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Bama holds slight edge over LSU

10/6/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt's still hanging around in the land of the unbeaten. Alabama didn't look nearly as dominant this week. Florida took a while to get started offensively, while Georgia and LSU were off. Yes, I realize Auburn and Tennessee fans that your offenses have been off all season, but that's another topic. Because LSU didn't play, we're keeping Alabama No. 1 this week in the SEC power rankings. But it's close right now between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers:

1. Alabama: This inconsistency had better stop, or Nick Saban is going to blow a gasket. Alabama sure didn't look like the best team in the SEC in its 17-14 win over Kentucky, but let's give a little credit to the Wildcats. The Crimson Tide managed to win despite three turnovers, 10 penalties for 92 yards and quarterback John Parker Wilson being sacked three times.

2. LSU: On paper, LSU still looks like the most talented team in the league and redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee is playing with a lot of confidence entering this weekend's Florida game. The Tigers just have to go prove it. Their schedule to this point has been fairly soft and they haven't faced any good offenses.

3. Georgia: Will the real Georgia football team stand up? The last time the Bulldogs took the field, they were flattened by Alabama at home. This is a better team than the one that showed up in the first half of that game. The Bulldogs have had a week to shake off the physical and mental effects of that loss and should heal up even more this week against a teetering Tennessee team.

4. Florida: By now, we know that Tim Tebow really isn't Superman. He's still a dynamite college football player, just not Superman. Likewise, Florida's offense is still not clicking the way Urban Meyer wants it to. This would be a good week for everything to click just right. If the Gators can take down LSU at home, they move to the forefront of the Eastern Division race.

5. Vanderbilt: The Vanderbilt players have been in either the library or lab ever since their historic 14-13 win over Auburn on Saturday night, but they're not too covered up with their studies to realize the opportunity that's out there in front of them now. A road win this week at Mississippi State and the Commodores are a real player in the Eastern Division race.

6. Kentucky: The Wildcats actually move up this week on the heels of a loss, one of those "good" losses. Their defense is as advertised and will keep this team in every game it plays this season. Quarterback Mike Hartline is continuing to gain confidence as he passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama's defense. Up next is a key home game against South Carolina.

7. Auburn: Where are all those Auburn fans now who were sending snide e-mails to SEC power rankings committee members last week and scolding them about having the audacity to rank Vanderbilt ahead of Auburn? If it were me, I'd be sending e-mails to Tommy Tuberville about having the audacity to put that kind of offense on the field.

8. South Carolina: You've got to love Chris Smelley's wherewithal. He loses the starting quarterback job to Tommy Beecher before the preseason even begins, then relieves Beecher in the first game, then is apparently going to be replaced by Stephen Garcia only to come through and play his best football. The Gamecocks seemed to feed off Smelley and are coming off a key road win at Ole Miss.

9. Ole Miss: Obviously, the Rebels aren't too good at handling prosperity. Just when you think they're healthy and about to break through and go on a little spree, they lose at home to South Carolina. The biggest disappointment for the Rebels was that they couldn't get any pressure on South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley. Ole Miss is too talented up front to be stonewalled like that.

10. Miss. State: The Bulldogs didn't play, but moved up thanks to Tennessee's shaky home effort against Northern Illinois. Here's the other thing: Mississippi State didn't look like a team that was ready to pack it in during its last outing. The Bulldogs hung in there against LSU on the road and are giving some younger players a chance to show what they can do.

11. Tennessee: Given what we've seen from the Vols this season, it's hard to imagine them winning more than a couple of SEC games. Even though Nick Stephens was at least serviceable at quarterback against Northern Illinois, the offense is a shell of what it's traditionally been at Tennessee. And the most indicting thing is that there's plenty of talent on offense.

12. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino said the most important thing for his young Hogs was not to lose sight of the importance of going to the practice field and improving despite what happened the previous week. Well, the Razorbacks were blown out for the third straight week, but Florida didn't pull away until the fourth quarter. The Arkansas defense held its own for the first three quarters. That's at least some progress.