This week's SEC ratings

What's the deal with the Ole Miss Rebels? <P> After squeaking past Vanderbilt (24-21) in their opener, losing to Memphis (44-34) and Texas Tech (49-45) in Games 2 and 4, the Rebels suddenly have become the hottest team in Southeastern Conference football.

The past four weeks they've upset Florida at the Swamp (20-17), pounded Arkansas State (55-0), hammered Alabama (43-28) and whipped a very good Arkansas team (19-7).

Is Ole Miss for real? I don't know. But I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt in this week's SEC ratings. Their early season sins are forgiven. The Rebels have turned things around and now appear to be for real.

Another team that has risen from the ashes is Florida. Since playing three bad games in a row -- a 24-10 homefield loss to Tennesse on Sept. 20, a 24-21 ''gift'' at Kentucky on Sept. 27 and a 20-17 homefield loss to Ole Miss on Oct. 4, the Gators regrouped to post upset wins at LSU (19-7) and at Arkansas (33-28) -- two of the toughest places to play in the SEC. If the Gators can pull another upset this weekend and beat Georgia in Jacksonville, the SEC East will be in a three-way tie among Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Obviously, Florida vs. Georgia is the league's marquee game this week. Another interesting matchup finds South Carolina hoping to slow down the Ole Miss Express Saturday in Oxford. And two dangerous teams who have lost some tough games, Arkansas and Kentucky, collide in Lexington. The rest of the slate is lame -- Tennessee hosting Duke, Auburn hosting Louisiana-Monroe and LSU hosting Louisiana Tech. Alabama, Mississippi State and Vandy are idle.

That said, here's a look at this week's SEC ratings, based on the usual 1-10 scale:

SEC EAST

Georgia 8.5 (Injuries have decimated the Dawgs)
Florida 8.0 (Do Gators have another upset in them?)
Tennessee 7.0 (UT has refined winning ugly to an art form)
S. Carolina 6.5 (Lost big to Georgia 31-7 and LSU 33-7)
Kentucky 5.5 (77 points vs. Ohio U and Miss. State last two weeks)
Vanderbilt 4.0 (Dores have two weeks to prepare for Florida)

SEC WEST

LSU 9.0 (Blew out Auburn 31-7 last weekend) Ole Miss 8.0 (You can't overlook four wins in a row)
Auburn 7.5 (Five-game win streak wiped out by LSU)
Arkansas 6.5 (Hogs are 0-3 after a 4-0 start) Alabama 5.5 (Tide has lost four straight SEC games)
Miss. State 4.5 (Only Vanderbilt is more futile)


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