Week Eleven is in the books and there’s been a little bit of shuffling up and down our Power Rankings’ chart. Matter of fact, now that we’re nearing the season’s end, we’ve added two more categories to our breakdown.
As usual, we’ve placed each of the SEC’s 14 teams into one of those different categories. Inside those categories, we list the teams alphabetically. This isn’t the simple 1-14 list that everyone else does. We like to be a little different.
Our rankings are based upon how well teams are currently playing, what they’ve accomplished to date, and what we believe each squad’s ceiling to be at this moment.
So without further ado, here are this week’s MrSEC.com Power Rankings:
National Title Contender
None -- Sorry, SEC fans, but any conference team hoping to reach the BCS Championship Game will need a lot of outside help. They might wind up getting it, but there’s no debating the fact that they definitely need it. Your national title contenders right now are the three unbeatens at the top of the BCS standings: Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Longshot National Title Contender
Alabama (9-1, 6-1) – The Tide’s loss to Texas A&M only dropped Nick Saban’s squad to #4 in the BCS and that’s the positive. The negative is that Kirby Smart’s defense has had its share of troubles in the secondary the past few weeks. The four highest passing totals against Bama all season have come in UA’s last four games (203 yards for Tennessee, 209 yards for Mississippi State, 296 yards for LSU and 253 yards for Texas A&M). Both LSU (435) and Texas A&M (418) became the first two Alabama foes all year to roll up more than 282 yards of total offense. Right now, there’s no guarantee if this Bama defense even got to the BCS title game that it could shut down a high-scoring offense as so many previous SEC/BCS champs have done.
Florida (9-1, 7-1) – The Gators are the longest long shot still on our board. First, UF’s offense isn’t improving. Second, QB Jeff Driskel is now banged up. Third, the Gators not only need outside help but they’ll have to beat Florida State with a passing game that’s been pretty much nonexistent for much of the season. Fourth, well, did you see the Houdini act Will Muschamp’s gang had to pull to escape Louisiana-Lafayette in the Swamp on Saturday? Sorry, but Florida’s not playing like a BCS title contender at the moment.
Georgia (9-1, 7-1) — The Bulldogs’ defense is getting better as the year goes on, but they’re doing so against offenses that have been average-to-bad in SEC play (Florida, Ole Miss, and Auburn). And if there are doubts about Alabama’s ability to shutdown Oregon, for example, if the two met, can you picture Georgia slowing the Ducks? Plus, if the Tide needs help to reach Miami, Georgia needs help and it would have to beat Alabama — a team that was undefeated until last Saturday — head-to-head in Atlanta to punch a ticket to BCS title game. There are lot of hoops left for UGA to jump through.
Top 25 Contender
LSU (8-2, 4-2) – Now that Tiger QB Zach Mettenberger is playing like the quarterback most expected him to become, LSU is looking pretty darn strong. It’s too little, too late in terms of the national title hunt, but Les Miles squad can still finish off a very good season in a very good bowl game with an offensive attack that is finally, mercifully two-pronged.
South Carolina (8-2, 6-2) – Well, it’s not what Steve Spurrier and Gamecock fans were hoping for in terms of a follow-up to last year’s breakthrough campaign, but it’ll do. Even if Carolina falls to in-state rival Clemson to end the regular season, there can be no debate over the fact that the Ol’ Ball Coach has changed the course of USC football history. Never again will a Carolina AD have to convince a coach that he can win in Columbia. He can just point to what Spurrier’s done.
Texas A&M (8-2, 5-2) – And the SEC Coach of the Year Award goes to (dramatic pause) Kevin Sumlin. Barring a late-season stumble, Sumlin and the Aggies should rack up a whole slew of postseason awards and honors. As is the case with Georgia above, A&M seems to be getting better as the year rolls on. And no one’s come up with a sure-fire plan to stop QB Johnny Manziel on a week-in, week-out basis. Now, about possibly costing the SEC a shot at its seventh consecutive BCS title…
Bowl Game Contender
Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3) – How quickly can a good season turn bad? Pretty dang quick. MSU hosts Arkansas on Saturday before ending the season at Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Win both and Dan Mullen will once again be hailed as a hero. Lose one (or both) and he’ll hear a whole lot of complaints from Dog fans who got their hopes up after State’s 7-0 start. It’s all about the placement of the cupcakes, of course. Better to start 1-4 and finish 8-4 on a seven-game winning streak than to start 7-0 and finish 8-4 with a 1-4 stretch run. Ask Vandy’s James Franklin who’s schedule has gotten easier down the stretch.
Missouri (5-5, 2-5) – Gary Pinkel’s crew fought back from a 14-point deficit twice last weekend before finally winning in overtime at Tennessee. It was a big win. The Tigers have dates with Syracuse (at home) and Texas A&M (on the road) remaining. A win over the Aggies appears unlikely, so Mizzou’s bowl hopes will likely come down to this weekend’s game with Syracuse.
Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3) – Already bowl eligible, the Commodores can now start working their way into our Top 25 Contender category with a win on Saturday over Tennessee. Interestingly, VU has been bowl eligible three times since 2008 while UT has only gone bowling just twice in that span. When VU’s been eligible, UT hasn’t been and vice versa. If that trend holds — and since Vandy’s already bowl eligible — it looks to be good news for the Commodores on Saturday.
Bottom Floor Contender
Arkansas (4-6, 2-4) – To reach a bowl game this year the Hogs will need to win at Mississippi State and then upset LSU at home on the Friday after Thanksgiving. No, we don’t see that happening. But thanks to Auburn’s complete collapse this season, at least the Razorbacks won’t be SEC cellar-dwellers in 2012.
Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4) – Hugh Freeze has done a darn good job with a Swiss cheese roster, but it’s hard to picture him and the Rebels collecting that one last win to achieve bowl eligibility. Saturday they’re at LSU. Then they close out the season with the Egg Bowl at home. Another win is possible, but now down to just 59 scholarship players (out of a maximum 85), these Rebs have something in common with the old Confederate army — both ran out of bodies in the end.
Auburn (2-8, 0-7) – The Tigers are winless in the SEC and are 2.5 games behind Arkansas and Ole Miss in the West Division. Auburn’s already clinched the West’s basement (as well as Gene Chizik’s walking papers in all likelihood).
Kentucky (1-9, 0-7) – The Wildcats are still winless in SEC play and their coach has already been canned. Whether or not they finish in the East basement will depend on UK’s regular-season finale with Tennessee.
Tennessee (4-6, 0-6) – The Volunteers could still technically reach a bowl but after finding a way to open SEC play 0-6 for the second consecutive year, it’s hard to picture the Vols winning both of their last two games. It’s also hard to imagine Derek Dooley returning to Knoxville next season.