The SEC preseason power rankings look a lot like they did coming out of the spring.
The noticeable exception is that Georgia has jumped up from No. 6 to No. 3. The Bulldogs’ returning experience on the offensive line, their playmakers on offense and some of the best special teams in the country was what separated them from Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
There’s not a lot of difference in the third best team and eighth best team, which should make for an intriguing fall.
Here’s how they rank in the SEC heading into the season:
1. Alabama: A lot has been made about what Alabama has to replace this season on defense. Here’s another way to look at it: Take a gander at what the Crimson Tide have returning on offense and the way they’ve stockpiled talent on defense.
2. Florida: The nucleus of those teams that reeled off 22 straight wins is gone, but new leaders and new stars are sure to emerge in Gainesville, led by junior quarterback John Brantley and a freshman class brimming with talent.
3. Georgia: Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray doesn’t have to be spectacular. If he’s just steady and takes care of the ball, the Bulldogs have enough talent around him to make a legitimate run in the East.
4. Arkansas: Too bad for the Hogs that it’s not the first team to 30 points that wins the game. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but still have to prove they’re going to hold up better defensively than they did a year ago.
5. Auburn: The reinforcements are coming for the Tigers, whose lack of depth caught up with them last season. Several players in their No. 4-rated signing class should make an immediate impact, starting with quarterback Cameron Newton.
6. LSU: All the chatter about whether Les Miles is on the hot seat could dissipate in a hurry if some of the Tigers’ young talent comes through. Also, does the light come on this season for junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson?
7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks could easily be up there around No. 3 or No. 4, but their history says they won’t. Their returning talent says otherwise, especially since it looks like junior quarterback Stephen Garcia is more motivated than ever.
8. Ole Miss: The addition of Jeremiah Masoli is a coup for the Rebels if he stays out of trouble and plays the way he did at Oregon in leading the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. Either way, Ole Miss will be in a lot of games thanks to its front seven on defense.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ defensive line has a chance to be one of the most improved units in the league. They’re still looking for more playmakers at receiver, but Dan Mullen has this program pointing in the right direction and thinking bowl game.
10. Kentucky: The Derrick Locke-Randall Cobb tandem is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. But the Wildcats made their move under former coach Rich Brooks with better players on defense, and a lot of those guys are gone.
11. Tennessee: There hasn’t been a lot of good news lately for the Vols, who are being probed by the NCAA and lost a pair of starting defensive linemen to injuries last week in practice. Derek Dooley is committed to doing it the right way, but it’s going to take some time.
12. Vanderbilt: We know new coach Robbie Caldwell can carry an audience. He’s a genuinely funny guy. Now we find out if he can help restore some semblance of an offensive edge to a Vanderbilt team that went belly-up on that side of the ball last season.