Monday, November 21, 2011
SEC Power Rankings: Week 13
By Edward Aschoff
There is no question that the top of the SEC Power Rankings have remained one of the most consistent elements of college football this season:
1. LSU (11-0, 7-0): It took just 28 seconds for LSU to clinch its game at Ole Miss last week. LSU has been dominant before, but Saturday might have been the Tigers' most dominating performance of the season. It would have been hard to blame the Tigers for losing some emotion and energy after such a tough game against Alabama, but that just hasn't happened. Friday, LSU takes on arguably the conference's hottest team -- Arkansas -- in a game that will have a major impact on both the SEC championship game and the national title. LSU has come this far without a hiccup, it's hard to bet against the Tigers now.
2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1): LSU hasn't missed a beat since topping the Crimson Tide on the road, but Alabama sure has. The Tide was sloppy against Mississippi State and took a while to get things going against Georgia Southern. Still, Alabama is a win away from most likely clinching a berth in the national championship -- even if the Tide doesn't go to the SEC championship. In fact, it would benefit the Tide more not to go to Atlanta. But Alabama must beat hated rival Auburn before it can even think about heading to New Orleans for one last party. Last year's heartbreaking loss to the Tigers is surely still weighing on the Tide, and Saturday is a chance for redemption.
3. Arkansas (10-1, 6-1): Quietly, the Razorbacks have put themselves right in the middle in the national championship conversation. The Hogs are playing their best football right now and are a win away from possibly clinching a spot in the national title game. The Razorbacks enter their much-anticipated game with No. 1 LSU Friday with heavy hearts after the passing of freshman tight end Garrett Uekman Sunday. This should truly be an emotional week for Arkansas players and coaches, who have to figure out a way to get ready for a football game at the end of the week. The emotional toll can go either way for teams in these situations, and Arkansas' veteran leadership will be responsible for helping this team transform its grief.
4. Georgia (9-2, 7-1): The Bulldogs were counted out from the beginning and are now the SEC Eastern Division champs. But what a way to end SEC play. Instead of rolling over Kentucky with the momentum it garnered from a blowout win against Auburn, the Bulldogs came out shaky and could only muster 19 points against a struggling Kentucky team. Still, Georgia captured the East and will make it back to Atlanta for the first time since 2005. Georgia could still throw a wrench into the national championship picture with a stunning win next week, which still makes this a very dangerous team.
5. South Carolina (9-2, 6-2): This has been a tough season for the Gamecocks. What started off as a promising season will end with South Carolina watching the SEC title game instead of playing in it for a second straight year. For everything this team has been through, you have to commend the Gamecocks for finishing as strong as they have. The defense has more than made up for the offense's major shortcomings. Now, the Gamecocks will look to get to double-digit wins by upsetting rival Clemson on Saturday. South Carolina gets the Tigers at home in front of what should be a pretty electric crowd.
6. Auburn (7-4, 4-3): What a season the Tigers have had. After losing pretty much every component to last season's national championship squad, Auburn pulled out victories we never saw coming. This team is blanketed with youth, but never let that get the best of it during close games. There have been plenty of growing pains that have held the Tigers back, but seven wins is pretty good for a team having to totally rebuild this year. Now, the Tigers have a chance to ruin Alabama's season. It wouldn't matter if Auburn had zero wins heading into this weekend. A win against Alabama would cure everything.
7. Florida (6-5, 3-5): Year 1 of the Will Muschamp era almost took a major turn for the worse when the Gators had to scrap together a comeback victory against FCS foe Furman at home Saturday. It proved once again that this team is out of whack on the field, but the Gators certainly fought back after getting down by two scores. It had to be tough on Gators' fans eyes to witness Saturday's near-meltdown, but the win made the Gators bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season. Florida State is next on the schedule. The Seminoles haven't been too impressive either, which will hurt the national feel of this once proud rivalry. But this is a very important game for Muschamp. He needs this victory to get his second win against a Florida rival.
8. Tennessee (5-6, 1-6): Like the walkers from the Walking Dead, Tennessee regenerated over the weekend with a crucial win against Vanderbilt. There was some controversy to go with it, but the Vols notched their first conference win of the season and are a win away from going back to a bowl game. A loss to the Commodores would have been devastating for this team and coach Derek Dooley, but now they don't have to worry about that. This has been a very tough season for this program. Injuries have ravaged the offense and youth has led to inconsistency. However, making it to a bowl game with a win against Kentucky could make things right with Vols Nation.
9. Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6): The fight we expected from this Bulldogs team just hasn't been there. This was supposed to be a possible dark horse in the SEC West race, but has struggled to consistently develop a solid offensive game since its Week 2 loss to Auburn. That game might have changed everything for Mississippi State. Even with the struggles, the Bulldogs are still a win away from making it back to the postseason. Mississippi State takes on lowly Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Saturday. Dan Mullen is 2-0 against Houston Nutt, and while neither team looked great over the weekend, you have to think that the Bulldogs have the edge with Ole Miss a game away from saying goodbye to its head coach.
10. Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-6): For all of the talk about this being a new Vanderbilt team, the Commodores sure haven't figured out how to beat an SEC team on the road. And the struggles against Tennessee just continue to pile up. There is no question that this is a more impressive and exciting Vanderbilt team to watch, but the execution against bigger SEC teams just isn't there when it counts. Costly turnovers haven't helped, either. Vandy was a win away from getting back to a bowl game for the first time since 2008, but lost to Tennessee in overtime. Now, the 'Dores have to beat Wake Forest on the road in order to become bowl eligible. The road hasn't been kind to this team thus far.
11. Kentucky (4-7, 1-6): Kentucky fought all the way until the end against Georgia, but at the end of the day it just didn't have enough going for it on offense to pull off the shocker. Kentucky has struggled with its offense all season, and when the Wildcats needed a play here or a play there, there was nothing. That's been the story of a team that lost a handful of offensive weapons from a year ago. The Wildcats can only get to five wins this season if they beat Tennessee, meaning the chance at six straight bowl game has faded away. This was supposed to be a tough season, but it was hard to envision the offense looking this bad for so long.
12. Ole Miss (2-9, 0-7): You have to give a lot of credit to Ole Miss' fan base for coming out excited for the LSU game. Minutes before kickoff, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was rocking and it actually felt like an intimidating venue for an instant. That lasted for all of 28 seconds when LSU's Ron Brooks took a poorly thrown pass by Zack Stoudt 46 yards in for the score. The student section began to clear out almost immediately. But this has been a disaster of a season for the Rebels, who will part ways with their coach after the Egg Bowl. The offense took a step back and the defense just never had enough plays in it. This program will go into total rebuilding mode with its new coach, but could get some momentum with an upset of Mississippi State on Saturday.