SEC Ratings

Alabama and Florida took another step each toward their showdown in the SEC Championship Game with victories last weekend, although the Gators' step was a little more tentative than the Tide's.

I still think the 10-0 Tide is a half-step better than the 10-0 Gators, which is why I continue to have Bama ranked ahead of Florida in my weekly SEC Ratings.

That said, here are this week's rankings:

1. ALABAMA (9.5): The Tide (10-0 overall, 7-0 SEC) outgained Mississippi State 444-213 in total yards on its way to a 31-3 pasting of the Bulldogs. Greg McElroy completed 13 of 18 passes, with TD strikes of 45 yards to Darius Hanks and 48 yards to Julio Jones. Mark Ingram added another big-play score on a 70-yard run en route to 149 rushing yards. Nick Saban has achieved the first back-to-back 10-win seasons of his coaching career.

2. FLORIDA (9.5): The Gators (10-0, 8-0) notched their 20th consecutive victory but struggled mightily before subduing South Carolina 24-14. Florida led just 17-14 before adding an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tim Tebow completed 14 of 25 passes for 199 yards, with Riley Cooper (3 catches, 112 yards, 68-yard TD) being his preferred target.

3. LSU (8.0): The Tigers (8-2, 4-2) found life after tailback Charles Scott more difficult than expected, having to rally from a 13-10 halftime deficit to trim Louisiana Tech 24-16. Keiland Williams filled in for Scott with 15 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. With Jordan Jefferson slowed by a sprained ankle, Jarrett Lee filled in at quarterback, completing just 7 of 22 attempts for 105 yards and being sacked five times. Les Miles' team has now won its last 23 games against non-conference foes.

4. OLE MISS (8.0): The Rebels (7-3, 3-3) finally discovered that Dexter McCluster is one of America's premier weapons, which he proved conclusively by piling up 324 all-purpose yards (282 rushing, 42 receiving) in the Rebels 42-17 pasting of Tennessee. One can only imagine what Ole Miss' record would be if Houston Nutt had been feeding McCluster the ball all season. For instance, DM carried six times for 15 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards in a 22-3 loss to Bama on Oct. 10.

5. TENNESSEE (7.5): As noted above, the Vols (5-5, 2-4) had no answer for Dexter McCluster, who ran over, under, around and through them all afternoon in Oxford. Perhaps the Vols were due a bad outing after playing exceptionally well vs. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Memphis the previous four games and having three freshmen arrested two days earlier.

6. ARKANSAS (7.5): The Razorbacks (6-4, 2-4) gave head coach Bobby Petrino his first three-game winning streak by hammering Troy 56-20. Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett completed 23 of 30 passes for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns but the Hogs also surrendered 338 passing yards.

7. GEORGIA (7.5): Mark Richt's Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3) won the turnover battle for the first time all season en route to a 31-24 defeat of visiting Auburn. Blair Walsh booted a 51-yard field goal and Joe Cox completed 9 of 17 passes for 173 yards. Caleb King (10 carries, 66 yards) scored two clutch TDs in the fourth quarter to lift Georgia to victory. On a negative note, star wideout A.J. Green suffered a sprained shoulder.

8. AUBURN (7.5): Gene Chizik's Tigers (7-4, 3-4) grabbed a 14-0 first-quarter lead and appeared headed for an easy win at Georgia. Auburn imploded thereafter, however, allowing the Dawgs to rally for a 31-24 victory. Chris Todd completed 20 of 28 passes for 238 yards but Ben Tate was limited to 67 yards on 20 rushes.

9. SOUTH CAROLINA (7.0): The Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5) suffered a heartbreaking home-field loss to top-ranked Florida by a 24-14 score. The Cocks trailed just 17-14 and were driving for the go-ahead score when Stephen Garcia was intercepted by Gator defensive end Justin Trattou, whose 53-yard return set up the clinching touchdown. Garcia finished 17 of 32 for 186 yards. Carolina posted more first downs (18 to 17), despite managing just 247 yards of total offense.

10. MISSISSIPPI STATE (7.0): Dan Mullen's Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4) gave Alabama a test for three quarters before wilting and suffering a 31-3 loss. Tyson Lee completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards with two interceptions. Anthony Dixon produced 88 rushing yards (on 22 carries) and 59 receiving yards (on 6 catches). The Bulldogs converted on just 2 of 13 third-down tries.

11. KENTUCKY (6.0): The Wildcats (6-4, 2-4) became bowl eligible for the fourth year in succession by beating homestanding Vanderbilt 24-13. Derrick Locke (144) and Randall Cobb (99) combined for 243 rushing yards as UK outgained Vandy 308 to 82 on the ground. Former starting QB Mike Hartline saw some spot action for the first time since injuring his knee a month ago but completed just 2 of 6 passes with an interception.

12. VANDERBILT (5.5): The Commodores (2-9, 0-7) managed just 31 second-half yards, allowing a 13-10 halftime lead to turn into a 24-13 home-field loss to Kentucky. Mackenzi Adams completed just 11 of 24 passes for 127 yards. On a positive note, Vandy's 10th-ranked pass defense registered two interceptions.

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