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Bulldogs still No. 1, but barely

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

For the first time in history, according to research done by the SEC, the league has five teams ranked in the top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll. That's pretty heady stuff, although what transpired this past weekend makes it difficult to pick out the strongest team of those five. I've waffled between Florida and Georgia up until this point. Maybe I'm not giving LSU enough love. The Tigers are loaded. They just haven't played anybody. Even though Georgia was fortunate to escape at South Carolina, I'm going to keep the Bulldogs No. 1. Florida and LSU both get chances to lay claim to that spot with tough SEC road tests this weekend. And don't look now, but Vanderbilt is 3-0 headed to Ole Miss on Saturday:

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs survived in Columbia thanks to defense and special teams. The biggest play of the whole game might have been Brian Mimbs' 77-yard punt. For this to be a special season, Georgia has to do a better job of protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was knocked around by the Gamecocks.

2. Florida: No team in the league has more guys on its roster who scare opposing defensive coordinators to death when they get their hands on the ball in the open field. The Gators also have the franchise -- Tim Tebow. They just don't have a running back, which means Tebow remains the running game for now.

3. LSU: We know the Tigers have what it takes to win a championship on the offensive line and defensive line. Their defense is out of sight, and they have playmakers all over the place on offense. It comes down to the quarterbacks. A win at Auburn pushes LSU into contention for the top spot.

4. Alabama: Now that was more like it. Alabama rebounded from its lethargic effort against Tulane with a thorough 41-7 whipping of Western Kentucky. The younger players continue to gain experience, and the offensive line welcomed back Andre Smith. We see how kind the road is the Tide the next two weeks with games at Arkansas and Georgia.

5. Auburn: What a defense. The Tigers are everything you want in a defense -- fast, swarming and experienced. The only problem is that it looks like the defense is going to have to carry this team. How many games can you win in this league 3-2?

6. Vanderbilt: The Commodores have moved to 3-0 with sound, disciplined play across the board. They're faster than they have been on defense, opportunistic on special teams and better than anybody could have imagined on offense. With the Ole Miss trip looming, 4-0 doesn't sound that farfetched.

7. Kentucky: Rich Brooks sort of saw this coming. Remember how displeased he was with practice last week? He'd be sick to his stomach if Robbie McAtee hadn't saved the game by tackling the Middle Tennessee player at the 1 after the Blue Raiders connected on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game.

8. Ole Miss: Jevan Snead is still one of the best three or four quarterbacks in this league, even though he didn't play like it in Ole Miss' 34-10 win over Samford last Saturday. It's not surprising that the Rebels would be a little flat coming off such a heartbreaking loss at Wake Forest. The real season starts now, though.

9. South Carolina: Seeing Steve Spurrier with an offense this ordinary is weird, to say the least. The Gamecocks don't have much of a running game, and their passing game without star receiver Kenny McKinley lacks much downfield pop. But the Gamecocks can play defense and will be in every game they play because of their "D."

10. Tennessee: The Vols drop this week, not because of anything they did in their 35-3 win over UAB, but because of what BYU did to UCLA in a 59-0 drubbing. How in the name of Gen. Robert R. Neyland could Tennessee lose that game to UCLA? The Vols are more talented than they're playing. They will need their best game -- by far -- to knock off Florida.

11. Arkansas: The Hogs move out of the cellar even though they didn't play a game. They can thank Mississippi State's offense for that. Arkansas' game with Texas was postponed until Sept. 27 because of Hurricane Ike.

12. Miss. State: How bad has Mississippi State been on offense? The 3-2 debacle against Auburn last Saturday was not a new phenomenon. This is the same team that has scored 17 or fewer points in five of its last seven games dating back to last season. It's a shame, too, because the Bulldogs are good on defense.