It’s crunch time in the Southeastern Conference, as rivalry games are being played and the road to Atlanta for the conference title game comes to an end this weekend. Here’s how I’ve got the teams stacking up one to 14 as Thanksgiving approaches.
1. Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC): Crimson Tide boast the nation’s best scoring defense (9.8 ppg), but that will be tested between Auburn this weekend, and possibly Missouri the next.
2. Missouri (10-1, 6-1): Most have Auburn ahead of Mizzou, but a head-to-head comparison reveals that these Tigers lead in scoring (20.4 vs. 17), yardage (107 vs. 93) and turnover margins (14 vs. 2), with both teams playing nearly identical schedules (Sagarin rates Auburn’s 38th and Missouri’s, 39th.)
3. Auburn (10-1, 6-1): Tigers, who lead the league in total offense (500 ypg) are 5-0 in games decided by eight points or less.
4. LSU (8-3, 5-3): The pollsters punished LSU too severely for field-goal losses to Georgia and Ole Miss, but I had them in this spot last week. I guess LSU proved me right with its whipping of Texas A&M and Johnny Football.
5. South Carolina (9-2, 6-2): Gamecocks got one of their few easy games of the year, and responded with a 70-10 pounding of Coastal Carolina. This weekend’s Clemson game should be a great one.
6. Georgia (7-4, 5-3): Georgia’s been impossible to rate fairly all year because of the injuries. You looked like a fool if you rated them this high past about the middle of October when they were banged-up and struggling to beat anyone, but if you didn’t, you essentially gave them no credit for some great wins. Once UGA got healthier and played an easier schedule, you had to start looking at the total package again, and that’s where Mark Richt’s club starts looking a lot better. Most everyone has Texas A&M ahead of Georgia, but Bulldogs’ best wins are against Carolina and LSU, while A&M’s are over Vandy and Ole Miss. Which resume´would you rather have? Of course now, quarterback Aaron Murray had to get hurt, which sort of throws everything into flux again since he’s done for the year.
7. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3): Aggies have gotten the benefit of the doubt all year because everyone knows what Johnny Manziel can do, but here are the ugly facts about A&M: the Aggies don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the polls this week, their defense gives up 31.2 points and 461 yards a game and their special teams are average. I’m not saying A&M’s a bad team, but for whatever reason they’ve gotten a pass for those flaws for much of the year.
8. Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4): All four Rebel losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top 20.
9. Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4): It’s funny how much James Franklin’s teams look when Vandy gets healthy and isn’t playing ranked teams each week. Commodores’ offense is seriously flawed right now as VU can’t run on anyone, but the defense and special teams have been outstanding lately.
10. Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5): The Bulldogs keep inching up the rankings each week by playing respectably against good teams (even if they’re not winning) and also because the bottom four teams just look awful week-in and week-out.
11. Florida (4-7, 3-5): Florida lost to Georgia Southern over the weekend, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if you were an FCS team instead of an SEC squad.
12. Tennessee (4-7, 1-6): The Vols got a Vandy team playing maybe its worst game of the year, in Knoxville, and still couldn’t get a win.
13. Arkansas (3-8, 0-7): We have to dig deep to find much good to say about the bottom two teams each week, and alas, the Razorbacks took Mississippi State to overtime! That’s good enough to vault Arkansas back over Kentucky.
14. Kentucky (2-9, 0-7): Just when you think things can’t get worse at UK, the ‘Cats got destroyed by Georgia, had their quarterback and a key defensive back hurt, and have since had two key players suspended for Saturday’s game against Tennessee.