. I hate Auburn.
10. Tennessee: You could throw the league’s bottom three teams in a sack and pull them out at random without being wrong. I can’t so much justify why the Volunteers made the top ten, but I sure can justify why the next two teams didn’t.
Relax, Phil; it could be worse. I mean, it couldn’t be much worse, but there are differences in degrees of awfulness.
11. Mississippi State: How bad has it gotten in Starkville? The Western Division Bulldogs are looking wistfully towards Auburn in admiration of the Tigers’ offense . . . and the urbane sophistication of the so-called Loveliest Village. M.S.U., the "sick man" of the S.E.C., has a fever, and, no, it can’t be cured by more cowbell.
12. Arkansas: The Razorbacks are so bad, they might as well be Washington, minus a scenic campus, respectable academic standards, and a coach with integrity. If Arkansas’s Hog mascot was literal rather than symbolic, it would be time to serve bacon for breakfast and be done with it.
That is how the various S.E.C. squads stack up against one another, at least from my vantage point. Please feel free to share your thoughts upon my ordering of the teams in the comments below.