As we head into the season’s stretch run in the Southeastern Conference, there’s much to be decided, including who goes to the title game and where teams fall in the pecking order for bowls. With just two weeks of the regular season left, here’s how I see the SEC, ranked one through 14.
1. Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC): The Crimson Tide did some uncharacteristically-Alabama things in their 20-7 win at Mississippi State, most notably, turn the ball over a bunch. They were still good enough to win on the road by a couple of touchdowns, which says a lot about how good they are.
2. Missouri (9-1, 5-1): Yes, Auburn has a legit case for the No. 2 spot, but Missouri has a bigger average margin of victory and yardage per game and a huge edge in turnovers against schedules that are equally tough.
3. Auburn (10-1, 6-1): The voters that really matter obviously disagree with me, as Auburn passed Missouri in both major polls as well as the BCS rankings this week.
4. LSU (7-3, 3-3): Few will agree with me putting a three-loss LSU team ahead of a pair of top-15, two-loss teams, but if you’ll look at the stats and the schedules, LSU’s body of work holds up pretty well. Incidentally, LSU is the only one of my top-five teams to have faced Alabama so far.
5. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2): The Gamecocks underwhelmed us this weekend with their five-point win over a Florida team without a decent quarterback. That’s kind of been the pattern for Carolina this year.
6. Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2): The toughest two-game stretch of A&M’s season — road games at LSU and Missouri — awaits, starting next weekend.
7. Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3): Rebels’ game with Missouri this weekend should be one of the league’s most entertaining.
8. Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4): Commodores’ statistical profile and overall wins doesn’t quite match Georgia’s, but that head-t0-head win has to count for something.
9. Georgia (6-4, 4-3): Coach Mark Richt could live a thousand lives, and probably never lose again on a fourth-and-18 play when the opposing quarterback throws a 75-yard touchdown right into the heart of triple-coverage. It’s been that kind of year for the Bulldogs.
10. Florida (4-6, 3-5): Despite the losing record, Gators are actually out-scoring opponents by a 20-19 mark.
11. Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5): Decent back-t0-back showings vs. Texas A&M and Alabama are making me believe that MSU’s not as bad as I thought. In a head-t0-head comparison with the Vols, Bulldogs win in yardage (plus-70 vs. minus-76), scoring margin (plus-1 vs. minus-7.1) against Jeff Sagarin’s No. 7 and 4 schedules, respectively.
12. Tennessee (4-6, 1-5): On the other hand, Vols do have that one big win (South Carolina) that MSU lacks. They’ve got a chance for another vs. Vandy this weekend.
13. Arkansas (3-7, 0-6): Razorbacks held down this spot thanks to an off-week.
14. Kentucky (2-8, 0-6): UK played pretty well well for most of the game at Vanderbilt. As I said last week, it’s a crapshoot between the Wildcats and Arkansas for No. 13; ‘Cats (at Georgia, vs. Tennessee) may have an easier time that Arkansas (MSU, at LSU) of landing that spot at the end.