One thing that should be glaringly obvious based on this week’s SEC Power Rankings is that the strength this season lies in the West:
1. Auburn: The Tigers (10-0, 6-0 SEC) rallied around Cam Newton amid the allegations that surfaced last week, and Newton was his usual sensational self on the field with 317 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown … all in the first half. Auburn made easy work of Chattanooga in a 62-24 rout.
2. LSU: Don’t forget about “The Hat.” Les Miles’ Tigers (8-1, 5-1) played their most complete game of the season in a 24-21 win over Alabama, thrusting LSU back into the national championship picture. LSU would need some help, but Miles & Co. are at least within striking distance. The fourth-down reverse by the Tigers was the call of the year.
3. Alabama: Any shot at a second straight national championship went down the drain for the Crimson Tide (7-2, 4-2) Saturday in Baton Rouge in a 24-21 loss. Alabama’s defense was shredded in the second half to the tune of 338 yards of total offense. The Tide led 7-3 at the half and had won 28 straight games under Nick Saban in which they led at the half. But not this one.
4. Arkansas: The Hogs (7-2, 4-2) got that signature win they had been looking for in a convincing 41-20 drubbing of South Carolina that could have been even worse. The goal now is to finish this thing out and get to 10 wins in the regular season. A tough stretch remains with Mississippi State on the road Nov. 20 and then LSU in Little Rock to end the season.
5. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) will play with heavy hearts the rest of the season after the passing last week of teammate Nick Bell. Despite that tragic loss, they have a chance to make this a season to remember on the field, and it starts Saturday at Alabama. The Bulldogs are riding a six-game winning streak.
6. South Carolina: Losing to Arkansas last week was one thing, but the Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3) were never really in the game -- physically or emotionally. They get a chance to make amends on Saturday. This is the game that counts. They travel to Florida in a game that will determine the Eastern Division championship. South Carolina is looking to get to Atlanta for the first time in school history.
7. Florida: It hasn’t been a season that has lived up to Florida’s standards, but the Gators (6-3, 4-3) can go a long way toward changing that Saturday with a win over South Carolina. The winner will go to Atlanta and play in the SEC championship game. The Gators seem to be getting well offensively at just the right time. They’ve scored 89 points in their past two games after losing three straight.
8. Georgia: The Bulldogs (5-5, 3-4) were one of three SEC teams playing glorified exhibitions. They overwhelmed Idaho State 55-7. A.J. Green had a big day in what was probably his next-to-last appearance in Sanford Stadium. Georgia gets a chance to play big-time spoiler this coming weekend at Auburn.
9. Kentucky: The Wildcats (5-5, 1-5) weren’t particularly sharp early, but pulled away from outmanned Charleston Southern for a 49-21 victory. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline and junior receiver Randall Cobb both had big games. Kentucky needs to win one of its two remaining games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee to extend its bowl streak to five straight years.
10. Ole Miss: The Rebels (4-5, 1-4) will have to wait and see about the status of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was knocked out of Saturday’s 43-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette with a concussion. Running back Brandon Bolden came through with 136 rushing yards. Ole Miss plays at Tennessee this coming Saturday in a game the Rebels pretty much have to have if they’re going to play in a bowl game this season.
11. Tennessee: The Vols (3-6, 0-5) were sure glad to see Memphis on the schedule. The Tigers, one of the worst FBS teams in the country, didn’t do anything to shake that label, as Tennessee rolled to a 50-14 win behind freshman quarterback Tyler Bray. The Vols snapped a four-game losing streak and kept alive their bowl hopes. They have to win out to go to the postseason, starting with Ole Miss at home on Saturday.
12. Vanderbilt: It’s getting to the point for the Commodores (2-7, 1-5) where this season can’t end soon enough. They’ve been decimated by injuries and are giving up points at a staggering pace, losing 55-14 at home to Florida last week. During its four-game losing streak, Vanderbilt has been outscored 168-35.