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Nearly all the leading lights of the SEC managed to look lousy to varying degrees this past weekend . . . but that doesn't mean the have-nots have suddenly found an opening.
South Carolina trailed Kentucky at halftime. Georgia's supposedly stout defense coughed up 478 yards to Tennessee. LSU slogged through a sloppy game against DI-AA Towson. Alabama trailed Ole Miss at one point! For 15 whole seconds!! Does anybody know how to play this game?!
As it turns out, yes — all of those top teams managed to win despite putting forth far less than their best efforts. Which means the power structure at the top of the conference is still more or less the same. (Say this much for the SEC — unlike the Big 10, our meltdown weekends mostly don't involve actually losing to inferior teams.) See how the full Power Poll shakes out this week when Team Speed Kills tallies the results on Wednesday.
1. Alabama — Never looked particularly great against Ole Miss but never really left the outcome in doubt, either, even for the 15 seconds when they were trailing. We seem to have reached that point we've reached in so many recent Alabama seasons where the Crimson Tide's most formidable opponent is their own indifference.
2. Florida — After a lackadaisical performance by South Carolina against Kentucky and Georgia's bizarre defensive struggles with Tennessee, the Gators may have eased into the SEC East driver's seat by default.
3. South Carolina — I'm going to assume the [poop]show first half against Kentucky was just the Gamecocks looking ahead to Georgia. Thanks, guys, it's nice to be an opponent other teams look ahead to again.
4. Georgia — Take out the points Tennessee scored off turnovers and you're left with a bend-but-rarely-break performance not all that different from the one Georgia's defense pitched against Vanderbilt. So why does this one feel so much worse?
5. LSU — Sloppy beats teams like Auburn and Towson. Sloppy won't get the Tigers much further in the SEC West, though.
6. Mississippi State — All of a sudden the SEC West looks nowhere near as formidable as it once did (outside of Alabama, of course). If ever there was a year for Dan Mullen to finally make his move, it's this one.
7. Texas A&M — Another team that's going to benefit greatly from the West not being nearly as good as it stacked up to be in the preseason. They'll probably earn another bowl bid from feasting on carrion alone.
8. Tennessee — Hung in there way longer than Georgia should've let them, but still, Saturday's game begs the question: Was a make-or-break season like this one really the best time for Derek Dooley to roll the dice on a switch to the 3-4 defense?
9. Missouri — It's a shame that this team is already so hamstrung by injuries at quarterback and on the O-line, because they'd stand a chance of shaking up the East otherwise.
10. Vanderbilt — They seem stuck in the same "scare a lot of good teams but don't actually beat any of them" mode they've been in during a lot of their "competitive" years.
11. Auburn — The schedule sets up for them to earn another bowl invite without too much trouble, but I hope they like Memphis or Shreveport.
12. Ole Miss — Still hard to tell what kind of team this is. How much of their strong performance against Alabama was them and how much of it was the Tide just not caring all that much?
13. Kentucky — Avoids the cellar by virtue of leading South Carolina at the half. For their sake, I hope they enjoyed it.
14. Arkansas — We saw it against Alabama and we saw it against Texas A&M too: All it takes is one or two big plays going against them and this team just plain checks out mentally. At this point they'd need the mother of all come-to-Jesus meetings just to claw their way to 4-8.