Alabama reminded everyone why it’s the No. 1-ranked team in the country in the second half last Saturday in Fayetteville.
That “other” team from the state of Alabama hasn’t been too shabby in the second half, either, and moved up to No. 2 this week in the SEC power rankings:
1. Alabama: Players have come and gone, but Alabama (4-0, 1-0) is still the most physical football team in this conference. There’s also a genuine belief within this team that it’s going to win no matter what the situation is or how dire it looks to start the game. Sophomore guard Barrett Jones said it best after the come-from-behind 24-20 win at Arkansas: “This is a program that prides itself on finishing games.” Alabama has now won 17 consecutive SEC regular-season games.
2. Auburn: With a home game against Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0) will almost certainly start the season 5-0 again. We’ll see if they have more gas in the tank this time. They’ve been clutch in the second half the past two weeks at home in rallying for wins over South Carolina and Clemson, and quarterback Cameron Newton just gets more difficult to defend every week.
3. Florida: The Gators (4-0, 2-0) just keep on winning. It hasn’t always been pretty, although their 48-14 thumping of Kentucky last week was their most complete win yet. It looks like they’ve found another offensive playmaker in freshman quarterback Trey Burton. He’s a natural in that Wildcat formation. The defense is playing as well as anybody in the SEC, and you can almost count on a defensive touchdown from Teryl Austin’s unit. It’s also a defense that will need its best game yet this week at Alabama.
4. Arkansas: The Hogs (3-1, 1-1) could still make a case for that third spot this week. There’s no shame in losing a close one to Alabama, but there’s also something to be said for having the Crimson Tide on the ropes and not being able to finish the job. The Hogs will look back on that fourth quarter at the end of the season and kick themselves. They get a week off before heading over to Arlington, Texas, to take on Texas A&M.
5. LSU: The Tigers (4-0, 2-0) are trying to do the impossible. They’re trying to make it through a season without a passing game. They held on to beat West Virginia 20-14 last week despite quarterback Jordan Jefferson finishing with fewer than 100 yards passing for the third straight game. LSU is doing it with defense and special teams and will try and make it five in a row when Tennessee comes to town this weekend.
6. South Carolina: All of a sudden, that Georgia win at home doesn’t look so impressive for the Gamecocks, who proved yet again that they have a hard time living with success. After going up by two touchdowns at Auburn this past week, South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) turned the ball over on its last four possessions in the fourth quarter and fell 35-27. It’s the kind of bumbling performance that’s not going to lead to any SEC championship game appearances any time soon.
7. Mississippi State: These next few spots are hard to call, but an SEC win is enough to push Mississippi State past Kentucky. The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-2) also had a close loss to Auburn. After holding serve at home against Georgia in a convincing 24-12 win, they now have a chance to build some momentum these next two games and head to Florida on Oct. 16 with a 4-2 record. The win over Georgia was a big boost for Mississippi State’s bowl hopes this season.
8. Kentucky: For the 24th straight time, the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1) were a loser to Florida. The most disappointing part about the game for the Wildcats was that they wilted in the fourth quarter, and they also did the things to hurt themselves that they hadn’t previously done this season -- like turn the football over. This is still a dangerous team that will be heard from this season, although the game at Ole Miss this weekend is critical.
9. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (1-2, 1-1) get the nod here because they have an SEC win and a close loss to a Northwestern team that’s unbeaten. They had a chance to rest and heal up this past week with the bye. These next two games against Connecticut on the road and Eastern Michigan at home are absolute must-wins if they want to entertain any hopes of getting to .500 or better this season.
10. Georgia: The Bulldogs (1-3, 0-3) are sinking fast, and it’s not pretty. They’ve lost three straight games for the first time since 1990, and the unrest in Bulldog Country is at an all-time high under Mark Richt, who conceded that this was the most adversity the program has faced on his watch. The Bulldogs do get star receiver A.J. Green back this week for the trip to Colorado, and that should help.
11. Tennessee: The Vols (2-2, 0-2) had better thank their lucky stars for their field goal defense, or they’d be trying to explain how they lost at home to UAB right now. The Blazers missed five field goals -- two of those 35 yards or shorter -- in the Vols’ 32-29 escape this past week in double overtime. Give quarterback Matt Simms and receiver Denarius Moore props for hooking up on the big play when the Vols had to have it, but this is an extremely limited team.
12. Ole Miss: The 55-38 beatdown of Fresno State was a nice win for the Rebels (2-2, 0-1) and a much-needed win. They got the offense cranked up, and running back Brandon Bolden had a career game. The defense still has some issues to iron out, and losing senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett for the year to a knee injury was a terrible blow. The Rebels are going to need at least one more quality win before they have a chance to crawl out of the cellar.