At a moment when uncertainty grips Bulldog Nation and I am unsure about my BlogPoll ballot, it is comforting to see how cleanly the Southeastern Conference has delineated itself for purposes of this week’s S.E.C. Power Poll. The list, it seems to me, could not be more clear, so please pardon me for stating the obvious when I break it down as follows:
1. Alabama (9-0): Yes, the Gators have looked more dominant, but flashy Florida units have been outperformed by merely methodical Crimson Tide clubs for a while now and looks sometimes are deceiving. No matter what the scoreboard says, ‘Bama beat the Bulldogs a good deal more handily than the Saurians did, and, besides, the Red Elephants are undefeated. Also, they beat Ole Miss at home, which is a point in their favor.
2. Florida (7-1): The Gators beat my third-, fourth-, and sixth-place teams by a combined margin of a bajillion and four to six. All right, that’s an exaggeration, but they won by a bunch, O.K.? Don’t make me belabor the point. They’re good, they’re going to get the chance to prove how good on the first weekend in December, and, frankly, I’m tired of talking about it. (I literally was on the receiving end of a jab about the Cocktail Party during communion on Sunday. I was in line at church, I stepped up with my hands held out, and I was zinged by the person assisting with the elements just before being handed a piece of bread and told, "The body of Christ, broken for you." So, yeah, I could do without hearing about Florida for a while, thanks.)
3. Georgia (7-2): The Bulldogs lost to the first-ranked team at home and to the second-ranked team at a neutral site but beat the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams on the road. That gets you ranked third every time.
4. Louisiana State (6-2): The Bayou Bengals lost to the second-ranked team on the road and the third-ranked team at home but beat the fifth-ranked team on the road. That gets you ranked fourth---in this case, a fairly distant fourth---every time.
5. South Carolina (6-3): Ordinarily, I curse the S.E.C. schedule makers who require the ‘Dawgs to face the Gamecocks early, when the Palmetto State Poultry are healthy and hopeful, rather than late, when their comparative lack of depth usually is wearing them down. This year, though, I’m glad the Red and Black were able to dispense with South Carolina sooner rather than later, because Steve Spurrier’s squad is peaking. The ‘Cocks got the nod over Kentucky because the ‘Cats are faltering and Carolina beat U.K. head to head.
6. Kentucky (6-3): Rich Brooks has revived the Wildcat football program, creating a perennial bowl invitee out of a squad that had been left for dead as a mere opening act before basketball season, but injuries have hampered the Bluegrass State Felines’ rise this season. I don’t expect the ‘Cats to occupy this position one week hence.
7. Ole Miss (5-4): I wish we had a bowl tie-in that would allow the Rebels to face Oregon State in the postseason, because both teams are better than their records and have acquitted themselves well against daunting slates. While there may be a distinct ceiling hovering above Oxford, Mississippi is a program on the rise.
I could, however, do without that whole thing where, every time Ole Miss beats an orange-and-blue-clad team I hate, Georgia goes on to lose later in the day.
8. Vanderbilt (5-3): I’m sure this is a hard thing for a group of naval officers to admit, but the Commodores are sailing aboard a sinking ship. They’re not bound for the bottom of the deep blue sea---although they did lose to Mississippi State---but the high point of Vandy’s season has come and gone.
9. Arkansas (4-5): Don’t look now, but, while Bobby Petrino has been faxing updated copies of his resume to Clemson, Knoxville, and Seattle, the Hogs have put together something resembling an upward surge. The Razorbacks beat my tenth-ranked team head to head, so Arkansas’s placement was pretty easily determined.
10. Auburn (4-5): The Plainsmen have lost five of their last six, including four in a row, and Phillip Fulmer’s recent ouster officially makes Tommy Tuberville’s the hottest seat in the Southeastern Conference. I continue to await with growing dread the inevitable coach-saving offensive explosion that almost certainly will be visited upon the Bulldogs when Georgia visits the Plains. I hate Auburn.
By golly, that Peyton Manning seems like a fine upstanding fellow and a fit role model for American young people. Now, in the name of all that is right and just, please don’t make my team lose to Florida again.
12. Mississippi State (3-6): Any commentary I had to offer here would be cruel.
On a completely unrelated note, since I alluded in passing to the fact that today was my birthday and I have seen and heard from many well wishers over the last few days, I wanted to express my thanks and answer the question I have gotten more than once; namely, how old am I? In responding to that question, I’ll let Mike Gundy answer for me: