By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 8 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (8-0) – The countdown is officially on to Nov. 5. Alabama had a sluggish first half against Tennessee, but pulled away in the final two quarters for a 37-6 victory. Running back Trent Richardson was held under 100 yards by the Volunteers, but still managed to reach the endzone twice. Alabama’s defense has been stellar all season and has held its last three opponents to less than 200 total yards. Although it was not the Crimson Tide’s best performance, their hold on the No. 1 spot in the SEC power rankings is secure.
2. LSU (8-0) – As mentioned previously in our SEC power rankings, if Alabama is No. 1, LSU is No. 1b. There’s not much separation between these two teams, but the much-anticipated matchup in Tuscaloosa is just around the corner. The Tigers handled Auburn 45-10 on Saturday, which was their third consecutive victory of at least 30 points. LSU is expected to get suspended cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware reinstated before the Nov. 5 showdown against Alabama.
3. Arkansas (6-1) – The Razorbacks were heavy favorites against Ole Miss, but the Rebels led at halftime and lost by only five points. Quarterback Tyler Wilson led the way with 232 passing yards, while running back Dennis Johnson ran for 160 yards and one score. Outside of the season finale against LSU, the Razorbacks should be favored to win the rest of their games, starting with Saturday’s contest against Vanderbilt. Arkansas still has SEC West title hopes, but needs Alabama to lose twice and has to beat LSU on Nov. 25.
4. South Carolina (6-1) – Life without Marcus Lattimore begins on Saturday. The Gamecocks are in control of the SEC East, but it’s going to be a challenge to win the division without Lattimore. South Carolina will have to lean on freshman back Brandon Wilds to carry the workload, while quarterback Connor Shaw and the defense will have to step up. The Gamecocks are at Tennessee this Saturday, a team they have beaten two out of the last three tries, but have not won in Knoxville since 2005.
5. Georgia (5-2) – If the Bulldogs want to win the SEC East, a victory on Saturday against Florida is a must. Georgia enters Week 9 riding a five-game winning streak, and Saturday’s matchup against the Gators is the toughest remaining conference game on its schedule. The Bulldogs have not had much success against Florida in recent years, winning only two out of the last 13 matchups. One bit of bad news for Georgia during its off week – safety Shawn Williams and nose guard Kwame Geathers were suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game due to their actions in the win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.
6. Auburn (5-3) – Even with three key LSU players suspended, it was a tall order for Auburn to win in Baton Rouge. Auburn’s 45-10 loss to LSU was its biggest margin of defeat this year and puts its overall record at 5-3 entering Week 9. Clint Moseley got his first start at quarterback against LSU and completed 12 of 20 passes for 145 yards and one interception. Moseley is expected to start in Auburn’s game against Ole Miss this Saturday. The Tigers have won four out of their last six games against the Rebels.
7. Florida (4-3) – Thanks to a much-needed bye week, the Gators should get quarterback John Brantley back under center for Saturday’s game against Georgia. Brantley has missed the last two contests, after suffering an ankle injury in the 38-10 loss to Alabama. The Gators can still win the SEC East, but any comeback has to start with a win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida also needs to beat South Carolina when the two teams meet on Nov. 12.
8. Tennessee (3-4) – A brutal October schedule, combined with a thumb injury to quarterback Tyler Bray, has made life very difficult for the Volunteers. Tennessee is riding a three-game losing streak entering Saturday’s contest against South Carolina. To help provide a spark, the Volunteers have turned the offense over to true freshman quarterback Justin Worley. Tennessee still has a shot to get to a bowl game, but beating an improving Vanderbilt team on Nov. 19 could decide the SEC’s last team into the postseason.
9. Mississippi State (3-4) – The Bulldogs had a bye in Week 8 and return to action on Saturday at Kentucky. Mississippi State is still searching for its first win in SEC play, and needs three more victories to get bowl eligible. The Bulldogs have a favorable path to six wins, especially with Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin and Ole Miss remaining on the schedule. Saturday’s game against the Wildcats will likely see Tyler Russell make his second start at quarterback for Mississippi State.
10. Vanderbilt (4-3) – Running back Zac Stacy gashed Army for 198 yards and three scores, which was more than enough for Vanderbilt to post a 44-21 victory over the Black Knights. Also helping the cause was Jordan Rodgers’ first start at quarterback. The junior threw for 186 yards, while adding 96 more on the ground. The win over Army snapped a three-game losing streak for Vanderbilt and puts it two wins away from reaching a bowl. The Commodores host Arkansas this Saturday.
11. Ole Miss (2-5) – The Rebels showed some signs of life on Saturday, opening up a 17-7 at the half over Arkansas. However, Ole Miss was unable to keep the Razorbacks’ offense in check the full game, eventually losing 29-24. Quarterback Randall Mackey seems to have provided a spark for the Rebels’ offense, totaling 249 yards and three scores in Saturday’s game. There’s no doubt coach Houston Nutt needs wins in order to save his job for 2012. The Rebels travel to Auburn this Saturday, before making a trip to Lexington to play Kentucky on Nov. 5.
12. Kentucky (3-4) – The Wildcats snapped a four-game losing streak on Saturday, defeating Jacksonville State 38-14. Kentucky’s offense has been a sore spot all year, but quarterback Morgan Newton completed 10 of 16 throws for 105 yards and two scores, while running back CoShik Williams ran for 148 yards. While getting a victory is nice, let’s see if Kentucky can build upon that momentum on Saturday against Mississippi State. Neither team has a win in SEC play, but the Wildcats are big underdogs.