Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Picking the No. 1 team right now in the SEC is an impossible chore.
One minute, you think it’s Florida. The next, you’re leaning to Alabama. Something tells me it’s going to be that way until we get to Atlanta on Dec. 5:
1. Florida: The Gators (9-0, 7-0) weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut in their 27-3 win over Vanderbilt, but they were good enough. And with the way their defense and special teams are playing, “good enough” is going to win them a lot of games. But will it win them a second straight national championship? Looks like we’re going to find out.
2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0) were forced to come from behind and win last week in their 24-15 victory over LSU, clinching the Western Division title and a trip to Atlanta to face Florida in the SEC championship game. Quarterback Greg McElroy answered the skeptics with a big game, and Alabama dominated the fourth quarter. This is a team that just finds a way to get it done.
3. LSU: The 24-15 loss to Alabama was costly on a couple of different fronts. The Tigers (7-2, 4-2) were knocked out of the Western Division title race, and a couple of their top players were injured. Running back Charles Scott was lost for the season with a broken collarbone, and quarterback Jordan Jefferson had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Jefferson hopes to return this week.
4. Tennessee: The Vols (5-4, 2-3) obliterated Memphis 56-28 last Saturday, and senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton put on a record-setting performance. Is he the most improved player in the league? Tennessee has a chance to really finish this season up strong and get to an attractive bowl game, but it all hinges on beating Ole Miss this weekend in Oxford.
5. Auburn: The Tigers (7-3, 3-3) go for win No. 8 this weekend at Georgia, which would be a pretty sweet accomplishment when you look at where this team was a few weeks ago after losing three straight and some of the depth issues it’s faced. Quarterback Chris Todd has seemed to find his second wind. This will be a big test for the defense, which gave up a lot of points to Furman last week after the starters left the game.
6. Georgia: Here’s one final chance for the Bulldogs (5-4, 3-3) to salvage something out of this season of discontent. They beat up on Tennessee Tech last week, and next up is a home date with Auburn. The grumbling among the fans has already been loud enough. It will only grow louder if Gene Chizik comes into Sanford Stadium in his first year as the Tigers’ coach and handles the Bulldogs.
7. Ole Miss: The Rebels (6-3, 2-3) have one decent win at this point, and that’s the 30-17 victory over Arkansas at home last month. Otherwise, they’ve beaten up on a bunch of lightweights. Any chance of playing for the Western Division title was gone a long time ago, but they still have a chance to make this season a respectable one. And that starts this weekend by beating Tennessee at home in the "Ed Orgeron Bowl."
8. Arkansas: The Hogs (5-4, 2-4) can become bowl eligible this week with a win over Troy. They’ve been a different team at home this season, and quarterback Ryan Mallett has been especially good when the Hogs are wearing their home jerseys. He carved apart South Carolina last week in a 33-16 win. Something says he’s not done carving and that the Hogs aren’t done winning.
9. South Carolina: That familiar late-season fade is looking more and more like a reality for the Gamecocks (6-4, 3-4). They’ve lost their last two games, including a 33-16 setback at Arkansas last week, and haven’t scored more than 16 points in their last four SEC games. With Florida coming to town this weekend, it doesn’t get any easier. The Head Ball Coach sounds about as frustrated as he did at the end of last season.
10. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3) had last week off to get ready for a stretch run that will determine their bowl hopes. They get Alabama this weekend at home, then travel to Arkansas and come back home to face Ole Miss. They need to win two of their last three to ensure that there will be a postseason. Dan Mullen’s club has had several near-misses this season. Maybe the Bulldogs are due for a couple of big hits in November.
11. Kentucky: One of the most time consuming things Kentucky coach Rich Brooks does every Sunday is read off the injury report. The Wildcats (5-4, 1-4) are really banged up. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb didn’t play last week in the 37-12 win over Eastern Kentucky, but both are expected back this week against Vanderbilt. The Wildcats would like to get all the drama out of the way and become bowl eligible this week. Otherwise, they’ll have to beat Georgia or Tennessee to do so.
12. Vanderbilt: Give the Commodores (2-8, 0-6) some credit. They haven’t mailed it in and played Florida tough most of the way last week before losing 27-3. They just can’t score and have now gone six straight SEC games this season without scoring more than 10 points. If they’re going to avoid a winless season in the league, they better get Kentucky at home this weekend.