Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The top of the SEC power rankings are beginning to look awfully familiar every week.
Alabama and Florida both have legitimate claims, but the Crimson Tide did nothing last Saturday to warrant being bumped out of the top spot:
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) are going to be hard to beat on a neutral field. For that matter, they’re going to be hard to beat anywhere. They bullied Ole Miss 22-3 on the road and turned a game that was supposed to be a tough matchup into one that wasn’t much of a matchup at all. It’s difficult to find anything resembling a weakness on this team.
2. Florida: The Gators (5-0, 3-0) have their first quality win under their belt after going to Baton Rouge and taking care of No. 4-ranked LSU 13-3 in the toughest of environments. Charlie Strong’s defense took it to another level against the Tigers and has allowed just two touchdowns all season. The Gators may well deserve to be No. 1 at this point. Ultimately, they’re going to get a chance to prove it on the field.
3. LSU: What a gutsy performance by John Chavis’ defense. The Tigers (5-1, 3-1) played well enough on that side of the ball to win the game against Florida. But if they don’t get it figured out on offense, it’s not going to matter how well the defense plays the rest of the way. The Tigers have too many talented players on offense to be this ineffective.
4. South Carolina: Quietly, the Gamecocks (5-1, 2-1) have been working their way back up the rankings after losing that heartbreaker on the road to Georgia the second week of the season. Quarterback Stephen Garcia grows up a little more every week, and some of the younger players like Alshon Jeffery are starting to come through. We find out a lot more about the Gamecocks this week at Alabama. They looked shaky in their 28-26 escape against Kentucky.
5. Auburn: The Tigers (5-1, 2-1) had probably benefited a little from a soft schedule the first five weeks, so their loss to Arkansas last Saturday wasn’t a huge surprise. This team will be back. Gene Chizik and his staff have done a nice job, and the Tigers are going to move the ball and score points against just about anybody they play. The concern is the defense. Can they stop anybody the rest of the way?
6. Ole Miss: This ranking for the Rebels (3-2, 1-2) is based in large part on the assumption that they’re better than they’ve played to this point. In defense of Tyrone Nix’s defense, Ole Miss has actually played well on that side of the ball. Somehow, though, they’ve got to get Jevan Snead out of his funk and give him some time to throw. The Rebels are going to have to start proving on the field that they’re an upper-echelon team in this league, because they’ve yet to beat anybody that counts so far.
7. Arkansas: The best news for the Hogs (3-2, 1-2) is that Willy Robinson’s defense came to life last Saturday in the 44-23 win over Auburn. It’s really the only thing that’s been holding this Arkansas team back from being one of the top five or six teams in this league. Quarterback Ryan Mallett looks like a million dollars throwing the football. Now, let’s see if the Hogs can keep up their defensive resurgence. Doing so at Florida won't be easy.
8. Tennessee: The Vols (3-3, 1-2) are a team that could be ranked a lot higher if they had taken care of their business at home earlier this season against UCLA. They’re coming off their best game of the season in a 45-19 pummeling of Georgia, and Monte Kiffin’s defense has played lights out all year. They’re off this week and then close the month of October with telltale games against Alabama on the road and then South Carolina at home. A winning season looks a lot more realistic after that rout of the Bulldogs.
9. Georgia: The Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2) have beaten a couple of teams ranked ahead of them -- Arkansas and South Carolina -- but it’s hard to rank this team much higher than ninth coming off that miserable performance in Knoxville last Saturday. Georgia’s defense doesn’t look a lot better than last season. The Bulldogs have given up 37 or more points in three of their six games, and their offense stunk it up against the Vols with just three points. Georgia has managed just four offensive touchdowns in its last three games.
10. Kentucky: The Wildcats (2-3, 0-3) have put up a pretty good fight these last two weeks and had a great chance to knock off South Carolina in Columbia. The knee injury to quarterback Mike Hartline was a downer. He’d played some of his best football against the Gamecocks before getting injured. If the Wildcats are going to get back to a bowl, they need to make some hay these next five weeks. In order, they face Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
11. Mississippi State: There hasn’t been a harder luck team in the league than Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2). They lost for the third straight week last Saturday, 31-24 to Houston at home, and had a couple of tough calls go against them. At this point, the Bulldogs just need a win, any win. They’ve improved offensively even though they're limited at quarterback, but have struggled against a demanding home schedule. They travel to Middle Tennessee this coming weekend.
12. Vanderbilt: After such a breakthrough season for the Commodores a year ago, it can’t get much worse for them right now. They lost 16-13 in overtime last Saturday at Army and continue to struggle mightily on offense. But the most puzzling thing about this edition of the Commodores (2-4, 0-3) is how mistake-prone they’ve been. Freshman running back Warren Norman lost a fumble inches from the goal line in overtime, and Vanderbilt has been whistled for 24 penalties in its last two games.