SEC Power Rankings: Week 9

There wasn’t much movement in this week’s SEC power rankings, just a few tweaks here and there:

1. Auburn: The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 SEC) have it rolling right now with back-to-back victories at home over teams ranked in the top 12 nationally, most recently a 24-17 win over LSU this past weekend to move to No. 1 in the BCS standings. When you rush for 440 yards, you’re going to beat just about anybody. And when your quarterback is playing the way Cam Newton is right now, you’re going to beat just about anybody.

2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1) head into their bye week on the heels of one of their best halves of the season. They pounded Tennessee in the second half Saturday, scoring 28 unanswered points and winning 41-10 in Knoxville. Julio Jones was sensational, but he can use the week off to rest a few ailments. The whole Alabama team can. Alabama moved up to No. 7 this week in the BCS standings, but has three tough SEC games remaining against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

3. LSU: It’s not fair to blame everything on the offense this time, as LSU (7-1, 4-1) had its chances, but simply couldn’t make enough plays on either side of the ball to take down Auburn in a hard-fought 24-17 loss. Yes, the Tigers’ passing game continues to be brutal. But their tackling was equally brutal, and that’s been a strong suit all season for the Tigers. There’s still a lot to play for, but more losses are on the way if they can’t generate more production in the passing game.

4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) certainly weren’t spectacular this past weekend, but played well enough to win in a 21-7 victory over Vanderbilt on the road. And right now, the Gamecocks will take wins any way they can get them, because three more SEC wins will put them in the SEC championship game for the first time in school history. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore may return from a sprained ankle this week against Tennessee, which would be a big boost.

5. Arkansas: The Hogs (5-2, 2-2) moved up a spot this week, not so much because their 38-24 win over Ole Miss was that impressive, but because their only two losses were quality losses. They’ve lost only to Alabama and Auburn, two games that were decided in the fourth quarter. The defense hasn’t played as well the past two weeks, which is a concern. The Hogs need to keep Ryan Mallett healthy. He’s been knocked around the past two games. This is a team that could still finish with 10 wins if it maintains its focus.

6. Mississippi State: Coach Dan Mullen wasn’t exactly thrilled with his club’s shaky 29-24 win over UAB this past weekend, and we weren’t, either, which is why the Bulldogs (6-2, 2-2) slipped a spot this week to No. 6. The reality is that they were set up for a letdown after such a big win at Florida, and now Mullen should really be able to get his players’ attention heading into Saturday’s home game against Kentucky. Mississippi State will be trying to extend its winning streak to six straight games.

7. Georgia: Don’t look now, but here come the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3). They’ve won three in a row and really have a chance to make some noise in the Eastern Division race if they can take down Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville. Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray has been outstanding. The running game is beginning to heat up with Washaun Ealey rushing for more than 100 yards each of the past two weeks, and this is just a much sharper team all the around compared to the one that lost four straight earlier this season.

8. Florida: Here’s Florida’s chance to make up some ground and make something out of an otherwise disappointing season these next few weeks. The Gators (4-3, 2-3) were off this past week, and coach Urban Meyer promised to take an expansive look at his offense and see where Florida could make changes. It’s been a struggle all season on that side of the ball, and quarterback John Brantley has never looked completely comfortable. Even with those problems, Florida still controls its own destiny in the East.

9. Kentucky: It’s pretty simple for the Wildcats (4-4, 1-4) right now. They just can’t stop anybody. In their five league games this season, they’re giving up an average of 39.8 points per game. Georgia jumped out early on them this past week and went on to a 44-31 victory, but the offense was as much to blame as the defense in digging an 18-point hole in the first half. Kentucky turned it over three times deep in its own territory.

10. Ole Miss: The Rebels (3-4, 1-3) were the hardest to figure out where to slot this week. They own a win over Kentucky, but they also lost at home to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. For the time being, we’ll keep them at No. 10. They’ve lost their past two games, most recently to Arkansas on the road Saturday in a game that was delayed twice by lightning, but return home to face No. 1 Auburn this weekend. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is coming off his best game at Ole Miss. The Rebels will need another one like that from him if they’re going to upset Auburn.

11. Tennessee: If the Vols (2-5, 0-4) could do away with the second half, who knows what their record might be this season? They battled Alabama for 30 minutes and were within three points of the Crimson Tide at the half, but the bottom fell out in the second half. It was similar to the Oregon game back in September. Tennessee has played a tough schedule, no doubt. But this is a team that’s staring down the barrel of a losing season unless it can start playing with more consistency, toughness and resolve in the second half.

12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores (2-5, 1-3) were showing some signs of life on offense earlier in the season and actually scoring some points. But in their losses to Georgia and South Carolina, they’ve managed just one touchdown. They already have an SEC win, so they’re not going to go winless again in the league. But they’re stuck on two wins overall right now, which is what they finished with a year ago. They haven’t been real lucky with injuries this year.