The division races have taken shape, and it’s pretty clear at this point that Louisiana State’s visit to Tuscaloosa on November 5 and Florida’s visit to Columbia on November 12 will decide which teams are in Atlanta on December 3. This week’s SEC Power Poll ballot features a tiny gap between Nos. 1 and 2, a tiny gap between Nos. 3 and 4, and a yawning chasm between Nos. 4 and 5. Here, as I see it, is how the twelve (for now) teams of the Southeastern Conference stack up relative to one another:
1. LSU Tigers (4-0): This spot easily could’ve gone to the Tide instead, but the Bayou Bengals get extra credit for pounding West Virginia and taking their lunch money.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0): It’s appropriate that Alabama’s most recent national championship trophy was put on display at Wal-Mart, as the Tide, like Wal-Mart, are ruthlessly and mechanically efficient to an extent that threatens the long-term viability of all competitors and comes across as downright scary.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks (4-0): The defending SEC East champions continue to take care of business, dispensing with four valid challenges in the autumn’s first month. You can’t ask for much more from a team than that.
4. Florida Gators (4-0): They’ve looked better than everyone (well, everyone except pessimistic Georgia fans) expected over the first third of the season, but they have yet to do anything as impressive as beating Vanderbilt.
5. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-1): Believe it or not, this presently is the best team in the SEC never to have been coached either by Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier.
6. Tennessee Volunteers (2-1): The Big Orange looked better during a bye week than any of the teams ranked behind the Vols looked in actual college football action.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1): I only have the Hogs this high because the Plainsmen looked even worse and the bottom third of the league is mediocre at best. This club of cupcake-crushers had the equivalent of three-fourths of an NFL preseason (fractional portions of NFL seasons being a measurement with which the Arkansas head coach is quite familiar) to get ready for its first real game, and the Razorbacks failed miserably.
8. Auburn Tigers (3-1): I’d love to be able to say that Arkansas is the weakest 3-1 team in the conference, but Auburn followed up a pair of close shaves and a hammering at Clemson with another lackluster performance, in which the Tigers led FAU by a 10-6 margin at halftime.
9. Georgia Bulldogs (2-2): The Classic City Canines are money against any opponent other than a Division I-A team that will finish the season with a winning record.
10. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (2-2): Is there a rule that requires a team to play its worst the week before facing Georgia?
11. Kentucky Wildcats (2-2): I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but, the next time Kentucky beats Florida in football, the next day’s Sunday morning sermon will be taken from the Book of Revelation.
12. Mississippi Rebels (1-3): Ole Miss is so bad, the Black Bears lost to Georgia at home. Houston Nutt may have just been Richted. It could be worse, though; if the Texas A&M Aggies had officially joined the league before the weekend, the Rebs would’ve ranked 13th.
That is how the SEC looks to me, but, of course, I could be wrong about that. Your comments, constructive criticisms, and other observations are welcome and encouraged.