After Alabama’s statement of power on Saturday in the SEC championship game, we take a look at the final regular-season SEC power rankings.
For the record, I should point out that I had Alabama No. 1 the last couple of weeks:
1. Alabama: No big surprise here. The Crimson Tide physically whipped Florida in a 32-13 SEC championship game victory and looked like they were a step ahead from the outset. It was their best performance of the season, not a bad way to go into the BCS National Championship Game.
2. Florida: As disappointing as it was, one bad game doesn’t knock the Gators down too far. They’re still one of the top two or three teams in the country and will get to prove it against Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. We knew this club had its limitations on offense after watching the Gators all season, but who saw the defense crumbling the way it did in Atlanta?
3. LSU: The stench from that Ole Miss loss (and the way it happened) still resonates on the Bayou, but the chance to win 10 games for the fourth time in five years under Les Miles still awaits the Tigers (9-3) in a Capital One Bowl matchup with Penn State. It's hard to argue with that kind of consistency.
4. Ole Miss: As much as any team in the SEC, Ole Miss (8-4) has to be itching to play again to get that bitter taste out of its mouth from the 41-27 spanking the Rebels suffered at Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. An AT&T Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State would help ease the pain.
5. Tennessee: The Vols (7-5) get a shot at No. 11 Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which finally matches up those two teams after so many talks about playing the last decade. It also gives Tennessee one last chance at a win over a nationally ranked team, which would be a nice way for Lane Kiffin to end his first season in Knoxville.
6. Georgia: The Bulldogs (7-5) are down to one defensive assistant after Mark Richt fired coordinator Willie Martinez, ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach John John Jancek last week. They will have their hands full on defense against Texas A&M and the Aggies’ explosive quarterback Jerrod Johnson in the Advocare Independence Bowl.
7. Kentucky: The Wildcats (7-5) are still smarting from not being able to end the drought against Tennessee. They were still able to make a little history with their wins at Auburn and Georgia and will get a chance to make a little more history with a fourth straight bowl victory. They head back to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl to face Clemson.
8. Arkansas: The only thing missing for the Hogs (7-5) this season was a little defense. They had stretches were they were OK on that side of the ball, but couldn’t consistently stop people. Not many people were able to stop sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett, who’ll be shooting for 30-plus touchdown passes in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against East Carolina.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks (7-5) landed in the final SEC bowl spot and will head to Birmingham, Ala., to face Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Steve Spurrier and crew are looking to continue their momentum from a 34-17 pasting of arch-rival Clemson two weeks ago. That was a game that really showcased the young talent in the Gamecocks’ program.
10. Auburn: One of the six SEC teams that finished 7-5 this season has to be ranked near the bottom, and it’s Auburn. The Tigers are getting a sweet trip to Tampa to take on Northwestern in the Outback Bowl and played extremely well in their 26-21 loss to Alabama. The reason they’re ranked lower is because they lost five of their last six SEC games.
11. Mississippi State: Of all the teams nationally not going to bowls, the Bulldogs (5-7) have to feel pretty good about the way they ended their season. They whipped Ole Miss 41-27 and did so with a lot of younger players making big plays. Brighter days are ahead for this program, which certainly seems to be on the move under first-year coach Dan Mullen.
12. Vanderbilt: Not much of anything went right for the Commodores (2-10). Their offense was dreadful, and they suffered through one crippling injury after another. There were some promising performances by younger players, namely freshman running back Warren Norman, but this is a program that has to improve drastically on offense if it’s going to get back to seven wins.