1. LSU (7-0, 4-0): Not even a midseason suspension of three key starters to cause much of a ripple for LSU this season, and there's no reason to think the Tigers won't cruise this week like they have all season.
Last week: 1 (beat Tennessee 38-7). This week: vs. #19 Auburn
2. Alabama (7-0, 4-0): Ole Miss got its licks in early last week and all that did was irritate the Crimson Tide. Too much Trent Richardson for the Rebels and the Volunteers will encounter the same problem.
Last week: 2 (beat Ole Miss 52-7). This week: vs. Tennessee
3. Arkansas (5-1, 1-1): Razorbacks may not be all that happy about playing second fiddle in the SEC West to LSU and Alabama, but it's not a bad place to be right now. Ole miss is in for another long day.
Last week: 3 (IDLE). This week: at Ole Miss
4. South Carolina (6-1, 4-1): Gamecocks are surviving games more than winning them right now and that only figures to continue without Marcus Lattimore to lean on. Carolina can still control its own East Division destiny but it will be a lot tougher now.
Last week: 4 (beat Mississippi State 14-12). This week: IDLE
5. Georgia (5-2, 4-1): Bulldogs are lurking as a major threat in the East Division now, although they need some help. What they can control is beating Florida next week and not letting the Gators play spoiler too early.
Last week: 5 (beat Vanderbilt 33-28). This week: IDLE
6. Auburn (5-2, 2-1): These Tigers have suddenly found a defensive that works, limiting South Carolina and Florida to 19 points combined. Along the way, though, the Auburn offense went missing and that could be a problem.
Last week: 6 (beat Florida 17-6). This week: at #1 LSU
7. Florida (4-3, 2-3): A team may have never needed a week off like the Gators did. They ran through a gauntlet of Alabama, LSU and Auburn and couldn't scratch out much success. Whatever is salvageable from 2011 has to start against Georgia next week.
Last week: 7 (lost to #24 Auburn 17-6). This week: IDLE
8. Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4): A promising season is a distant memory and now the Bulldogs are staring at one or two SEC wins at best unless Dan Mullen and Co. can come up with a much different formula down the stretch.
Last week: 9 (#15 South Carolina 14-12). This week: IDLE
9. Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3): Commodores showed some feistiness against Georgia, but that didn't land them a win. Better start grabbing those whenever they can – and there are some opportunities, starting this week with the Cadets.
Last week: 10 (lost to Georgia 33-28) This week: vs. Army
10. Tennessee (3-3, 0-3): If Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp are truly friends, you have to figure there's some phone calls back and forth trying to figure out how to handle this brutal stretch against LSU and Alabama. Florida didn't fare so well, but maybe Muschamp can suggest something.
Last week: 8 (lost to #1 LSU 38-7). This week: at #2 Alabama
11. Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3): Rebels won't have to worry about the Razorbacks run over them like Alabama did. Bad news is, the Hogs have more firepower than the Crimson Tide and could embarrass Ole Miss worse than Bama did.
Last week: 11 (lost to #2 Alabama52-7). This week: vs. #9 Arkansas
12. Kentucky (2-4, 0-3): Wildcats should count last week as a double-victory. No game meant no blowout and basketball season tipped off, taking a lot of attention from just how bad the football team is.
Last week: 12 (IDLE). This week: vs. Jacksonville State
This week's schedule
Auburn at LSU, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Tennessee at Alabama, 6:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
Arkansas at Ole Miss, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Army at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Jacksonville State at Kentucky, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Game of the week
Auburn at LSU: The only matchup of the week between SEC teams with winning league records became more interesting Wednesday when three LSU starters were suspended. Even then, though, the purple-and-gold Tigers have a huge edge in talent, experience and depth and the added advantage of playing at home all adds up to a long day for AU. LSU will certainly have to adjust, especially on defense where it will play without two very good starters. But losing Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon is balanced by the fact that Auburn will send Clint Moseley out for his first career start at quarterback and his receiving corps is dinged up. That means a lot of Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalleb, which was a great plan with Cam Newton at QB. This time, without the same kind of running threat handling the ball, LSU's rush defense should be able to clamp down and keep Dyer and McCalleb from doing the kind of damage they did last season in complementary roles as part of a 440-yard rushing day that left LSU stunned. Meanwhile, the LSU offense might look a little different without Spencer Ware, but the home Tigers will still feed AU a steady diet of power runs and play-action passes and the Auburn defense – while it has shown some improvement – is suspect against big pass plays.
Around the SEC
A light week around the league doesn't offer many interesting games. The third weekend of October offers the Tennessee-Alabama game of course, but the Volunteers are a long way off from making the rivalry interesting. UT is winless in the SEC and is steadily heading the wrong direction, especially since QB Tyler Bray is out of the action. The Vols still have some explosive ability at the receiver spots, but Alabama will be just as difficult to throw against as LSU was, if not more so. Tennessee allowed 230 second-half yards against LSU, most of that on the ground, so Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy should have field days. … Ole Miss and Arkansas had become a spicier rivalry since Houston Nutt went from Fayetteville to Oxford four years ago, but the two programs have diverged and are headed in vastly different directions now. Arkansas is back in the Top 10 with a pair of impressive victories vs. Texas A&M and Auburn, and just has too much firepower for the Rebels to hang in.
NOTE: Here's how 12 writers from around the SEC, including me, voted in a league-wide power poll.
1. Alabama (7) 139, 2. LSU (6) 137, 3. Arkansas 120, 4. (tie) South Carolina and Auburn 100, 6. Georgia 88, 7. Florida 72, 8. Tennessee 55, 9. Mississippi State 46, 10. Vanderbilt 43, 11. Ole Miss 24, 12. Kentucky 12
Week 8: SEC Power Poll
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