Based upon their performances on-the-field so far this season:
1. Alabama 7-0 (4-0)
For two straight games, now, the Crimson Tide have held off scrappy and resilient SEC foes to stay undefeated. That's the sort of effort that it takes to compete for and win championships. The question is, will the championships being fought for be of the SEC or the national variety? Perhaps both. It is the "Third Saturday in October" this week, but I seriously doubt that this year's edition will make much of an addition to the storied rivalry between the Vawls and Tide (sorry, Oskie). Last week: no. 1 (same).
2. Georgia 6-1 (3-1)
Getting to see the Dawgs up close and between the Hedges was proof enough to me that UGA is the real deal this year. I can't help but think that if the team that showed up against the Commodores had been playing the Crimson Tide, the score of that game would have been different. I'm not saying that the Red and Black would have beaten the slightly-darker-Red and White, but I do think it would have been a much closer game. Vanderbilt had a decent game against Georgia, but they were just a better team. The World's Largest Cocktail Party should be quite interesting, indeed. First, though, it's time to go calling Baton Rouge. Last week: no. 2 (same).
3. Florida 5-1 (3-1)
The Gators had an open week to heal and prepare for... Kentucky? Note to Florida scheduling personnel: get the open date before the World's Largest Cocktail Party, not the schellacking of the Wildcats from the bluegrass. It will be interesting to see whether Florida can muster the offensive production against UK that they did against LSU. Certainly, everyone would agree that LSU is better than UK, right? If so, then should we expect a 60-15 final score? I doubt it. Kentucky showed they could scrap against Alabama (even if they only beat the Pig Sooies by 1), but Florida shouldn't be caught looking ahead (at least, not after the Ole Miss game). Last week: no. 3 (same).
4. LSU 6-1 (3-1)
LSU earned some respect from me this week by gutting one out in Columbia. Throwing South Carolina into the win column helps the Tigers' resume tremendously, and locks them firmly into fourth in my take of the SEC. They host the Georgia Bulldogs this week, and it should be an exciting game. It could also, however, devolve into a Florida-style debacle. After all, Georgia held the Gamecocks to 7, but LSU allowed 17. Will that be the difference in Baton Rouge? Even if they can beat the Dawgs, though, there's still that pesky team with a former head coach that happens to be undefeated still looming on November 8. Last week: no. 4 (same).
5. Vanderbilt 5-2 (3-2)
I went back-and-forth over whether the five-spot should be the Commodores' or the Gamecocks'. Ultimately, I went with the 'Dores because (1) Vanderbilt has a better SEC record than Carolina; (2) Vanderbilt has fewer losses total; (3) Vanderbilt's losses have both been road games, while 2-of-3 of USC's were in Columbia; and (4) Vanderbilt beat South Carolina, for the second year in a row. Though the Commodores lost to the Dawgs this weekend, they discovered that they had an offense, and one that was capable of both running and throwing the ball (114 v. 131 yards respectively). True, this is Vanderbilt's third consecutive game that they've only managed to score 14 points, but 14 against that UGA defense makes me feel a lot better than scoring only 14 against Mississippi State. Surely, surely Duke cannot muster the sort of defensive threat that Georgia did. And if not, that magical number (you know, the one between five and seven) awaits the Commodores. Last week: no. 5 (same).
6. South Carolina 5-3 (2-3)
The Gamecocks hung with LSU, but Les Miles found a way to will his Tigers to victory on the road in Columbia. The Gamecocks get an open date to rest up and prepare for the Vawls' trip to South Cackalacky, and I am sure that Spurrier is going to have them ready to face the Vawls. What an intriguing game that has the potential to be: depending on which Yew Tee team shows up in Neyland Stadium when the Tide rolls into Knoxville, the Gamecocks either have no hope or a great chance. Honestly, I like their chances, because I don't think Tennessee has their act together yet. Last week: no. 6 (same).
7. Kentucky 5-2 (1-2)
A great win for the Wildcats, and their first SEC win of the year. Despite the fact that their record is better than South Carolina, I had to leave them behind the Gamecocks. A trip to Gainesville could be exciting, but it could also get ugly quickly. I do not think that UK is on par with LSU, and the Gators certainly gave the Tigers all they wanted and more. I see a close game, followed by a gradual fade in the second half (a la Vanderbilt, really). Still, I think the Wildcats will get the .500 season to go bowl eligible with games against State, Vandy, and Yew Tee being their most winnable remaining. Last week: no. 7 (same).
8. Ole Miss 3-4 (1-3)
The Rebels' comeback against Alabama fell just short, and they slipped a little further away from their first bowl game in 5 years. It's so easy to pull for this team, though, isn't it? Houston Nutt is as entertaining in Blue and Red as he ever was in Red and White, and you can tell that the Ole Miss faithful appreciate the competitiveness he's brought to their team in his very first year. If Arkansas was coming to Oxford, I'd say victory was a sure thing. Going to Fayetteville, with the Pigs perhaps sensing some vulnerability, means that it's probably more like a toss-up. Including Arkansas, though, the Colonel and his troops still have 4 winnable games: Ark., Auburn, La. Monroe, and Miss. State. Last week: no. 8 (same).
9. Tennessee 3-4 (1-3)
Two turnovers by the Bulldogs helped the Vawls look impressive in the ticker-crawl, but how much improvement has Yew Tee really made? The Big Arnge will certainly get an opportunity to gauge their progress against the incoming Alabama Crimson Tide. I can't see this mistake-prone team getting it done against the best team in the conference. But, then again, Stephens looked a lot more comfortable under center, and it's the Third Saturday in October: anything is possible (not to mention the fact that Fulmer would get to keep his job if he beats 'Bama, right?). Last week: no. 12 (+3).
10. Auburn 4-3 (2-3)
The War-Eagling Tigers had a week to try to pick up the pieces of their plummeting season and prepare for a trip to Morgantown, W. Va. You know, I'm sure when this game was scheduled, it looked to be a marquee match-up that was sure to draw huge attention. Now, sadly, it looks like an opportunity to give a weaker conference a victory over an SEC team. I am really going to hate listening to people talk about how overrated our conference is if the Mountaineers beat the Orange and Blue on national television. At the same time, a win could help the Tigers show some signs of life. Last week: no. 10 (same).
11. Arkansas 3-4 (1-3)
You know your conference is strong when even your weak teams are still 3-4. The Pigs had a great chance to eek out a win on the Bluegrass, but they couldn't get it done. They have another opportunity when the Rebels invade Fayetteville this week. You can see the weekly improvement in this team, but Ole Miss has also had some great games this year. Is this one on television? It could be one of the most entertaining all day. Last week: no. 9 (-2).
12. Mississippi State 2-5 (1-3)
I guess beating Vanderbilt was the Bulldog's upset of the season. They should pick up win number 3 against the Blue Raiders of Middle Teasy this week, but then again, that's the rub when playing Mitsoo: you're "supposed" to win. A win is expected, and a loss will wreck your season quicker than a blocked field goal ending your team's first chance for a bowl in 24 years (sigh). Last week: no. 11 (-1).