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Monday, September 14, 2009
SEC power rankings



Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


Now we’re getting into some conference games we can really sink our teeth into.

Georgia and South Carolina played a wild one in Athens Saturday night, combining for 78 points, 206 yards in penalties and one game-changing play after another on special teams.

The team on the move this week is Auburn, which is 2-0 and coming off a 49-24 blistering of Mississippi State.

The team taking the biggest tumble is Tennessee, which lost for the second straight season to UCLA. The Vols are 1-3 against Pac-10 foes in the past four years.

Here’s a look at this week’s updated SEC power rankings:

1. Florida: Can the Gators make it 50-plus points for the third straight week? They barely broke a sweat in the first two games against outmanned foes and have yet to give up a touchdown. But now it’s on to Tennessee and Lane Kiffin. Florida coach Urban Meyer downplayed Kiffin’s comments Sunday and said it’s all water under the bridge. If you believe that, I’ve got some property on the water in Bucksnort, Tenn., I want to sell you.

2. Alabama: Coach Nick Saban wasn’t especially fond of the intensity Alabama played with to start the game, but the Crimson Tide sure did finish the game with a flurry in a 40-14 win over Florida International. This is a team that can strike fast and has owned the fourth quarter this season. The Tide pulled away Saturday without Julio Jones on the field. Now if only Alabama can figure out how to cover a kickoff.

3. Ole Miss: The biggest battle the Rebels fought last week was the one with the flu. In other words, the bye came at a perfect time. They had more than 25 players at one point too sick to practice, but the bug has appeared to run its course. It really shouldn’t matter again this week. Ole Miss faces Southeastern Louisiana in the second leg of one of the softest nonconference schedules you’re going to see anywhere. The Rebels’ first real test won’t come until the Thursday night game against South Carolina later this month.

4. LSU: Les Miles called his club’s 23-9 win over Vanderbilt “imperfect.” But given the way the Tigers struggled on defense in the opener against Washington, it was a nice response by John Chavis’ crew, which held the Commodores to 81 yards on 31 plays in the second half. Anything less than a 4-0 start would be a real disappointment for the Tigers, who have Louisiana-Lafayette this week and Mississippi State the next.

5. Arkansas: The Hogs have been working on Georgia since before their first game, so this is one they ought to be ready for. Arkansas was off last week after blasting Missouri State 48-10. This looks to be one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league. But you really don’t know until the Hogs go up against an SEC defense. When you look at Arkansas’ road schedule, it’s easy to see why this is such a crucial game for the Hogs at home.

6. Georgia: After being down and out following a season-opening loss to Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs got back up off the deck and slugged their way to a 41-37 win at home Saturday night against South Carolina. The Bulldogs’ backs were to the wall, and they played like it after falling behind 17-7 in the first quarter. Senior quarterback Joe Cox, sore shoulder and all, needed some success to build on the rest of the way.

7. Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s offense just keeps on rolling up 500-yard games, and Auburn made it look easy last week against Mississippi State in a 49-24 rout. The Tigers could have played for 10 quarters last season and not scored 49 points against an SEC defense. As Auburn coach Gene Chizik said, the Tigers’ offensive line is “getting it” right now and paving the way for Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb to run their way into the Auburn history books.

8. South Carolina: There was a lot to like about South Carolina’s 41-37 loss on the road to Georgia, namely the fact that sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia grew up before our very eyes and finally played like a guy capable of leading his team to a big season. There were still too many mistakes on special teams, and the running game hasn’t been real productive through the first two weeks.

9. Kentucky: The Wildcats are back in action after taking last week off. Rich Brooks was pleased with the way his defense charged out of the gate in the opener and clamped down on Miami (Ohio) in a 42-0 shutout. Louisville should provide a little stiffer test this week, and then it’s really on with back-to-back home games against Florida and Alabama. So much of what happens this season with Kentucky revolves around the continued development of junior quarterback Mike Hartline.

10.Vanderbilt: This is probably a little low for a team that was right there in the middle of a one-possession game at LSU until the latter stages. The Commodores, though, will have a chance to prove they should be higher in the coming weeks. They’re really good on defense again and come after you from all different angles. It’s the passing game (really the offense in general) that needs to improve in a hurry.

11. Tennessee: The only thing the Vols have proven to this point is that they can beat up on an incredibly weak Western Kentucky team. The air was let out of the Big Orange balloon Saturday in a 19-15 home loss to UCLA. It’s a loss that may haunt the Vols for the rest of the season. If senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton is going to throw the kind of interceptions he did against UCLA, then Kiffin has no choice but to give a shot to Nick Stephens.

12. Mississippi State: The most disappointing thing for the Bulldogs in their lopsided loss to Auburn was that they didn’t hold up better defensively. It’s no secret that the offense may be a work in progress this season, and it was good for the Bulldogs to get senior running back Anthony Dixon back from a suspension. They get a chance for redemption this weekend at Vanderbilt.