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SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 3: The Cream Rises While The Sludge Sinks

We know who the top two teams in the conference are, and after this past weekend we're quite clear about who the bottom two are, thanks very much. Between those bookends, though, things are still basically a muddle. Fortunately, with three honest-to-goodness conference matchups and only one Division I-AA patsy on the docket in Week 3, it appears we're slowly weaning ourselves off of Artificial Football-Like Substance and adjusting to a diet of actual games. Be sure to tune into Team Speed Kills on Wednesday to see where the teams ended up after all the ballots were tallied.

1. LSU -- The Tigers' defense straight-up stoning Mississippi State wasn't the big revelation from Thursday night's game -- it was that Jarrett Lee might actually be a competent quarterback. (I'm sure the fact that Gary Crowton is now five or six states away is just one of those crazy coincidences.) 

2. Alabama -- Thanks to Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, it seems pretty clear Nick Saban could've beaten the tar out of North Texas without putting a quarterback on the field at all. Is it possible that Bama's RB corps is in even better shape now than when Mark Ingram was on the roster?

3. Arkansas -- If the Razorbacks were looking ahead to Alabama next week, I'll give them a pass for getting outgained by Troy. Otherwise...

4. Florida -- Everybody wondered whether the Gators could adapt to Charlie Weis' offense after years of Urban Meyer's spread. Turns out "bludgeon opponents to death with Chris Rainey" is not all that hard to adapt to.

5. South Carolina -- The Gamecocks may be 3-0, but they still look like a team that's eminently capable of losing three or four games down the stretch.

6. Auburn -- Maybe I'm being picky, but no defending national champion -- especially not one from the SEC -- should EVER be giving up 624 yards of offense to anyone.

7. Mississippi State -- Their results against LSU were more reflective of the Tigers' defensive prowess, I think, than any major failing of Dan Mullen's offensive scheme. But there had been some speculation all along that there was a ceiling to what his spread offense could accomplish with MSU's athletes rather than Florida's, and the Bulldogs definitely whacked their heads on it Thursday night.

8. Georgia -- OK, yeah, it was Coastal Carolina. But having seen recent Dawg teams screw around with body-bag opponents and play sloppy even under ideal circumstances, it was nice to see them play up to their level of talent, and not down to the level of their opponent, for four full quarters. Particularly after a pair of spirit-crushing losses that had to have left them beaten up psychologically.

9. Tennessee -- The Vols' seventh straight loss to Florida wasn't Tyler Bray's fault so much as it was the fault of the running game and the offensive line, but it's looking like both have a lot of improving to do for Bray to rise to the level of his preseason hype.

10. Vanderbilt -- Vandy's offense has been sputtering for years, but it turns out that doesn't matter when the other team keeps serving the ball to you on a silver platter.

11. Kentucky -- Seriously considered making Kentucky and Ole Miss co-No. 12s this week, but since the Wildcats at least have a couple FBS wins, plug-ugly though they may be, they're saved from the basement for the time being. There's still plenty of time for them to dig, though.

12. Ole Miss -- My not-all-that-bold prediction: When the Rebels go to Lexington on Nov. 5, it will be a battle to determine who finishes the season 1-7 in the SEC and who finishes 0-8.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.