Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The blowout in the Swamp never materialized. If anything, Florida might want to count its blessings that Tennessee doesn’t own a passing game.
Had the Vols been able to throw the ball at all Saturday, we might be talking right now about the biggest upset in the SEC since league expansion in 1992.
But Tim Tebow wouldn’t let that happen, and the Gators remain atop the latest SEC power rankings this week ... barely:
1. Florida: Part of the reason for Florida’s ho-hum performance against Tennessee in its 23-13 win Saturday can be traced to several players battling the flu. At least, so says Florida coach Urban Meyer. Whatever it was, the Gators looked vulnerable. They’re still the most talented team in the league and have won 13 in a row going back to last season. But their hold on the top spot suddenly isn’t iron-clad anymore.
2. Alabama: Nick Saban won’t have a less-than-inspired start to complain about this week. Alabama jumped all over North Texas in a 53-7 rout and hasn’t been seriously challenged the past two games. It’s difficult to pick an area where the Crimson Tide haven’t been dominant. They’re ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense and total defense and are right on the Gators’ heels for that No. 1 spot.
3. Ole Miss: Here we are going into the fourth week of the season, and the Rebels haven’t come close to being tested. That changes Thursday night when they travel to Columbia, S.C., to face South Carolina. Even though there have been some mistakes elsewhere, Ole Miss has looked every bit as dominant on its defensive line the first two games. All eyes will be on senior end Greg Hardy, who missed the 52-6 blowout of Southeastern Louisiana with a sprained ankle. The Rebels are a different defense when he’s healthy.
4. LSU: That season-opening 31-23 win at Washington is viewed in a little bit different light now. The Huskies took down mighty USC last week. The Tigers have continued to improve on defense since that first game in Seattle. They now turn their attention to Mississippi State on the road and are 3-0 to start the season for the third straight year.
5. Georgia: The Bulldogs might not have much of a pass defense, but they’re making up for it with guts and heart. To get down early like they did on the road at Arkansas and then to come charging back for a 52-41 win tells you a lot about Mark Richt’s club. The schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way, but scoring points doesn’t look like it will be a problem for these Bulldogs after 93 points in the past two games.
6. Auburn: After rolling up huge rushing numbers in their first two wins, the Tigers turned to the pass last Saturday in rallying from a 14-0 deficit to beat West Virginia at rainy Jordan-Hare Stadium. A fourth straight home game awaits Auburn this weekend against Ball State, as the Tigers should be 4-0 going into the Tennessee game on Oct. 3. This is a team that’s starting to believe and a team that has great chemistry.
7. Tennessee: It’s the best the Big Orange Nation has felt about a loss in at least the past 30 years. The Vols were right in the game with No. 1-ranked Florida the whole way, using a conservative game plan offensively and an attacking defense to keep the Gators off balance. They’ve got to be able to find something in the passing game if they’re going to have a chance to win seven or eight games this season. They get Ohio at home this Saturday in the first of three straight home games that will shape their season.
8. South Carolina: Stephen Garcia and the Gamecocks’ offense have come alive these past two games. Now the defense is teetering a little bit after suffering some injuries to key players. Getting defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye back from a three-game suspension this week should help. We find out a lot about this South Carolina club on Thursday night when No. 4 Ole Miss invades Williams-Brice Stadium.
9. Arkansas: We all wondered if the Hogs would be able to stop anybody this season, and after watching the Georgia receivers running free in their secondary all night long Saturday, we’re still wondering. This Arkansas defense has a long way to go if the Hogs are going to be an upper-echelon team in the league this season. It only gets more difficult this week on the road at Alabama. Ryan Mallett can throw the football. He’s certainly proven that, but the Crimson Tide rush the passer as well as anybody in the country.
10. Kentucky: The Wildcats can thank sophomore receiver Randall Cobb for still being unbeaten right now. He saved them in Saturday’s 31-27 win over Louisville with a couple of crucial plays in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning touchdown catch. Kentucky turned the ball over on three possessions in the third quarter and was also beaten up physically in the game. Cornerback Trevard Lindley, defensive end DeQuin Evans and center Jorge Gonzalez all suffered injuries that will limit them in practice this week heading into Saturday’s home game with Florida.
11. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen picked up his first SEC win thanks to a defense that showed a little pride in a 15-3 victory over Vanderbilt after having its pride bruised the week before against Auburn. It was a key road win for the Bulldogs, who have a killer home schedule coming up. They get to stay in Starkville for these next three games, but they’re against LSU, Georgia Tech and Houston.
12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores simply can’t score. They’ve been held to one touchdown in their past two games and are coming off an ugly 15-3 home loss to Mississippi State. Carving out a second straight winning season is really going to be difficult now. Vanderbilt is playing well enough on defense to hang around in games. But the offensive production is abysmal -- 367 yards and 12 points in the past two games.