Things remain unchanged at the very top and very bottom of the Southeastern Conference — and that’s been the case with every single power ranking I’ve done — but with five huge upsets within the Southeastern Conference, just about everything in between changed. Here’s the latest attempt to rank the league’s 14 teams with Week 9 on the horizon.
1. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC): After winning its last two games — both SEC games — by a combined 100-7, the Crimson Tide have embarked on the Steamrolling Phase of their 2013 season. Granted, it came against the league’s two worst teams, but that’s still impressive. ‘Bama is now winning, on average (and rounding off), by a 41-10 margin each week.
2. Missouri (7-0, 3-0): In three weeks, we went from questioning the legitimacy of the Tigers’ 4-0 start to looking at the standings and realizing that the Tigers, barring a major collapse, should represent the SEC in Atlanta. The best news for coach Gary Pinkel is that the defense continues to improve, and that backup quarterback Maty Mauk proved more than capable of leading a really potent Tiger offense, which rolled up 500 yards against a Florida squad that, even after the whipping, is still giving up just 273 yards and 16.3 points per game.
3. LSU (6-2, 3-2): Yes, I have some qualms about putting a two-loss LSU team over Auburn here, but let’s not forget that these Tigers beat those Tigers by a 35-21 count last month.
4. Auburn (6-1, 3-1): About those Tigers… I’m not buying Auburn as an elite team yet — seven SEC teams have a better yardage differential than AU’s plus-66 — but football is about winning and losing, and those wins against Ole Miss and at Texas A&M are looking awfully impressive. You know what else is impressive? 300 yards rushing per game, which leads the SEC.
5. South Carolina (5-2, 3-2): As a rational person always trying to make sense of things, I looked at Carolina’s inconsistencies coming into two weeks ago, saw Carolina’s blitzing of Arkansas, and said, Hey, this is a team that’s getting it together down the stretch. Instead, it was just another chapter of the previous pattern. The Gamecocks will rebound, and that might even happen this weekend at Missouri, but it would help if quarterback Connor Shaw could stay healthy.
6. Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2): Well, the one thing I have gotten right is keeping the Aggies further down my power rankings than most have. Along with a crappy defense, A&M may have other problems if Johnny Manziel’s shoulder issues are serious.
7. Ole Miss (4-3, 2-2): See, I told you the Rebels are better than you think! (Of course, I lacked the guts to pick the A&M upset.)
8. Georgia (4-3, 3-2): Ranking the Bulldogs continues to be an exercise in futility, because really, which UGA team are we ranking, the one that’s got everyone hurt, or the one that could be a top-10 level team if it gets healthy again?
9. Florida (4-3, 3-2): Call me crazy, but the No. 9 spot could be the high-water mark for the Gators the rest of the way. The defense has been terrific, but with injuries piling up all over the team and an offense that wasn’t good to begin with, the Gators’ tough schedule to come could even bring them down to .500 overall.
10. Tennessee (4-3, 1-2): By the numbers, the overall resume could use some polish, as only Kentucky has a worse yardage disadvantage than the Vols’ minus-44 per game. But a lot of that came in the Oregon game, and since then, UT’s played great in back-to-back close games against Georgia and South Carolina, the latter of which they won. It’s part of a terrific job by Butch Jones, whose team is getting better on both sides of the ball as the year progresses.
11. Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3): Guess what? It looks like the Commodores intend to play the season out after all. That defense that was so good the last two years showed up again, as Vandy held Georgia (which still has plenty of talent, even with marquee players hurt) to nearly 300 yards below its season average and finally forced some turnovers (four of them.) If Vanderbilt continues to play with the fire it showed Saturday, Georgia might not be the only team that gets upset.
12. Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2): MSU is the anti-Tennessee, a team that looks okay on the stat sheet (plus-94 yardage margin) but then lays an egg with the eye test (blown out vs. LSU, and barely beat Bowling Green in its last two games).
13. Arkansas (3-5, 0-4): After her husband’s former employer, Wisconsin, got royally screwed by officials at the end of its game against Arizona State, Bret Bielema’s wife took to Twitter to rub it in. I wonder: did #karma mean Jen knew that Arkansas was getting thrashed by a collective 179-50 in its next four weeks?
14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3): Wildcats occupy their customary place in the cellar again this week, but there’s hope on the horizon: potentially-winnable games vs. Mississippi State and Alabama State the next two weekends.