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Florida unseats Alabama in latest SEC power rankings

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

As it turns out, I got it right. I took some heat back in August when I perched Florida atop my preseason power rankings in the SEC. The Georgia fans were aghast, and the LSU fans weren't real happy considering they were coming off a national championship with a bunch of those players returning. I just felt at the time that the Gators were the most talented team in the country, and over the course of this season, they proved me right. Here's a look at the updated SEC power rankings following Florida's 31-20 win over Alabama in last Saturday's SEC Championship Game:

1. Florida: The Gators (12-1) left little question that they were the best team in the SEC this season. Not only did they beat Alabama, but they beat the Crimson Tide with their most dynamic playmaker standing on the sideline. Percy Harvin didn't play because of a sprained ankle. Next up for the Gators is proving they're the best team in the country, and Harvin should be back for the Jan. 8 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma.

2. Alabama: Not seeing Alabama up top is weird. The Crimson Tide (12-1) spent all of October and all of November No. 1 in the SEC power rankings. They weren't always flashy, but they just kept winning. They fell short of their goal of winning the SEC title in the 31-20 loss to Florida last week, but it's been an unbelievable run for the Crimson Tide, one they can cap in the Sugar Bowl against unbeaten Utah.

3. Ole Miss: The Rebels (8-4) will put their five-game winning streak on the line against Texas Tech (11-1) in the Cotton Bowl. Wins over Florida and LSU have highlighted Ole Miss' season to this point, but taking down a top 10 team the caliber of Texas Tech in the postseason would be the ultimate way to close the deal.

4. Georgia: As the Georgia fans continue to howl about defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, the Bulldogs' defense faces another stiff challenge in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, who like Knowshon Moreno, is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. The Bulldogs (9-3) will try to snap the Big Ten's four-game winning streak in the Capital One Bowl.

5. LSU: On the Bayou, fans are waiting to see what changes LSU coach Les Miles makes on his defensive staff after the Tigers (7-5) underachieved on that side of the ball this season. Talk about tough assignments. LSU has to deal with Georgia Tech's triple-option offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 409 yards against Georgia the last time out.

6. South Carolina: It seems like just about every SEC team going to a bowl is headed that way on a losing note. The Gamecocks (7-5) were flattened in their last two outings against Clemson and Florida, but get a chance to win their eighth game under Steve Spurrier for the second time in the last three seasons in the Outback Bowl against Iowa.

7. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (6-6) have to somehow re-capture that magic that carried them to a 5-0 record to start the season. They face Boston College in the Music City Bowl and have lost six of their last seven games. This is Vanderbilt's first appearance in a bowl game since 1982.

8. Tennessee: The buzz around Knoxville right now revolves around new coach Lane Kiffin, who's busy recruiting and assembling his staff. The Vols (5-7) will be home for the holidays after suffering through their second losing season in the last four years, which was enough to push longtime coach Phillip Fulmer out the door at his alma mater.

9. Kentucky: Props to Kentucky coach Rich Brooks for getting the Wildcats to a bowl game for the third straight year. The Wildcats (6-6) are sort of limping into the Liberty Bowl to face East Carolina, but they overcame several key injuries to hang in there and do something that hasn't been done at Kentucky in nearly 60 years.

10. Auburn: Any coach needing a raise might want to make sure his name pops up in the Auburn search. Tommy Tuberville is out after 10 years on the Plains, and the Tigers (5-7) are looking for a replacement and generating some big raises for others along the way. Just ask Houston Nutt. This is the first time Auburn hasn't gone to a bowl since Tuberville's first season at Auburn in 1999.

11. Arkansas: The Razorbacks (5-7) won't be participating in the postseason festivities, but they did give the fans in the Ozarks something to be excited about next year. They improved greatly during the second half of the season under first-year coach Bobby Petrino and did it primarily with players who'll all be back next season.

12. Mississippi State: No team in the SEC experienced a tougher season than Mississippi State, which also had a coaching change. Sylvester Croom, a year removed from being the SEC's Coach of the Year, was forced to resign, and the Bulldogs (4-8) are currently looking for his replacement. Whoever comes in faces one of the toughest coaching jobs in the SEC.