As sure as the tide comes in and Auburn cheats, it's time to rank the SEC's football teams top to bottom. It wasn't a great week for those who prefer their football predictable. Texas A&M, which had previously occupied the top spot on my ballot, squeezed out an overtime win over Arkansas, which had been a denizen of the bottom four on most ballots as recently as the second week of the season.
South Carolina found a way to lose at home to Missouri, which had found a way the prior week to lose at home to Indiana. And of course Georgia made things far too interesting against Tennessee. All in all it led to the emergence of a narrative, the "West is best" school of thought, which is now no longer limited to academic discussions of cultural imperialism. Observe:
Yep. 1-7. SEC West 8-14. SEC East I’d put the East lower, but there’s nowhere for them to go— Brandon Larrabee (@TeamSpeedKills) September 28, 2014
I wouldn't go quite that far. I think some of what we saw on Saturday was a combination of SEC East teams playing close games between teams that matched up well with each other, some West teams doing the same, and people coming to the conclusion that close games between one set of teams means they're both good while a close game between others means they're awful. It's a small sample size, one which will certainly be tested as we move forward. For example, if Bama decks Ole miss this weekend in Oxford (as I fully expect) that doesn't mean that Bama's even better than we thought. It very well could mean that Ole Miss is still Ole Miss, even with a nice infusion of capital.
It will all sort itself out, but for now here's my best guess about the relative strengths of SEC football squads. As usual you can find the full results over at Team Speed Kills. Feel free to emolate the ballot below or my colleagues' combined efforts in the comments.
1) Auburn. Gave up 17 meaningless points in typical Ellis Johnson bend-don't-break fashion. Scored 45 without really trying.
2) Alabama. My sense is that Alabama improved week to week leading into this bye week. The offense is clearly a match for anyone. If the defense continues to improve, Bo Wallace is in serious trouble this weekend.
3) Texas A&M. No one ever doubted that the defensive front seven was the soft underbelly of this Aggie squad. It was a little eye opening to see Arkansas expose it so consistently.
4) Mississippi State. The Bizarro Bulldogs may have been very lucky to get a bye week after that emotional win over LSU. One imagines that they would have experienced a significant hangover if they had to host the Texas A&M Aggies last week rather than this one.
5) Georgia. RTDB=WTDG. (Running the danged ball is winning the danged game). I'm going to get railed for this, but I think Hutson Mason likely improves at least incrementally from here. Is it enough to avoid defeat versus Missouri, and later Florida and Auburn? Hey I'm confident, not psychic.
6) Ole Miss. About to effectively transfer the Peter Principle to the gridiron, as the Rebs' current #11 ranking represents the level of their incompetence. Ole Miss is a top 15 team that's about to lose to a couple of top 10 teams in divisional play.
7) LSU. The Bayou Bengals will be a lot better when their youth movement isn't so damned young.
8) Missouri. Maddeningly inconsistent. I know they'll play a football game against Georgia on October 11th, but past that I have no idea what to expect.
9) South Carolina. Again, Georgia fans will find themselves asking in November how we lost to these guys again. The only logical answer is that Williams-Brice Stadium sits on a Hell mouth.
10) Arkansas. The Razorbacks matched up as well against the Texas A&M Aggies as any other team in the SEC. They still came up just a tad short of pulling the meaningful upset.
11) Tennessee. This was Butch Jones' best shot at a signature year two road win. But make no mistake, the baby Bols who came up short in Athens on Saturday will be tough to handle soon enough.
12) Florida. If it's possible to lose a bye week, Agent Muschamp may have. The vibe coming out of Gainesville just ain't real good.
13) Kentucky. Won the battle of the bottom 17-7.
14) Vanderbilt. Lost the battle of the bottom 17-7. Still have no scoring weapons other than their kick returner.