Ah, the stretch run is here. Teams are jockeying for position. Two teams remain alive in the SEC West. Three teams still have title dreams in the SEC East. And while some squads are boosting their bowl chances (Vanderbilt), others are starting bowl-free holiday right in the face (Florida).
Below are our up-to-date Power Rankings. As always, we break the league’s teams down into four categories. We base our evaluations on what each team has accomplished to date and what we believe their ceiling to be with their remaining schedule. Inside each category, teams are listed alphabetically.
Your official MrSEC.com Power Rankings, everyone…
National Title Contender
Alabama (9-0 overall, 6-0 SEC) – What more needs to be said? Nick Saban’s squad has been improving as the season has worn on and that came to fruition in the second half of last Saturday’s win over LSU. Thumping the Tigers for the game’s final 21 points? Impressive. No offense to Mississippi State, but this year’s Iron Bowl is shaping up to be a dandy.
Auburn (8-1 overall, 5-1 SEC) — Have you heard that this year’s Iron Bowl is shaping up to be a dandy? Auburn has thrown 16 passes in its last two games combined and still scored 80 points. It might be a shootout with Georgia, but the Tigers are clearly the favorites to keep their BCS title hopes alive for another week.
Missouri (9-1 overall, 5-1 SEC) — Things aren’t done and dusted for the Tigers just yet. They’ve got an open date to get their minds and bodies right before one of the most important two-game stretches in school history. First comes a trip to Ole Miss and then a visit from Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. That’s not an easy path. Neither is a date in the SEC title game against Alabama or Auburn should Mizzou navigate November cleanly. But at 9-1, yep, the Tigers are national title contenders. Great work by Gary Pinkel this year.
Top 25 Contender
Georgia (6-3 overall, 4-2 SEC) — Despite all the injuries, Mark Richt’s team still has a slight hope of winning the SEC East against the year. But the Dawgs face Auburn this weekend and then — after a game with Kentucky — they’ll take on a Georgia Tech squad that’s currently 6-3. UGA could finish anywhere from 9-3 in the top 15 to unranked at 7-5.
LSU (7-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) – The Tigers get a much needed open date to lick their wounds after their loss to Bama. Then comes a date with Texas A&M that could mean the difference between an OK season and a dreadful season — 4 losses, egads! — in Tiger fans’ eyes.
Ole Miss (6-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) — Troy at home. Missouri at home. Mississippi State on the road. If the Rebels play their best in the last quarter of the season Hugh Freeze’s young bunch could hit the holidays with a 9-3 record.
South Carolina (7-2 overall, 5-2 SEC) — The Gamecocks will try to take a beakful out of Florida this week and up the pressure on Mizzou in the process. If Carolina wins on Saturday, all they’ll need is for Georgia to lose to Auburn (probable) and for Missouri to stumble at least once (possible). Steve Spurrier’s team could be in the national title picture if not for a last-second upset loss at Tennessee back in October. If not for that game, USC would be 8-1 and on a seven-game roll.
Texas A&M (8-2 overall, 4-2 SEC) — It’s hard to imagine a team with A&M’s offense losing four games, but that could be case for Kevin Sumlin and company. Johnny Manziel has been outstanding and several BCS bowls have to be hoping he and the passionate Aggie fan base behind him can keep themselves in the running for a big-time bowl.
Florida (4-5 overall, 3-4 SEC) — Last Saturday’s home loss to Vandy has Will Muschamp and his team backed up to the wall. The Gators will need to beat Georgia Southern and then steal a game from South Carolina or Florida State in order to avoid their first losing season since Jimmy Carter’s presidency. In all honesty, injury-riddled Florida is more likely to lose to GSU than to upset USC or FSU.
Vanderbilt (5-4 overall, 2-4 SEC) — Florida slipped a slot this week and Vandy jumped one. Fitting since the Commodores won in Gainesville for the first time since 1945 just last weekend. James Franklin’s team looked lost in mid-October, but since then the Dores have beaten Georgia and Florida with a backup quarterback, some good defense and the help of seven turnovers. Credit VU, they’re taking advantage of the breaks they’re getting. That’s what good teams do.
Arkansas (3-7 overall, 0-6 SEC) — Earlier today we pointed out that UA is playing for pride and playing for pride seldom works in the SEC. We don’t suspect it will in this case, either. Next Saturday’s game with Mississippi State will determine which team finishes smack-dab in the cellar of the SEC West.
Kentucky (2-7 overall, 0-5 SEC) — Poor Mark Stoops. His team’s roster just doesn’t have enough SEC talent to compete. Winless in the league so far, the Cats can now try to play spoiler against Vanderbilt (fighting for a bowl), Georgia (fighting for the East title) and Tennessee (fighting for a bowl).
Mississippi State (4-5 overall, 1-4 SEC) — Dak Prescott made a nice show of it last week, playing after the death of his mom. The Bulldogs poured the points on Texas A&M, like just about everyone else the Aggies have faced this year. Next comes Alabama and the season will close with the Egg Bowl. In between there’s a road trip to Arkansas that will determine just how much heat Dan Mullen feels this offseason.
Tennessee (4-6 overall, 1-5 SEC) — The Volunteers are finally through the gauntlet. They’ve faced seven ranked teams in eight games and lost to all but one of them. Now come an open date for healing and games with Vandy and Kentucky for bowl-hoping. Butch Jones says his team has no depth and little speed. True. But are the deep enough and fast enough to stay in front of UK in the SEC East?