We’ve got a change at the top this week in the SEC Power Rankings.
In fact, it’s the first time somebody other than Alabama or Florida has been No. 1 since Sept. 22 of the 2008 season when Georgia occupied the top spot.
The new king of the SEC is Gene Chizik’s unbeaten Auburn Tigers.
Here’s a look at this week’s rankings:
1. Auburn: For the first time since the 12th week of the season a year ago, we have a new No. 1 in the SEC Power Rankings. The Tigers (6-0, 3-0) move to the top spot after surviving a scare at Kentucky. Are they the best team in the league? We’re going to find out. But they’ve been money when it comes to finding ways to win, and they also have the most dynamic player in the league at this point -- quarterback Cameron Newton.
2. South Carolina: The party hasn’t stopped in Columbia and probably won’t stop until the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1) lose again. The plan is not to lose again. If South Carolina continues to play like it did last Saturday in a 35-21 victory over then-No. 1-ranked Alabama, the Gamecocks probably won’t lose again. This is a team that believes right now and a team that has the talent to get to Atlanta for the first time in school history. Does it have the maturity?
3. Alabama: Don’t write off the Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1) just yet. You can bet they will be back. Still, their 19-game winning streak is history, and that unbeatable facade they’d carried around since last season has melted following their convincing loss at South Carolina. It won’t be easy the rest of the way for the Tide, especially with all of their SEC opponents having byes and the extra time to get ready. But if Alabama can clean up a few defensive issues, this remains the most talented team in the league and the most physical team.
4. LSU: The Mad Hatter did it again, this time with a fake field goal that bounced perfectly. The Tigers (6-0, 4-0) probably deserve to be even higher when you consider that they’ve already won four conference games and beaten three nationally ranked teams. Any time you win at the Swamp, you’ve done something. LSU’s defense is definitely the stuff championships are made of. The jury is still very much out on the offense, even though Jarrett Lee has provided some pop in the passing game.
5. Arkansas: Here’s Arkansas’ chance to make a move. The Hogs (4-1, 1-1) got past Texas A&M last week in Arlington, Texas, and now get set for Saturday’s trip to Auburn. The Western Division race is wide open again with Alabama losing, and coach Bobby Petrino has been preaching about his club taking care of its business and seeing where everything falls come December. There’s no question that the defense has improved, and the offensive firepower speaks for itself with Ryan Mallett & Co.
6. Florida: The Gators (4-2, 2-2) are pretty average right now. Actually, they’re very average. With the exception of their blowout of Kentucky at home, it’s been a struggle for them offensively every step of the way. And then last week when they got ahead of LSU late, they couldn’t keep the Tigers from driving down the field and scoring the game-winner. The worst part is that LSU kept the drive alive with a fake field goal, and Florida’s Urban Meyer prides himself on being superior in the kicking game.
7. Mississippi State: Give Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State team credit for picking itself back up off the ground and putting together a three-game winning streak after losing two in a row to Auburn and LSU. The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2) are playing solid defense and running the ball better every week. They rolled up 409 rushing yards last week in the 47-24 win at Houston and are now third in the SEC in rushing offense (211.8 yards per game).
8. Georgia: After four straight losses, the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-3) finally broke through and took out some frustration with a 41-14 thrashing of Tennessee. Georgia was much better than it had played during its four-game losing streak, and you knew it was a matter of time before the Bulldogs exploded on somebody. The Vols just happened to be in the way. As crazy as it sounds, Georgia’s still not completely out of the Eastern Division race. Let’s see if the Bulldogs can string together some wins now.
9. Kentucky: The Wildcats (3-3, 0-3) have now lost three in a row, all conference games. The 37-34 home loss last week to Auburn was especially gut-wrenching because Kentucky battled back in the second half and had its chances. But the Wildcats couldn’t stop the Tigers when they needed to on that final drive. Kentucky remains at home the next two weeks against South Carolina and Georgia and needs to get one of those to feel good about a fifth straight bowl appearance.
10. Vanderbilt: OK, Eastern Michigan is terrible. Nobody is disputing that. But the Commodores (2-3, 1-1) are finally scoring some points after drilling Eastern Michigan 52-6 last Saturday. Quarterback Larry Smith passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, helping Vanderbilt snap a nine-game losing streak at home. The Commodores get the nod at No. 10 because they beat Ole Miss by two touchdowns on the road.
11. Ole Miss: Despite not playing last week, the Rebels (3-2, 1-1) moved out of the cellar. Their mandatory sentence to remain in the bottom spot after losing at home to an FCS team and Vanderbilt in the same season is up. They have their work cut out this week, traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on an Alabama team that will be out for blood following its loss to South Carolina.
12. Tennessee: The Vols (2-4, 0-3) didn’t try to play the final play with 13 defenders this time. They simply got outplayed, outcoached and outclassed from the outset in a 41-14 loss to Georgia. It’s really the first time all season that Tennessee didn’t look ready to play. The Vols are off this week, but are staring at 0-for-October squarely in the face. Playing as many young players as they are, this has the makings of the Vols’ third non-winning regular season in the last six years.