There was some major maneuvering in the SEC power rankings this week.
Somewhere in the distance, I hear a loud crowing sound:
1. Alabama: How many teams could play without their best two players -- two of the top 10 players in the country, for that matter -- and beat a team the caliber of Penn State by three touchdowns? Alabama is talented, deep and only going to get better. The Crimson Tide will also be getting back defensive end Marcell Dareus and possibly running back Mark Ingram this week.
2. South Carolina: The Gamecocks, who make the biggest jump this week in the rankings, have two solid performances over legitimate teams and a freshman running back who’s nothing short of special. Marcus Lattimore put on a show last week in the 17-6 victory over Georgia, and while there’s still a lot of season left, this looks to be Steve Spurrier’s most complete team yet at South Carolina.
3. Florida: The Gators have played eight quarters this season, and for six of those quarters, the offense has been one giant concern. Still, they’ve shown enough firepower across the board to break the games open and win going away. They’re leaning hard right now on Jeff Demps, and he’s delivering with the big play. So is the secondary, which has been outstanding.
4. Arkansas: It’s judgment day for the Hogs, who barely broke a sweat in their first two games against overmatched foes. Now they travel to Georgia this Saturday, and we start to get some more definitive answers about Bobby Petrino’s club. The Hogs haven’t had to show much in the first two games, so you know they’ll break out a few things the Bulldogs haven’t seen.
5. Auburn: The 17-14 win over Mississippi State last Thursday was obviously valuable for the Tigers in that road wins in this league are always precious. But the way the Tigers won was equally big. They had to rely on their defense in the second half, and Ted Roof’s bunch rose to the occasion. The ability to grind out games is a must if you’re going to win a championship in the SEC.
6. LSU: The Tigers were able to get their running game untracked in a 27-3 win over Vanderbilt, and there was no letup this time on defense after a near-collapse in the opener. But even LSU coach Les Miles was wondering aloud afterward about the Tigers’ quarterback play. It sounds like Jordan Jefferson had better step it up, or he’s going to have some company at the position.
7. Georgia: Considering the Bulldogs were playing without A.J. Green, they probably don’t deserve to fall this far. But unless he wins an appeal, he’s going to be out two more games. Georgia still has a chance to get right back into the East race by winning this week at home against Arkansas. The talent is there. The Bulldogs just need to open it up a little more on offense and obviously tackle better than they did against the Gamecocks.
8. Kentucky: Nobody’s going to confuse Kentucky’s schedule for murderer’s row to this point, and the Wildcats should have another built-in win this week against Akron. Nonetheless, the Randall Cobb-Derrick Locke combo is the real deal. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline is playing well, and Chris Matthews is making a name for himself at the other receiver spot. To beat these Wildcats, you’re going to have to score some points.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs can’t seem to shake those agonizing almosts, as in almost beating a quality team at home. It happened again last Thursday night against Auburn. As Dan Mullen said himself, Mississippi State had every opportunity to win the game, but couldn’t make plays when it had to in critical situations. It’s a home loss that might come back to haunt the Bulldogs.
10. Tennessee: When the blitzkrieg was over, the Vols didn’t have much to show for a solid first half against Oregon. They played hard and played well for much of the first 30 minutes, but wilted once the Ducks threw it into high gear. What ensued was a 48-13 beating, the most lopsided loss by Tennessee in Neyland Stadium history. It doesn’t get much easier this week when Florida comes to town.
11. Vanderbilt: The offensive woes continue for the Commodores. After showing some signs of life against Northwestern in a tough 23-21 season-opening loss, Vanderbilt reverted to its old ways last weekend in a 27-3 home loss to LSU. In their last 10 SEC games, dating back to the end of the 2008 season, the Commodores have been held to 10 or fewer points eight times. In those 10 games, they’ve averaged just 8.4 points.
12. Ole Miss: Until further notice, the Rebels will remain in the No. 12 spot. There’s an unwritten rule that you have to stay there for at least three weeks if you lose to an FCS team. Plus, they looked a little shaky again in the second half last Saturday in their 27-13 win over Tulane. The Rebels better figure out how to put teams away.