SEC Power Poll
1. LSU (2-0): The defense got better and, for a pleasant change, was overshadowed by an impressive offensive showing last week. If the Tigers keep making progress on offense – quarterback Jarrett Lee in particular – they’re going to get tougher and tougher to beat. And their edge over Alabama could continue to grow.
Last week: 1 (beat Northwestern State 49-3)
This week: at Mississippi State
2. Alabama (2-0): At some point you have to figure Nick Saban will let his team’s offense spread its wings a little, right? Then again, maybe not, especially with the way the Crimson Tide plays defense – very nastily.
Last week: 2 (beat #23 Penn State 27-11)
This week: vs. North Texas
3. Arkansas (2-0): The Razorbacks’ prolific offense should get another chance to rack up big numbers this week, but the defense might get stretched a little more by Troy. An abrupt change of pace is waiting for the Hogs next week.
Last week: 3 (beat New Mexico 52-3)
This week: vs. Troy
4. South Carolina (2-0): Speaking of prolific offenses, the Gamecocks have proven they can score points with the best of them so far. Gotta wonder when – if? – the defense is ever going to join the party. Better be real soon if USC wants to continue to be an SEC contender.
Last week: 5 (beat Georgia 45-42)
This week: vs. Navy
5. Florida (2-0): Will Muschamp has certainly brought some defensive swagger with him, as the Gators top the SEC in scoring defense and rank no lower than third in the other major categories. But they’ll get a much better barometer this week in the first matchup of former Saban assistants.
Last week: 6 (beat UAB 39-0)
This week: vs. Tennessee
6. Auburn (2-0, 1-0): Somebody forgot to tell the Auburn it was headed toward a dismal season. Not only did AU keep its offense percolating, it also found a little defense when hit had to have it to blunt MSU’s victory bid last week. Another tough test for Auburn this week in ACC country against a Clemson team that had the Cam Newton-led Tigers on the ropes last year.
Last week: 9 (beat Mississippi State 41-34)
This week: at Clemson
7. Tennessee (2-0): Quick – name the only SEC team other than Arkansas churning out more than 300 passing yards a game. It’s the Volunteers with Tyler Bray, the SEC’s top passer through two weeks, in the saddle and zinging Cincinnati for 405 yards last week. Now UT gets to see what it can do against a stingy Florida defense.
Last week: 7 (beat Cincinnati 45-23)
This week: at Florida
8. Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1): A few more inches and the Bulldogs are in a much different spot. But that might’ve also been fool’s gold because Auburn outplayed State most of the day before the late drama. The defense needs a lot of work for MSU to remain in the West Division race.
Last week: 4 (lost at Auburn 41-34)
This week: vs. LSU
9. Georgia (0-2, 0-1): As much as I hate these references, is there a better 0-2 team in the country than the Bulldogs right now? Or a team that’s played a tougher first two weeks? The answer to both is probably no, but that doesn’t do a whole lot for Mark Richt or his increasingly cranky fan base.
Last week: 8 (lost to #12 South Carolina 45-42)
This week: vs. Coastal Carolina
10. Vanderbilt (2-0): For the first time in a while, the Commodores showed me something by not only beating UConn, but surviving a fourth-quarter Huskies’ rally to do so. Vandy hasn’t done anything spectacular yet (except breaking out some sweet new black helmets), but, hey baby steps.
Last week: 12 (beat Connecticut 24-21)
This week: vs. Ole Miss
11. Ole Miss (1-1): Rebels played solid defense and bad offense one week, better offense and shaky defense the next. For the simple reason I can’t figure them out, they stay near the bottom for now. They have a clear shot to creep up this week.
Last week: 10 (beat Southern Illinois 42-24)
This week: at Vanderbilt
12. Kentucky (2-0): OK, close calls against two directional schools aren’t exactly a great primer for a Big East foe that also happens to be a bitter in-state rival. The Wildcats need to find their mojo early against the Cardinals, who aren’t exactly world beaters, either, after losing to Florida International.
Last week: 11 (beat Central Michigan 27-13)
This week: vs. Louisville
This week’s schedule
LSU at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Auburn at Clemson, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Coastal Carolina at Georgia, noon (ESPN3)
Tennessee at Florida, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Navy at South Carolina, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Louisville at Kentucky, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
North Texas at Alabama, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Troy at Arkansas, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Game of the week
Tennessee at Florida: This could dubbed the “Who’s For Real Bowl” this season because so far it’s been hard to tell if the Gators or Vols are ready to push South Carolina in the East Division. We’ll know for sure who the Gamecocks’ biggest challenger is after this one in The Swamp. Florida has reeled off six straight victories against UT, the longest streak by either team in the 40-game series. The Gators have been impressive defensively, allowing only three points in eight quarters, including their first shutout since 2006 last week. Offense has carried the Vols – specifically Bray, who leads the SEC with 349 passing yards a game and has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception. With him pulling the trigger, Tennessee also has the SEC’s top two receivers in Justin Hunter (16 catches, 302 yards, 2 TDs) and Da’Rick Rogers (15 catches, 200 yards, 3 TDs). Florida’s offense has been more ground-oriented on the way to 490 yards a game, with senior running back Chris Rainey, who has been busy, leading the Gators in rushing (198 yards) and receiving (110 yards). In the six-game losing to the Gators, Tennessee has scored 20 or fewer points in each loss. The Vols have dropped three straight meetings in Gainesville after winning there in 2001 and 2003. UT is seeking a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2005-06.
Around the SEC
South Carolina and Navy are playing for the first time since 1988. Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram helped his team rally past Georgia last week with a 68-yard TD run on a fake punt and a 5-yard fumble return for a score. USC also got Antonio Allen’s 25-yard pick-six and a 56-yard interception return from Stephon Gilmore that set up the game-winning points. Carolina tailback rushed for 94 fourth-quarter yards vs. Georgia on the way to a 176-yard outburst. … Auburn has won 14 straight games against Clemson, with the last two games decided in overtime. Last season’s matchup was the first in the regular season since 1971 and this is Auburn’s first trip to Clemson since 1970. The teams have met twice in the Peach/Chick-fil-A Bowl (1997, 2007). AU’s 17-game winning streak is the longest in the country. Auburn receiver Emory Blake has at least one touchdown catch in the last five consecutive games dating back to 2010, the longest streak by an AU player since 1980. … Ole Miss hasn’t won its SEC opener since 2003 when it knocked off Vanderbilt 24-21. The Rebels have won nine of the last 12 games against the Commodores in Nashville, including a 23-7 decision two years ago. Vandy has forced seven turnovers in two games, five interceptions and two fumbles. The Commodores limited UConn to 193 total yards on 65 snaps, the first time Vanderbilt has held a BCS conference foe under 200 yards since 2006 when Ole Miss had only 196. … Arkansas has posted consecutive games with 50 or more points to begin the season – the Razorbacks’ first back-to-back games with at least half a hundred since 1928. A big part of the Hogs’ onslaught has come on special teams with three touchdowns in the kicking game. Troy is winless vs. Arkansas in three tries, but has produced 46 points in the last two meetings in 2007 and 2009.