SEC Ratings, Week 3

Tennessee and Auburn beat higher-ranked league foes over the weekend, further muddling an already muddled Southeastern Conference title chase.

Tennessee's 30-28 defeat of No. 11 Florida might be just the springboard the Vols need to end Georgia's two-year reign as the class of the SEC East. Meanwhile, Auburn's 10-9 defeat of No. 4 LSU gives the Tigers a leg up in the SEC West championship race.

Ole Miss finally cracked the win column, edging Vanderbilt 26-23 in overtime. Everyone else played non-league opponents. Arkansas whipped up on Louisiana-Monroe 42-20, South Carolina spanked South Florida 34-3, Kentucky dumped Indiana 51-32 and Alabama hammered Western Carolina 52-0.

Two more SEC teams were supposed to have easy pickin's over the weekend but didn't. Georgia had to scratch and claw to subdue pesky Marshall 13-3. Meanwhile, Mississippi State suffered a humiliating 9-7 loss to Div. 1-AA Maine. It was the first time Maine had beaten a Div. 1-A team since 1991.

Here are the latest SEC Ratings, based on the usual 1-10 scale:

Auburn 8.5: Carnell Williams (18 carries, 75 yards vs. LSU) could win the Heisman Trophy and be the second-best back on his team. Ronnie Brown (9 carries, 67 yards) is a great back in his own right. If Jason Campbell continues to play as well as he did vs. LSU (16 of 27 for 170 yards), the Tigers should win the West.

Georgia 8.5): Georgia hasn't played impressively yet but the Bulldogs are 3-0. That shows they've learned how to win and EXPECT to win. Until somebody dethrones them, they're still the reigning champs of the SEC East. They'd better hope RB Danny Ware is healthy by the UT game, though.

Tennessee 8.5: Pick your poison: Do you want to try and stop Erik Ainge's pinpoint passing or do you want to try and stop Brent Schaeffer's combination of pass/run skills? The fabulous freshmen are making more believers each week.

Florida 8.0: Don't write off the Gators. They were 12 seconds from beating Tennessee in Knoxville and they have a quarterback (Chris Leak) who is a difference-maker of the first order. This is still a very dangerous team.

LSU 7.5: Until either Marcus Randall or JaMarcus Russell gives the Tigers consistent QB play they're going to continue to struggle. Except for three missed PATs by Oregon State, Nick Saban's crew would be 1-2 and in trouble. LSU still has a great defense but the offense isn't carrying its share of the load.

South Carolina 7.5: Sandwiching one-sided defeats of Vandy and South Florida around a competitive loss to Georgia suggests the Gamecocks are pretty good. Syvelle Newton, subbing for injured Dondial Pinkins, passed for 324 yards vs. South Florida. If he can give the Cocks a consistent passing threat, this team could be a real handful.

Arkansas 7.0: The Razorbacks have trounced two inferior foes and lost a heartbreaker to a Texas team known for underachieving. Basically, Arkansas is still a mystery team.

Alabama 7.0: The Tide won a game but lost star quarterback Brodie Croyle to a season-ending knee injury last weekend. Backup Mark Guillon completed 5 of 7 for 71 yards but he'll find SEC defenses a little stiffer than Western Carolina's.

Ole Miss 5.0: Ethan Flatt completed 21 of 32 passes for 187 yards in his first start since supplanting Michael Spurlock at QB. Still, the Rebs had to rally from 13 points down at home just to beat Vandy in overtime.

Vanderbilt 4.5: The Commodores are a better team than usual but they still show an uncanny knack for losing games at the end. Until they learn to make the clutch plays needed to finish off a win they're doomed to continue losing.

Kentucky 4.5: The Wildcats showed a spark against Indiana as QB Shane Boyd passed for 205 yards and ran for another 130. He's a good fit for the Wildcat offense if he can limit his mistakes. The question is: Can he?

Mississippi State 3.5: Upon hearing the Bulldogs had lost to Maine, one writer attending the UT-Florida game deadpanned, ''I didn't even know Maine had a football team.'' After this debacle, I'm not sure Mississippi State has one.


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