Defensive prowess still evolving in SEC

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

As I glanced around the SEC late last Saturday night (actually it was early Sunday morning), I couldn’t help but wonder if the quality of defense in this league matches the excellence from a year ago.

Then you look at the national rankings this week, and SEC teams occupy six of the top 28 spots among the leaders in total defense. Alabama is third, followed by Tennessee (5th), Florida (11th), South Carolina (15th), Vanderbilt (21st) and Kentucky (28th).

Reading too much into team defensive numbers three weeks into the season can be misleading. Case in point: Arizona State is No. 1 in the country in total defense after blasting Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe in the first two games.

We’ll know a lot more about Arizona State’s defense following its trip to Georgia this weekend.

Likewise, the Bulldogs are last in the SEC in total defense and 97th nationally. But they get a chance these next four weeks against Arizona State, LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to show that they’re better than they’ve looked against some pretty good offenses in the first three games … or that they’re just that bad.

The jury is still out on Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss defensively. The results have been mixed for Auburn and LSU to this point, and Ole Miss hasn’t been challenged.

And what about the Gators defensively? They returned everybody from a defense that held Oklahoma’s offensive juggernaut to 14 points in the BCS National Championship Game last season.

But what we saw from the Gators last Saturday in the Swamp, particularly their tackling, was not national championship material.

Not yet, anyway.

The SEC is still the best defensive league in the country, but it looks like there could be some shuffling in terms of pecking order.