SEC Power Poll
1. LSU (1-0): Thanks mostly to defense and special teams, the Tigers made a huge statement about belonging in any discussion about teams in contention for the national championship by manhandling Oregon in the weekend’s marquee game.
Last week: 1 (beat #3 Oregon 40-27)
This week: vs. Northwestern State
2. Alabama (1-0): After a ho-hum season opener, the Crimson Tide is in for a much tougher test in a stadium that could challenge SEC venues for toughness. Does JoePa have one last major upset left in him?
Last week: 2 (beat Kent State 48-7)
This week: at Penn State
3. Arkansas (1-0): The Hogs aren’t exactly lining up a murderers’ row of non-conference competition, and this week’s tuneup with the lowly Lobos is more fodder for a more rugged stretch of the schedule.
Last week: 3 (beat Missouri State 51-7)
This week: vs. New Mexico
4. Mississippi State (1-0): Memphis didn’t give the Bulldogs many answers but the next two games at home – Auburn and LSU in a six-day span – will be a pretty good litmus test to see if State is for real in 2011.
Last week: 5 (beat Memphis 59-14)
This week: at Auburn
5. South Carolina (1-0): Who knew the Gamecocks had this kind of firepower and this lack of defense? USC will need to find a happier medium this week on the road against a Georgia team desperate to avoid 0-2.
Last week: 4 (beat East Carolina 56-37)
This week: at Georgia
6. Florida (1-0): Will Muschamp got his first win in-state and will rack up No. 2 this week near where his coaching star began to shine. That means another week of not knowing exactly what kind of team the Gators will be.
Last week: 7 (beat Florida Atlantic 41-3)
This week: vs. UAB
7. Tennessee (1-0): Pretty solid start for Volunteers and now they have an interesting cross-sectional showdown with Cincinnati. For Tennessee to be a real factor in the SEC East this season, beating the Bearcats this week is a must.
Last week: 9 (beat Montana 42-16)
This week: vs. Cincinnati
8. Georgia (0-1): There probably shouldn’t much shame in losing to a top-10 team, but the Bulldogs really needed to get off on the right foot. Knocking off South Carolina this week in Athens would certainly ease some of the pain.
Last week: 6 (lost to #5 Boise State 35-14)
This week: South Carolina
9. Auburn (1-0): Even with the stirring comeback win, AU’s opener revealed all kinds of red flags for a team that lost more than just Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Utah State may be a surprise team this season, but no way should the Aggies have almost beaten the Tigers.
Last week: 8 (beat Utah State 42-38)
This week: at Mississippi State
10. Ole Miss (0-1): Rebels coughed up a second-half lead against BYU, but at showed some semblance of defense in the loss and that’s more than could be said last season. The Ole Miss offense can’t afford the loss of Brandon Bolden long-term.
Last week: 11 (lost to BYU 14-13)
This week: vs. Southern Illinois
11. Kentucky (1-0): Sort of like Auburn, Kentucky shouldn’t feel all that great about its win against in-state WKU. The Wildcats have survived respectability the last several years with an effective offense. Are those days over?
Last week: 10 (beat Western Kentucky 14-3)
This week: vs. Central Michigan
12. Vanderbilt (1-0): This just seems like the right place for Vanderbilt until the Commodores prove they don’t belong. Nice win against Elon, but UConn figures to put Vandy to a much different test this week.
Last week: 12 (beat Elon 45-14)
This week: vs. Connecticut
This week’s schedule
Northwestern State (1-0) at LSU (1-0), 7 p.m.
Central Michigan (0-1) at Kentucky (1-0), 11 a.m.
Mississippi State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0), 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Cincinnati (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0), 2:30 p.m.
Alabama (1-0) at Penn State (1-0), 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
South Carolina (1-0) at Georgia (1-0), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Southern Illinois (1-0) at Ole Miss (0-1), 5 p.m.
New Mexico (0-1) at Arkansas (1-0), 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
UAB at Florida (1-0), 6 p.m. (FSN)
Connecticut (1-0) at Vanderbilt (1-0), 6:30 p.m.
Game of the week
No. 2 Alabama at Penn State: On a weekend when the league season kicks off with a pair of divisional games with long-reaching impact, the Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions take center stage. This is Alabama’s first visit to Happy Valley since 1989 when it escaped with a 17-16 victory. Penn State coach Joe Paterno has been involved in all 14 previous meetings with the Tide, the last 13 as the head coach. He is 4-9 vs. Bama and can thank the Tide for having at least one less national championship to his credit. The Lions opened impressively last week. …, but that doesn’t stack up with Alabama’s 49-7 rout of Kent State. The Golden Flashes finished with -9 rushing yards, the second straight opponent that couldn’t crack positive yards on the ground against the Tide. In Nick Saban’s 55-game tenure in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has held foes under 100 yards rushing 33 times. Saban is 3-3 against Penn State after a 24-3 triumph last season at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Around the SEC
Two key SEC games are on the docket this weekend – Mississippi State at Auburn and South Carolina at Georgia. The Bulldogs get their first chance to make a statement and perhaps chip away at whatever façade Auburn has left after a close-call victory against Utah State last week. AU owns the longest win streak in the country at 16 games and has won nine of the last 10 meetings with State, last season by only three points. Utah State rolled up 27 first downs and 448 total yards last week and the Bulldogs are coming off a school-record 645 yards and their most points since 1950. That doesn’t shape up well for AU. In Athens, Georgia is desperate for something – anything – good to happen to take some heat off Mark Richt. The Bulldogs have won 13 of 19 games against Carolina since the Gamecocks joined the SEC, but lost a 17-6 decision last season when Marcus Lattimore slashed his way to 182 yards. UGa QB Aaron Murray passed for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week but needs to do even more this week against a Gamecocks’ defense that allowed 37 points last week to East Carolina. The only other games of real interest pit the league’s two Volunteer state teams against the Big East Conference’s last two regular-season champions – Tennessee entertains Cincinnati and Vanderbilt is at home against Connecticut. The Commodores lost to the BCS-bound Huskies 40-21 last season in Storrs, Conn. Tennessee is looking for a 2-0 start for the first time since 2006 and would also stretch its regular-season winning streak to six games, which would be the longest since 2003-04.