Monday, February 6, 2012
Where the SEC ranks in latest power poll
By ESPN.com staff
ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach has revised his Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 for the 2012 season, and his latest poll doesn't have an SEC team at the top.
LSU was No. 1 in his first poll, but dropped to No. 3. The last month hasn't been the best for the Tigers, who had several prospects decommit leading up to signing day and didn't finish in the top 10 of the final recruiting rankings.
It's not like anybody should feel sorry for LSU, which has plenty of talent returning and figures to be dominant on defense again. If Zach Mettenberger comes through at quarterback, the Tigers will be as good a choice as any to win the national title. Their schedule is considerably easier in 2012.
Alabama moved up from No. 3 to No. 2, and the new No. 1 team is headed up by a coach everybody in the SEC should be familiar with -- USC's Lane Kiffin, who made a little noise (most of it off the field) during his 14 months at Tennessee.
The SEC has five teams in the top 11 of Schlabach's revised rankings.
Georgia moved up one from No. 6 to No. 5. The Bulldogs return just about everybody on defense and have a cushy schedule, but when's the last time the Bulldogs lived up to lofty expectations? Talk about pressure. Anything less than a second straight SEC championship game appearance by the Bulldogs will be viewed as a huge disappointment in Athens next season.
South Carolina stays put at No. 10 and also has to prove that it can handle success after winning 11 games for the first time in school history this season.
Arkansas checks in at No. 11, meaning the Hogs are up three spots from where Schlabach had them last month. The feeling in Hog Land (Yes, we hear you Hog fans) is that Arkansas isn't being shown the love the Hogs deserve heading into next season. The good news is that they get Alabama and LSU at home. The bad news is that they're 1-5 against those two teams in the last three years. Maybe this is the season that Arkansas breaks through in the West. The two big keys: Does the defense improve under first-year coordinator Paul Haynes, and does star running back Knile Davis return to his pre-injury form?
Moving into Schlabach's revised Top 25 were the Florida Gators at No. 25. Look for Florida to be a load on defense next season. Will Muschamp also hopes new offensive coordinator Brent Pease can revive an offense that's hit the skids each of the past two seasons. We should know by late September if the Gators are going to be a player in the East race. They go to Texas A&M the second week of the season and visit Tennessee the third week.