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Gators make up ground, but not enough

Posted by ESPN.com Chris Low

Florida made its most convincing argument yet to take over the top spot in the SEC power rankings. In fact, the Gators have made a pretty convincing argument the last three times they've taken the field. Their 49-10 dismantling of Georgia last Saturday was the most complete performance by an SEC team this season. But as good as Florida has been, Alabama's still the team to beat in the SEC and still the only unbeaten team. Therefore, the Crimson Tide head to Baton Rouge this weekend on top of the SEC power rankings for the sixth straight week:

1. Alabama: There was no letdown in the Crimson Tide last week in their 35-0 rout of outmanned Arkansas State. And once again, even without nose tackle Terrence Cody, Alabama's defense was on top of its game. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 9 points in their past two games. Everybody keeps asking how good these guys are. Well, we've already seen them go to Georgia and destroy the Bulldogs. They get a chance to make another statement this Saturday at LSU.

2. Florida: The Gators are putting all three phases of the game together right now. They've scored 201 points in their last four games. Their defense has held the opposition to 9 points or less in three of the last four games, and there's nobody in the country more sound on special teams than the Gators. They have that look of a championship football team right now and are playing with a ton of confidence in all three phases of the game.

3. Georgia: It's a pretty safe bet that Georgia's going to be tagged with the underachiever/overrated label this season. Florida's a very good team, but there's no way the Gators should be able to embarrass the Bulldogs the way they did last weekend in Jacksonville. Georgia has been exposed defensively against the three best offensive teams it's faced (Alabama, LSU and Florida), and it's looking like the Bulldogs will be spending their holidays in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl after starting the season ranked No. 1 nationally.

4. LSU: It's not been the kind of season the defending national champions had hoped for, but the Tigers get a chance to do something about that this weekend when No. 1 Alabama and Nick Saban come to town. A win over the Crimson Tide would ease a lot of the pain from the blowout losses earlier this season to Florida and Georgia. The Tigers' defense has been spotty, and redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee has now thrown five interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns this season.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks would love to have back that loss to Vanderbilt the second week of the season. They polished off Tennessee last weekend and have quietly been one of the best defenses in the league all season. The Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3 SEC) have a chance to do something that's only been done at South Carolina twice in school history -- and that's win more than eight games in a season. They close against Arkansas, Florida and Clemson and will also play in a bowl game.

6. Vanderbilt: Slotting the No. 6 team was difficult this week. Vanderbilt was idle, and Ole Miss is probably playing better at this point. But the Commodores do have the head-to-head victory over the Rebels in Oxford, so that was good enough to keep Vanderbilt in the top half of the conference. But the margin right now between Vanderbilt and Ole Miss is pretty slim. The Commodores (5-3, 3-2 SEC) are still looking for that sixth win to become bowl eligible. They've lost three in a row, and it doesn't get any easier this week when Florida comes to town.

7. Ole Miss: The Rebels won their second in a row this season last Saturday with a 17-7 victory over Auburn. That's significant because it was the first time the Rebels had won consecutive games in a season since David Cutcliffe's last year in Oxford in 2004 when they beat Arkansas State and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks. It was the first time since the 2003 season when the Rebels shared the Western Division crown that they had won SEC games in back-to-back weeks.

8. Kentucky: It's a been a rough last few weeks for the Wildcats, but they're bowl eligible after squeezing past Mississippi State, 14-13, last weekend. Injuries have really taken their toll on the Wildcats, but they deserve some props for hanging in there and finding a way to win two of the last three weeks. Kentucky (6-3, 2-3 SEC) has Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee remaining. The last time the Wildcats went to three straight bowls was 1949-51 when Bear Bryant was their coach, so this is far from an every-year occurrence.

9. Arkansas: The team making the biggest move this week is Arkansas, which knocked off No. 18 and previously unbeaten Tulsa last weekend. The Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4 SEC) are one of the youngest teams in the country. They're playing 16 true freshmen, but they've gotten better the last few weeks and had chances to beat both Kentucky and Ole Miss. They put it all together against Tulsa with big plays in the kicking game and senior quarterback Casey Dick having a huge day.

10. Auburn: The season gets a little longer each week for Auburn and Tommy Tuberville. The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) lost 17-7 at Ole Miss last weekend, their fourth straight loss. Quarterback Kodi Burns threw three interceptions, and the offense continued to struggle. Tuberville insisted afterward that there was no quit in his team, but the Tigers are on a collision course with their first losing season under Tuberville since his first year on the Plains in 1999. Tuberville, despite his success over the long haul, is answering more and more questions about his job security.

11. Tennessee: As it turns out, the South Carolina loss last weekend was the final nail for Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. He will not return next season as the Vols' coach after more than 30 years at his alma mater as a player, assistant coach and head coach. The Vols (3-6, 1-5 SEC) are in danger of having their second losing season in the last four years, which is what ultimately got Fulmer. That and a sagging offense. It just never clicked under first-year coordinator Dave Clawson this season.

12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (3-6, 1-4 SEC) move into the bottom spot after losing at home to Kentucky last weekend. Special teams blunders killed Sylvester Croom's club against the Wildcats. The lingering problem all season, though, has been an offense that's never found any kind of identity and hasn't been able to consistently drive the ball all season. Last year's eight-win season and Liberty Bowl win seem like a distant memory.