- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our No. 1 continues to widen its lead, but the weekend brought some movement after that:
1. Alabama (8-0; last week: 1): A highly ranked Mississippi State team walked into Tuscaloosa, and it meant nothing to Alabama. The Crimson Tide dominated both sides of the ball and built such a nice lead in the first half that it seemed like Alabama was in cruise control in the second half. This team doesn't just continue to pull away from the rest of the SEC, it keeps pulling away from the rest of the country.
2. LSU (7-1; LW: 3): The Tigers were off and got a little more time to prepare for Game 3 with Alabama. LSU should have used the extra time to really work with its passing game. Zach Mettenberger will have his hands very full with Alabama's defense, so its important that he look much more comfortable in LSU's pocket. That defense has been great all year, and it might have the best chance of slowing Alabama's balanced attack.
3. Georgia (7-1; LW:4): I guess all that hot seat talk surrounding Mark Richt will temporarily die down after a huge win over Florida. The Bulldogs are now in control of the SEC East with two conference games remaining. The offense took a couple of steps back against the Gators, but the defense was tremendous. Players say that's the defense you should expect to see for the rest of the year, and if that's the case, the Dawgs will have no problem taking home the East title for the second straight season.
4. Florida (7-1; LW: 2): It's clear that Florida is in desperate need of offensive playmakers. Right now Jeff Driskel, Mike Gillislee and Jordan Reed need a lot of help, but if no one else has stepped up now, can it happen in November? The defense shouldn't hang its head after its performance against Georgia. This unit is still one of the best in the country, but it needs more support from the offense going forward.
5. South Carolina (7-2; LW: 6): The Gamecocks won a shootout with Tennessee over the weekend, but it came at a costly price, as running back Marcus Lattimore went down with a devastating knee injury. The diagnosis is that he hyperextended his knee and injured several ligaments. The hope is that he can make a return to the football field. Your heart really hurts for such a great player and person.
6. Texas A&M (6-2; LW: 7): The Aggies rebounded quite nicely against Auburn, running up 63 points and nearly 700 yards of offense. Johnny Manziel got back to looking like Johnny Football by churning out a ton of yards and scoring five total touchdowns. This team has been a pleasant surprise in the SEC, and it could take a bigger step forward with a good performance against a tough Mississippi State team this weekend. A&M has struggled against good defenses in the second halves of games, so this is a chance to get some redemption in that area.
7. Mississippi State (7-1; LW: 5): A lot of people are questioning just how good this team is after it was blown out of Tuscaloosa over the weekend. That softer early schedule is getting scrutinized even more now. But the Bulldogs still possess solid talent on both offense and defense, they just had to go through the buzz saw that is Alabama. Another tough challenge awaits with the Aggies visiting Starkville this weekend.
8. Ole Miss (5-3; LW: 8): After a very solid performance in their three-point win over Arkansas on the road, the Rebels are a win away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009. They are also a win away from matching their win total over the past two years. It's clear that Ole Miss got it right with coach Hugh Freeze, who has completely transformed the culture at Ole Miss. We know this team can move the ball, but the defense is starting to look better each week and forced some big turnovers against the Hogs on Saturday.
9. Vanderbilt (4-4; LW: 10): The Commodores took care of business with a blowout win over hapless Massachusetts and are now two wins away from being bowl-eligible for the second straight year. Running back Zac Stacy went down with an injury in the first quarter Saturday, but coach James Franklin said the injury wasn't too serious. The offense was extremely balanced and very explosive over the weekend. The hope is that kind of play translates to the month of November.
10. Missouri (4-4; LW: 12): After a very rough start to their SEC career, the Tigers finally got their first conference victory with a 33-10 win over Kentucky. Outside of a solid day from running back Kendial Lawrence, the offense continued to really struggle, but the defense helped a lot with three forced fumbles. A bowl is still in reach for Mizzou, but it has a tough November, starting with a trip to Gainesville to face the Gators.
11. Arkansas (3-5; LW: 9): Any bowl hopes the Razorbacks had are likely gone now after that tough loss to Ole Miss. With the November the Hogs have lined up, Saturday was a must-win. It's been a very trying season for this program, and right when it seemed like the Hogs were gaining momentum, they fell right back down with a crushing loss to the Rebels. We'll really see how much pride this team has in the coming weeks.
12. Tennessee (3-5; LW: 11): Another shootout results in another loss for the Vols. This defense has just been picked apart and gutted all year, and it was the same case against a South Carolina team that was eaten up by Florida's defense the week before. The Vols made a nice comeback late, but a fumble by Tyler Bray deep in South Carolina territory ruined the chance of a comeback win. Things are at a boiling point in Knoxville when it comes to Derek Dooley's job, and you can expect to hear a ton of chatter surrounding him and his job.
13. Auburn (1-7; LW: 13): Well, the good news from the Tigers' 40-point loss to Texas A&M is that Auburn might have finally found its quarterback in true freshman Jonathan Wallace. He completed six of his nine pass attempts for 122 yards and two touchdowns. But that really was the only real good news from the weekend. The fans really made a strong statement on the Plains by leaving the stadium pretty bare. Like Dooley, Gene Chizik is feeling a lot of heat surrounding his job, and that pregame message to fans and students from president Jay Gogue only amplified that.
14. Kentucky (1-8; LW: 14): The defense made things tough on Missouri on Saturday, but the offense just continued to sputter along with only 179 total yards. The young working parts are getting a ton of experience this season, but they are finding out just how tough it is to play in this league. Joker Phillips is feeling the heat when it comes to his job, but he has had to deal with a laundry list of injuries and a ton of young players in his third year as the Wildcats' head coach.
11hDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff