|Odell Beckham Jr.: The Tigers' stranglehold on the top spot remains tight|
1. LSU (10-0, 6-0): The Tigers at half speed for the first half against Western Kentucky were pretty ordinary last week. The Tigers going all out in the second half were the team that has been around most of this season and needs to take the field for 60 minutes the next two weeks for LSU to get where it wants.
Last week: 1 (beat Western Kentucky 42-9). This week: at Ole Miss
2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1): The key for the Crimson Tide: Avoiding any and all field-goal situations from here on out. Kidding aside, the Alabama defense is still rock-solid and Trent Richardson is in a different stratosphere from other college backs.
Last week: 2 (beat Mississippi State 24-7). This week: Georgia Southern
3. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1): With the media basically spent on finding stories to dig up about LSU and Alabama, the Razorbacks have started to climb the ranks as a media darling. Can they handle it with a tricky game against State this week?
Last week: 3 (beat Tennessee 49-7). This week: vs. Mississippi State
4. Georgia (8-2, 6-1): Like Arkansas, the Bulldogs are starting to garner some attention with the head of steam they've built, especially after they crushed Auburn. When healthy, with Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell clicking and with an underrated defense, the Bulldogs are a legitimate threat to gum up the BCS works.
Last week: 4 (beat Auburn 45-7). This week: vs. Kentucky
5. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2): The Gamecocks may wind up being a 10-win team after all, thanks to a stingy defense that is keeping games close. But that won't punch a ticket back to the SEC Championship Game unless Kentucky stuns Georgia.
Last week: 6 (beat Florida 17-12). This week: vs. The Citadel
6. Auburn (6-4, 4-3): It's not a good sign when people start looking up facts about the worst loss for a reigning national champion … for the second time in the same season. AU should get a seventh win this week and will wind up in a low-tier bowl, but this has been a steep tumble.
Last week: 5 (lost to Georgia 45-7). This week: vs. Samford
7. Florida (5-5, 3-5): Speaking of steep tumbles … Did Urban Meyer know when the getting was good or what? He might deserve some blame for this season's debacle in Gainesville, but Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis have some soul searching to do.
Last week: 7 (lost to #13 South Carolina 17-12). This week: vs. Furman
8. Mississippi State (5-5, 1-5): The Bulldogs have played LSU and Alabama closer than anybody in the SEC this season when those two weren't playing each other. That bodes well against Arkansas, especially with the game in Little Rock instead of Fayetteville. State is due for a shocker and it could come this weekend.
Last week: 8 (lost to #4 Alabama 24-7). This week: at #6 Arkansas
|Zac Stacey: Big day in Commodores' romp past against Kentucky|
9. Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5): The Commodores have climbed out of their normal spot in the SEC cellar by stepping on Ole Miss and Kentucky on the way up, beating both by 23 points or more. Vandy has a chance to complete that climb against Tennessee this week.
Last week: 9 (beat Kentucky 38-8) This week: at Tennessee
10. Tennessee (4-6, 0-6): Tyler Bray is back for the Volunteers for the first time since early October, which could be a season-salvaging fact. As bad as UT has been, taking care of business in winnable games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky would land the Vols in a bowl game.
Last week: 10 (lost to #8 Arkansas 49-7). This week: vs. Vanderbilt
11. Kentucky (4-6, 1-5): Just like its' two season-ending foes, Kentucky still has a shot at qualifying for a bowl with a strong finish. But the Wildcats haven't been nearly as competitive in most games like Vanderbilt has, nor do they have a game-changer like Bray.
Last week: 11 (lost to Vanderbilt 38-8). This week: at #13 Georgia
12. Ole Miss (2-8, 0-6): To say the Rebels are limping to the finish line doesn't do limping justice. Ole Miss has jettisoned Houston Nutt, players are getting suspended left and right and of course the losses have piled up.
Last week: 12 (lost to Louisiana Tech 27-7). This week: vs. #1 LSU
This week's schedule
LSU at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
The Citadel at South Carolina, 11 a.m.
Kentucky at Georgia, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Furman at Florida, noon
Samford at Auburn, noon
Georgia Southern at Alabama, noon
Mississippi State at Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game of the week
Mississippi State at Arkansas: The Razorbacks close out their home schedule looking to maintain a shot at a spot in the SEC Championship Game. A loss and wins by LSU and/or Alabama ends those chances. Arkansas is seeking its first unbeaten home season since 1999. In six previous home games, the Hogs have outscored foes 277-87. Arkansas has beaten three teams ranked in the top 15 this season, which matches a program record. The Razorbacks have won nine games in a row at Memorial Stadium. Arkansas has an NCAA-best five kick returns for touchdowns this season, three punts and two kickoffs. The Bulldogs are 2-11 against SEC West foes in Dan Mullen's four seasons, both wins against Ole Miss. MSU lost a 38-31 overtime decision to the Razorbacks last season in a game when the two teams generated 486 and 488 total yards, respectively. That was the Bulldogs' 11th loss in 12 games to the Hogs. Arkansas has scored 38 points or more five times in the last eight games vs. State. Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf, who is expected to be back in action this week, ran 31 times for 103 yards in the loss and passed for 224 yards on 20-of-30 accuracy. Vick Ballard racked up 150 rushing yards on 33 carries.
Around the SEC
|Tyler Bray is poised to return to action after missing five games|
Vanderbilt's offense has produced 74 plays of 12 yards or longer this season. Commodores RB Zac Stacy was the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 135 yards and three touchdowns against Kentucky in a 38-8 win last week. That upped his season rushing total to 891 yards, the most for a Vandy back since 1995. He has produced eight touchdowns in the last five games and nine this season, the most for a Commodores' back since 1974. Sparked by Stacy, Vandy churned out its best offensive day of the season with 407 total yards, 29 first downs (most since 2007) and the 38 points were the most since 2005. The Commodores have rolled up at least 349 yards in each of the last four SEC games. Vandy's defense also held UK without a third-down conversion (0-for-12) and limited the Wildcats to a season-low 32 rushing yards. Vanderbilt finished 5-2 at home this season, its most wins in Nashville since 1982. The flip side is that the Commodores haven't won in three road games. Vandy coach James Franklin's is looking to win six or seven games in his debut season, which hasn't been accomplishes since 1975 when Fred Pancoast guided the Commodores to a 7-4 finish. Tennessee is 72-27-5 against Vandy and has won 27 of the last 28 games, the lone exception in 2005. The Vols are 23-3 against the Commodores in Knoxville since 1961. UT has lost to five teams ranked 15th or higher this season. Vols QB Tyler Bray is expected to play this week after missing the last five games with a broken right thumb. Before the injury, the sophomore has thrown for 1,579 yards and 14 touchdowns, the second-best effort by a UT quarterback in a four-game stretch since Peyton Manning in 1997. In 10 career starts, Bray is averaging 312.5 passing yards and the Vols are 7-3 in those games. … Georgia is seeking a fourth outright East Division championship with a win against Kentucky. The only time the Bulldogs won with a 7-1 record was 2002. Despite their struggles, the Wildcats' defense continues to feature the SEC's top two tacklers in Danny Trevathan (118) and Winston Guy (102). Georgia ranks third in the league with 35.8 points a game, compared to UK's 17 points a game, which is last in the SEC. Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray tops the league with 27 touchdown passes and ranks second in the league with 2,284 passing yards. Despite missing a game due to suspension, freshman Isaiah Crowell is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season. He enters the week with 821 yards. UK is looking for its first win on the road against a ranked SEC foe since 1998 when the Wildcats knocked off No. 21 LSU 39-36. Kentucky has won only four of 31 games against Georgia in Athens, including a 34-27 triumph on the last trip in 2009. The Bulldogs are 25-3 when playing as a ranked team against UK.
NOTE: Here's how 12 writers from around the SEC, including me, voted in a league-wide power poll.
1. LSU (12) 144, 2. Alabama 132, 3. Arkansas 120, 4. Georgia 107, 4. South Carolina 97, 6. Auburn 81, 7. Florida 72, 8. Mississippi State 56, 9. Vanderbilt 55, 10. Tennessee 36, 11. Kentucky 24, 12. Ole Miss 12