Here’s one final look at the SEC Power Rankings until after the bowl games:
1. Auburn: There’s no debate going into the bowl season on which the best team in the league is, and there hasn’t been for some time. The Tigers (13-0) own six wins over teams that finished in the Top 25 of the final BCS standings. Their 56-17 thrashing of South Carolina Saturday in the SEC championship game punched their ticket to play in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
2. Arkansas: The Hogs’ six-game winning streak down the stretch paid big dividends. They’re going to their first-ever BCS bowl when they face Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Arkansas (10-2) will get a chance to win 11 games in a season for the first time since 1977, Lou Holtz’s first season in Fayetteville.
3. LSU: The Tigers (10-2) lost out on a BCS bowl bid when they fell to Arkansas in Little Rock on the final day of the regular season. Still, their only two losses were to top-10 teams, and Les Miles’ club can likely a cement a top-10 finish in the polls with a win over Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks (9-4) didn’t put up much of a fight in their 56-17 SEC championship game loss to Auburn, but there’s still something to be said for making it that far for the first time in school history. Even though the East was down this season, South Carolina did beat Alabama, which keeps the Gamecocks in the No. 4 spot.
5. Alabama: Had the Crimson Tide (9-3) been able to hold onto that 24-point lead over Auburn two weeks ago, they likely would be getting ready to play in the Sugar Bowl. But they didn’t and will have to settle for the Capital One Bowl. It’s one more chance for Alabama to put together a complete game, something that’s been a struggle all season.
6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (8-4) got their Jan. 1 bowl date in Florida and deservingly so. They will take on Michigan in the Gator Bowl, although for a while last weekend it looked like they might get squeezed down to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
7. Florida: When you’ve had a season like the one the Gators have, this is one of those bowl games that could either ease the pain or make it even worse heading into the offseason. Florida (7-5) is still stinging following its 31-7 loss to Florida State and looking for any semblance of offense it can find. The Gators get one last chance to find it in the Outback Bowl.
8. Georgia: The Bulldogs (6-6) kept alive their bowl streak. Their trip to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to face Central Florida marks the 14th straight year they’ve played in a bowl game. They get a chance to keep alive another streak if they can win the game. Georgia hasn’t had a losing season since 1996.
9. Tennessee: The Vols (6-6) are one of those .500 teams that can’t wait to play again after finishing the regular season with four consecutive wins. They will take on North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, and most importantly, will get a couple more weeks of practice to continue developing one of the youngest collection of players in college football.
10. Kentucky: There was talk in the Kentucky camp back in the preseason of breaking through to that next level, but the Wildcats (6-6) could never string any quality wins together. They managed just two SEC wins, although one of those came over South Carolina. Still, they’re back in a bowl game for the fifth straight year, one of only five teams in the SEC that can say that.
11. Ole Miss: The third year for Houston Nutt at Ole Miss was anything but a charm. The Rebels (4-8) struggled from the outset when they lost to FCS foe Jacksonville State in the season opener, and it didn’t get any better from there. Nutt has preached patience to the fans after leading the Rebels to consecutive nine-win seasons in his first two years on the job.
12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (2-10) suffered through their second consecutive 10-loss season, although they did manage to win an SEC game. It wasn’t enough for coach Robbie Caldwell to keep his job after just one season of leading the program, and Vanderbilt is currently searching for a new head coach.