NCF Nation: SEC power rankings
The noticeable exception is that Georgia has jumped up from No. 6 to No. 3. The Bulldogs’ returning experience on the offensive line, their playmakers on offense and some of the best special teams in the country was what separated them from Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
There’s not a lot of difference in the third best team and eighth best team, which should make for an intriguing fall.
Here’s how they rank in the SEC heading into the season:
1. Alabama: A lot has been made about what Alabama has to replace this season on defense. Here’s another way to look at it: Take a gander at what the Crimson Tide have returning on offense and the way they’ve stockpiled talent on defense.
2. Florida: The nucleus of those teams that reeled off 22 straight wins is gone, but new leaders and new stars are sure to emerge in Gainesville, led by junior quarterback John Brantley and a freshman class brimming with talent.
3. Georgia: Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray doesn’t have to be spectacular. If he’s just steady and takes care of the ball, the Bulldogs have enough talent around him to make a legitimate run in the East.
4. Arkansas: Too bad for the Hogs that it’s not the first team to 30 points that wins the game. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but still have to prove they’re going to hold up better defensively than they did a year ago.
5. Auburn: The reinforcements are coming for the Tigers, whose lack of depth caught up with them last season. Several players in their No. 4-rated signing class should make an immediate impact, starting with quarterback Cameron Newton.
6. LSU: All the chatter about whether Les Miles is on the hot seat could dissipate in a hurry if some of the Tigers’ young talent comes through. Also, does the light come on this season for junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson?
7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks could easily be up there around No. 3 or No. 4, but their history says they won’t. Their returning talent says otherwise, especially since it looks like junior quarterback Stephen Garcia is more motivated than ever.
8. Ole Miss: The addition of Jeremiah Masoli is a coup for the Rebels if he stays out of trouble and plays the way he did at Oregon in leading the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. Either way, Ole Miss will be in a lot of games thanks to its front seven on defense.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ defensive line has a chance to be one of the most improved units in the league. They’re still looking for more playmakers at receiver, but Dan Mullen has this program pointing in the right direction and thinking bowl game.
10. Kentucky: The Derrick Locke-Randall Cobb tandem is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. But the Wildcats made their move under former coach Rich Brooks with better players on defense, and a lot of those guys are gone.
11. Tennessee: There hasn’t been a lot of good news lately for the Vols, who are being probed by the NCAA and lost a pair of starting defensive linemen to injuries last week in practice. Derek Dooley is committed to doing it the right way, but it’s going to take some time.
12. Vanderbilt: We know new coach Robbie Caldwell can carry an audience. He’s a genuinely funny guy. Now we find out if he can help restore some semblance of an offensive edge to a Vanderbilt team that went belly-up on that side of the ball last season.
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.