With only the SEC championship game remaining before the bowl games, here’s a look at this week’s SEC Power Rankings:
1. Auburn: The Tigers (12-0, 8-0) completed a perfect regular season with their greatest comeback in school history, rallying from a 24-0 deficit to win 28-27 at Alabama on Friday. Gene Chizik’s club also went to No. 1 in this week’s BCS standings and deservedly so. It is the only team in the country with five wins against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings.
2. Arkansas: What a finish to the season for Bobby Petrino and the Hogs. They took care of LSU 31-23 on Saturday in Little Rock to win their sixth straight game. Arkansas (10-2, 6-2) will now turn into big Auburn fans. If the Tigers can win Saturday in the SEC championship game, the Hogs will play in their first BCS bowl game in school history. They’ve averaged 42.5 points during their six-game winning streak.
3. LSU: Hoping to lock down a BCS bowl trip, the Tigers (10-2, 6-2) fell Saturday to Arkansas in a 31-23 loss. While 10-win seasons in the SEC are never anything to undervalue, LSU could have easily been in the national championship mix if not for a couple of big plays given up on defense. The 70-yard touchdown run by Onterio McCalebb in the fourth quarter of the Auburn game was a killer along with Arkansas’ 85-yard touchdown pass right before halftime. In fairness, though, the Tigers’ defense carried them for most of the season.
4. South Carolina: Here the Head Ball Coach is, in the SEC championship game for the first time in South Carolina history, and Steve Spurrier has the Gamecocks (9-3, 5-3) playing some of their best football of the season. What’s most impressive about what they’ve done these past two weeks after clinching the Eastern Division title at Florida on Nov. 13 is the way they’ve put teams away and played with a killer instinct. The Gamecocks romped past arch-rival Clemson 29-7 Saturday on the road.
5. Alabama: Nick Saban preaches consistency, but the Crimson Tide (9-3, 5-3) lacked consistency all season. That was never more apparent than this past Friday when they looked like the best team in the country in the first half against Auburn in building a 24-0 lead and then unraveling across the board in the second half and losing 28-27. The injuries to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson didn’t help, and the inexperience in the secondary reared its head more than once, but this was a team that didn’t play to its talent level this season.
6. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen’s going to get some SEC Coach of the Year consideration, and the guys on his staff also deserve some props. The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) were limited on offense, but improved as the season went along and committed to running the football. They rose to the challenge defensively time and time again and had to go through the type of tragedy with senior defensive end Nick Bell dying that would have completely deflated a lot of football teams. The Bulldogs have been the essence of resilience and are easily the most improved team in the league.
7. Florida: The Gators (7-5, 4-4) were on top of the college football world in 2008 and 2009, winning 22 straight games at one point. Now, coming off a terribly disappointing 2010 regular season, coach Urban Meyer is suddenly talking about rebuilding things. That’s how bad this season was, particularly on offense. Florida was spanked 31-7 Saturday by bitter rival Florida State, the first time Meyer has lost to the Seminoles. The Gators scored seven points or fewer in three games this season.
8. Georgia: The Bulldogs (6-6, 3-5) were the second most disappointing team in the league this season behind Florida. It wasn’t a complete bust, though, because Georgia did beat Georgia Tech this past Saturday at home to become bowl-eligible. The season started ominously enough with star receiver A.J. Green being suspended for the first four games, and it never got a lot better. The Bulldogs didn’t beat anybody that finished the season with a winning record.
9. Tennessee: All of a sudden, things are looking up for the Vols (6-6, 3-5). They completed a November sweep with a 24-14 victory against Kentucky on Saturday and are headed to a bowl game, probably the Music City Bowl. This is a team that appeared to be dead in the water after going 0-for-October, but some strong senior leadership, a soft November schedule and the insertion of freshman quarterback Tyler Bray gave the Vols new life. Their base of young talent on offense is impressive.
10. Kentucky: The good news for the Wildcats (6-6, 2-6) is that that they’re going back to a bowl game for the fifth straight year. But their players and their coaches will be the first ones to tell you they didn’t get everything out of this season that they wanted. The biggest blow came Saturday when they lost for the 26th straight time to Tennessee. They did have the big win over South Carolina, which is the main reason they’re not 11th this week. They lost to Ole Miss head-to-head during the season.
11. Ole Miss: It was one of those seasons for the Rebels (4-8, 1-7) they’d like to purge from the record books forever. Nothing ever went right for them, starting with the very first game when they lost in double-overtime at home to FCS foe Jacksonville State. The defense was shredded all season long. There were multiple player suspensions, and you can’t help but wonder what impact bringing in quarterback Jeremiah Masoli at the last minute had on the team. The schedule was supposed to be easy this season, but the Rebels made it look hard.
12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (2-10) suffered through their second straight 10-loss season with coach Robbie Caldwell going one-and-done. He announced prior to last Saturday’s 34-13 loss to Wake Forest that he was stepping down as coach. Caldwell was in a tough position to begin with, replacing Bobby Johnson just a few weeks before the start of preseason practice. Injuries decimated the Commodores this season along with an offense that simply was nowhere near SEC-caliber.