SEC a top-heavy league

Southeastern Conference football in 2009 featured two great teams and a bunch of half-decent teams. That became obvious in October, when Ole Miss failed to live up to its preseason hype.

It became even more obvious as the season wore on. In my final SEC Ratings of the regular season (posted before the SEC Championship Game) I listed Alabama No. 1 and Florida No. 2, with each program getting a 9.5 mark on a 1-10 scale. No other SEC team got more than an 8.0.

With only the BCS Championship Game remaining to be played, the bowl season has merely underscored the top-heavy nature of SEC football in 2009. The Crimson Tide and Gators were outstanding; everyone else in the league was about as up-and-down as a high-rise elevator.

Florida proved itself worthy of a 9.5 rating by dismantling third-ranked and previously unbeaten Cincinnati 51-10 in Tim Tebow's collegiate finale. The Gators didn't always play up to their potential in the just-completed season but they sure could put a bunch of talented players on the field.

Bama still must play Texas in the BCS Championship Game but I think the Tide proved itself worthy of its 9.5 ranking with its dominating performance vs. Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

As noted earlier, there was a noticeable drop-off after Alabama and Florida - a fact bowl play made painfully obvious.

LSU's offensive inconsistencies doomed it in a 19-17 Capital One Bowl loss to Penn State. There's plenty of talent on the roster, however, and a more experienced Jordan Jefferson at quarterback should enable the Tigers to be better in 2010.

Arkansas, which made tremendous progress from September through November, looked a little lost against East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl but managed to eke out a 20-17 win. With more help for rifle-armed Ryan Mallett, the Razorbacks should contend for the SEC West title in 2010.

Auburn, explosive on offense and erratic on defense, showed both sides of its split personality in a 38-35 overtime defeat of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Since the defense can't be much worse in 2010 than it was in 2009, Gene Chizik's Tigers should be improved next fall.

Ole Miss, the SEC's ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde team, finished off a disappointing season with a sloppy 21-7 defeat of Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Junior QB Jevan Snead is mulling a jump to the NFL, even though he played erratically in 2009.

Georgia's defensive deficiencies didn't matter in a 44-20 Independence Bowl defeat of Texas A&M because it was facing an Aggie team with even greater defensive woes. Still, the Dawgs look a little unsettled right now.

Kentucky has settled in as a 7- to 8-win team - good by Lexington standards - and played at that level in a 21-13 Music City Bowl loss to Clemson. With Rich Brooks apparently ready to hand the reins to Joker Phillips, the Big Blue's future is somewhat muddled.

South Carolina was a no-show in its 20-7 loss to UConn in the Bowl. The Gamecocks seem to be spinning their wheels.

Tennessee played a good first half against Virginia Tech, then was dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage en route to a 37-14 Chick fil-A Bowl loss. Minus a glut of departing seniors - plus junior superstar Eric Berry - the Vols have a lot of holes to fill in 2010.

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