Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Monday, November 17, 2008
Florida playing lights out, but Bama's still No. 1

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do believe the Florida Gators to be the best team in the country, thus the best team in the SEC. But I'm sticking by my guns. Until Alabama loses and gives me a reason not to vote the Crimson Tide No. 1, they're going to stay No. 1. Here's a look at the this week's SEC power rankings:

1. Alabama: By now, everybody should know that the Crimson Tide (11-0, 7-0 SEC) are not going to wow you with a bunch of flash and dash. They pound you to death on offense with that physical running game and then throw it to Julio Jones when they need a play. They have a defense that rates up there with anybody in the country, and return specialist Javier Arenas is always a threat to go the distance as he showed last week in the 32-7 win over Mississippi State. This is a complete football team with outstanding leadership and supreme confidence. It will get a chance in these next few weeks to also show that it's the country's best football team.

2. Florida: It's becoming more and more popular for analysts and others in the media to say that Florida is the best team in the country. I know I haven't seen one better, but I still can't in good conscience move the Gators above the Crimson Tide in the SEC power rankings when the Tide are unbeaten. It's all a moot point anyway. They square off in a couple of weeks in Atlanta, and we'll find out then. The Gators (9-1, 7-1 SEC) have averaged 49.8 points during their six-game winning streak, the kind of stretch even Florida coach Urban Meyer admits he's never been around in college football. But we also know this club is beatable. See Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2 SEC) managed to dodge a rival's upset bid for the second straight week with a 17-13 road win at Auburn last Saturday. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been good enough to engineer a key drive when the Bulldogs have needed it the last two weeks. And while the defense played better against an Auburn offense that's just not very good, the Bulldogs look like a team at times that's doing just enough to get by. They better not play that way in two weeks against Georgia Tech, or they will get beat.

4. LSU: Down 31-3 in the third quarter to Troy last Saturday, LSU was looking at the kind of loss that can haunt programs for a long time. But the Tigers (7-3, 3-3 SEC) found a way to score 37 unanswered points and escape with a 40-31 victory. It's been a struggle for redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee, who's now thrown seven interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns this season. But he steadied himself against Troy and played very well in the fourth quarter to help trigger the Tigers' remarkable comeback. That's the good news. The bad news is that LSU will lose its next two games to Ole Miss and Arkansas if it plays that poorly in the first half again.

5. Vanderbilt: After four straight losses, the Commodores (6-4, 4-3 SEC) came storming back last week to ensure that they will be going to a bowl game for the first time since the 1982 season. They also ended their woes against Kentucky, which had won four straight and 10 of the last 12 meetings in this series prior to Vanderbilt's 31-24 win in Lexington. The Commodores still have two games remaining against Tennessee at home this Saturday and Wake Forest on the road on Nov. 29. A win over the Vols would give Vanderbilt only its second winning season in SEC play in the last 48 years. The long and short of it: Bobby Johnson and his staff have done a super job.

6. South Carolina: It's one of those games you forget and move on, at least the best you can. The 56-6 butchering South Carolina suffered last week at the hands of Florida was the most lopsided defeat of Steve Spurrier's head coaching career. The Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC) now get a week off before traveling to Clemson for their annual season finale on Nov. 29. It's a game that will shape how this season is viewed for the Head Ball Coach's club. Beat Clemson and finish up 8-4, and it's been a pretty good year. Lose to Clemson and finish 7-5, and it's been a disappointing year. That would also be 11 losses in the last two season. Is Spurrier wired to suffer through that many losses?

7. Ole Miss: The Rebels (6-4, 4-3 SEC) are coming on and have a chance to close this season as one of the hottest teams in the league. They've won three in a row for the first time since 2003 and have a big game with LSU coming up this weekend. The reason they're ranked a little lower this week is that they lost head-to-head to both Vanderbilt and South Carolina at home. So it's hard to put the Rebels ahead of those teams right now when they all have comparable records. That could change, though, if the Rebels continue to play well.

8. Kentucky: The Wildcats (6-5, 2-5 SEC) look like a team that might be running out of gas. Injuries have taken their toll, and it's really starting to show up on defense. The 31-24 loss to Vanderbilt last week was the third time in the last four games that Kentucky has given up 30 or more points. And for the first half of the season, defense was the Wildcats' strong suit. Tackle Myron Pryor and linebacker Micah Johnson have been slowed by ankle sprains, and Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said safety Marcus McClinton will miss the Tennessee game in two weeks with an injury to his quad. The Wildcats desperately need this upcoming open date.

9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks (4-6, 1-5 SEC) are coming off an open date that couldn't have come at a better time. They had an assortment of players dealing with injuries, including quarterback Casey Dick (concussion) and running back Michael Smith (shoulder). Arkansas has to win its next two games against Mississippi State and LSU to get to a bowl. This is clearly a team that has improved from earlier in the year, but still a team that's probably a year or two away.

10. Auburn: Watching this offense has to be excruciating for Auburn fans. How many games could the Tigers have won if only they could have made one offensive play when they needed it? It was the same way in last week's 17-13 loss to Georgia. The defense gave Auburn (5-6, 2-5 SEC) every chance to win the game, but there's a reason the Tigers are last nationally in red-zone offense. They're inconsistent in everything they do offensively. There was some improvement, but Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said he's not into moral victories.

11. Tennessee: Here's all you need to know about Tennessee's season: Vanderbilt is favored over Tennessee this Saturday. Can anybody remember the last time that was the case? The Vols (3-7, 1-5 SEC) have already been eliminated from bowl contention. They're coming off an open date and are switching quarterbacks. Jonathan Crompton will make his first start since the Auburn game. There's also a chance the Vols will give redshirt freshman B.J. Coleman a shot. Why not at this point, right?

12. Mississippi State: It's difficult to imagine it getting much worse for Mississippi State, which fell 32-7 to Alabama last week and is now officially eliminated from bowl consideration.
An ineffective offense was again a big reason for the Bulldogs' undoing. They've scored 14 or fewer points in six of their 10 games. But even worse than the offense against Alabama was a punt team that gave up 16 points. Making matters worse, it looks like the Bulldogs (3-7, 1-5 SEC) have lost defensive tackle Jessie Bowman for the season with a torn quad.