Here’s a look at this week’s SEC Power Rankings:
1. Auburn: After 11 straight weeks of playing, the Tigers (11-0, 7-0) had a much-needed open date last week. Now, the real season begins. It’s a two-game season for the right to play for the national championship -- at Alabama on Friday in the Iron Bowl and then South Carolina on Dec. 4 in the SEC championship game.
2. LSU: The Tigers (10-1, 6-1) obviously like to keep it interesting. Hey, that’s the way the Mad Hatter rolls. They went back and forth with Ole Miss last week, and even though the defense sort of took the day off, the offense had one of its better days in a 43-36 win over the Rebels. A showdown with Arkansas in Little Rock awaits on Saturday.
3. Alabama: By moving the Georgia State game up, Alabama (9-2, 5-2) doesn’t have to worry about the short week to prepare. And let’s face it: How much time did the Crimson Tide really have to spend on Georgia State last week? They won 63-7 last Thursday and were already thinking about the Iron Bowl before halftime.
4. Arkansas: The Hogs (9-2, 5-2) are one of the league’s hottest teams and extended their winning streak to five straight games with a 38-31 overtime win against Mississippi State this past Saturday. Bobby Petrino’s club has shown a lot of resolve this season. The Hogs get a chance against LSU to go from a good season to a potentially great season if they can take down the Tigers.
5. South Carolina: There haven’t been any signs of one of those November swoons that typically derail the Gamecocks. They were all business last week in taking apart Troy in a 69-24 rout. They travel to Clemson this Saturday before taking their shot at Auburn in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4. The Gamecocks (8-3, 5-3) will be gunning for nine or more wins for only the third time in school history.
6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (7-4, 3-4) are suddenly going the other way after winning six straight games. The 38-31 double-overtime loss to Arkansas at home Saturday was a tough one to swallow. But there’s still a chance for eight regular-season wins if Mississippi State can win for the second year in a row over arch-rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
7. Florida: It’s been a disappointing season for the Gators, who took out some of their frustration on FCS foe Appalachian State Saturday in a 48-10 mismatch. Florida (7-4, 4-4) hopes to keep it from getting even more disappointing this weekend by beating bitter rival Florida State for a seventh straight time. A loss to the Seminoles would really make this a season to forget.
8. Georgia: Coming off an open date, the Bulldogs (5-6, 3-5) look to salvage something out of this season when they take on Georgia Tech at home this Saturday. Georgia needs to win to keep its bowl streak alive. The Bulldogs have made 13 consecutive bowl appearances. Georgia coach Mark Richt is 8-1 against Georgia Tech.
9. Kentucky: The Wildcats (6-5, 2-5) should be as rested as they possibly could be at this point in the season. They travel to Tennessee on Saturday coming off an open date and had convincing wins over Vanderbilt and Charleston Southern in the weeks prior. The Wildcats are already bowl-eligible, but the “prize” they want is their first win over the Vols since the 1984 season.
10. Tennessee: It’s down to a one-game season for the Vols (5-6, 2-5) if they want to keep playing. They’ve won three in a row, including last week’s 24-10 victory over Vanderbilt, but they need to make it four in a row to qualify for a bowl game. There’s a lot of young talent on the offensive side of the ball for Tennessee, but the defense will have its work cut out in trying to slow down a Kentucky offense averaging 34.7 points and 441.5 yards per game.
11. Ole Miss: The Rebels (4-7, 1-6) showed some life last week after being left for dead two weeks ago in an embarrassing 52-14 loss at Tennessee. They went toe-to-toe with LSU before losing 43-36 in what was a terrific football game. The Rebels have been eliminated from bowl contention, but could still go out feeling better about themselves if they could knock off Mississippi State at home this Saturday.
12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores’ wretched performance on offense last week in a 24-10 loss to Tennessee was enough to move them back into the cellar. Missed passes, dropped passes and a general ineptitude on offense were enough to do them in for a sixth straight game. The Commodores (2-9, 1-7) could end the season with a win, though. They’re favored at home this week against Wake Forest.