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sec power rankings..


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brian golden:

as the year progresses, this task gets harder and harder, and this week is no peach. every sec team has a conference loss, and it's only october 15th. 6 teams with exactly one loss? this is going to be ugly& .remember, this reflects how i think the teams would fare tomorrow on a neutral field.

1. lsu how's this for a twister? lsu bets south carolina. south carolina beats kentucky. kentucky beats lsu. any of these three teams could make an argument for being tops, but i've got to stick with the bayou bengals, who boast two wins (va tech, florida) bigger than any of sc's or kentucky's. i thought last week that the running game would be enough to carry the tigers; that didn't turn out so well in lexington, where 250+ rushing yards and 5.1 yards per carry didn't get the job done. the defense was cut up by andre woodson and the kentucky passing game, and they'll have to get a bit better against the pass to make it through the sec jaunt unbeaten the rest of the way. if they do, with dates against auburn, alabama and arkansas, followed my an sec title game tilt with any one from the east, they can make a compelling argument that they still belong in the title game.

2. south carolina the gamecocks are thriving on defense, and luckily chris smelley has been good enough to keep the usc offense humming. can carolina keep getting turnovers at crucial times? as great as the secondary has been (3rd nationally, 149 yards a game), the rush d has been rough. at 90th nationally, how will this team stack up with the conference's rush heavy squads at florida and arkansas? if usc survives the tennessee, arkansas, florida, clemson, sec title game finish, they'd better get strong, strong title game consideration.

3. kentucky bravo to the wildcats, who won a great college football game, and bravo to their quarterback andre woodson, who might still be in the hunt for a trip to new york as a heisman finalist. even in losses, the offense has scored enough points to win, but the rush d is even worse than south carolina's (99th nationally, 194 ypg) and the pass defense isn't nearly as good (27th, 186 ypg). rafael little could hold the key to kentucky's long term chances; somehow, uk beat lsu without the senior tailback. it'll be hard to go the rest of the way without his contributions.

4. auburn the tigers could make the argument they're playing as well as anyone in the league, with two wins in three weeks against florida and arkansas. auburn's early season loss to south florida is looking more and more understandable, so it's really only mississippi state loss that looks like a blemish. the rb tandem of tate and lester were solidly capable at arkansas. this team will ride or die with the rush d, which is now in the top ten nationally after a truly herculean outing against the hogs. the tigers are going to be a scary foe the rest of the way. it's almost a good thing they lost to the bulldogs in september; four sec one-loss teams in the national title picture would make my head spin.

5. florida and now we have the gators, on a two-game losing streak, coming off a bye week, heading to kentucky, trying to do even more damage to the jumbled standings. if the gators win in lexington, they still have a shot to reach the title game and a bcs game. to get there, they've got to defend the pass better and get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. this hasn't looked like a fearsome gator front; 71st in the nation in sacks, 64th in tfl and 66th against the pass are brutal numbers for a team that is coming off a bcs title, and somehow, that has to change.

6. tennessee the vols followed up the georgia win with a solid win over dangerous mississippi state, and now its alabama and south carolina. the gamecocks visit will kick off an absurd 4-straight home games in october and november (that's really, really just not fair). if the offensive line continues to protect erik ainge this well, the vols will be in every game they play; the line is currently first in the nation with just 2 sacks allowed in 6 games. but the defensive line has been alternatively bad and worse, coming in at 96th in sacks and 116th in tfl. junior robert ayers has gotten to a few qbs, but not enough to alter opposing game plans; that'll be the test for whether the vol front four is back.

7. georgia the bulldogs aren't out of the title game chase, but kentucky's win over lsu didn't help matters. it's now going to take a lot of dominoes to fall in place for 2-loss georgia to get there, with 1-loss tennessee and south carolina both owning tiebreak advantages. uga got a huge, huge performance from freshman knowshon moreno, whose 157 yards on 28 carries should affect the way florida prepares for the 'dawgs, even if the numbers can't be repeated. it may sound like kind of a fluky stat, but uga had one pass longer than 25 yards against vandy. if that total doesn't rise, georgia won't win the cocktail party.

8. alabama the tide isn't playing well at all, considering the talent and expectations in t-town, with three wins against quality opponents coming by 12 combined points. things get a lot tougher with tennessee coming to town, and then two weeks to prep for lsu. the tide has been in down-to-the-wire games every single week, and having to play the full 60 minutes week in, week out has to catch up with them eventually.

9. mississippi state the bulldogs are up against it trying to rebuild in the sec west, where lsu, auburn, alabama and arkansas have the money and facilities to mash every single year. i like the job sylvester croom has done, and a bowl game is still within range this season. if msu can knock off arkansas and ole miss their last two games, they still need one win in the next three against west virginia, kentucky and alabama. what in god's name is a school in msu's situation doing scheduling west virginia for a date in october? the brutal sec ledger wasn't enough?

10. arkansas we're past the halfway point of october, and the hogs still haven't beaten a sec opponent this year. the three wins are against sun belt's troy and north texas, along with chattanooga. we all know darren mcfadden is a big time back, maybe the nation's best. but has there ever been a player as good as felix jones that wasn't even the best player on his team at his position? i'm sure there has been somewhere& still trying to think of one& if mcfadden bolts for the nfl, and why wouldn't he, jones will be a top-flight heisman candidate next fall.

11. ole miss so close! the rebs got really, really close to beating alabama and getting a major win for the program, but a controversial call, special teams breakdowns and a costly turnover kept ole miss out of the win column. ben jarvus green-ellis and the offense are doing some nice things, but the pieces just haven't come together for a conference win yet. unfortunately, green-ellis and qb seth adams are both seniors. when's the future coming?

12. vanderbilt like ole miss, vandy was so, so close to beating georgia, but was done in by an ability to get the big stop late or move the chains when necessary. the vandy d is capable of big performances, but the offense just stinks; they're a turnover machine, and the quarterback situation is dire, with neither mackenzi adams or chris nickson looking like an sec talent.

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