By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 11 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. LSU (10-0) – Coming off a big win over Alabama, it was only natural for the Tigers to have a sluggish first half against Western Kentucky. Although LSU led only 14-7 at halftime, it was never really in danger of losing to the Hilltoppers. The Tigers head to Oxford to take on Ole Miss this Saturday, which is their final regular season road game of 2011. LSU remains in the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title game, but a loss to Ole Miss, Arkansas or in the SEC Championship would cloud the bowl picture.
2. Alabama (9-1) – After a disappointing loss to LSU in Week 10, the Crimson Tide bounced back with a convincing 24-7 victory over Mississippi State. Running back Trent Richardson continued to build an impressive Heisman resume, rushing for 127 yards and one touchdown against the Bulldogs. The defense has suffocated opponents this year, allowing only one team to score more than 13 points (Arkansas). Alabama has an easy game against Georgia Southern this Saturday, before playing at Auburn in the regular season finale.
3. Arkansas (9-1) – The Razorbacks kept their SEC West title hopes alive with a 49-7 victory over Tennessee on Saturday. Arkansas needs a lot of help to win the division, but it has to first win the final two games – Mississippi State and at LSU – to have a shot. Developing balance on offense is going to be critical to pulling the upset against the Tigers in the regular season finale, and the good news for Arkansas was the play of Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo against Tennessee. The duo combined for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
4. Georgia (8-2) – The mission for the Bulldogs is simple on Saturday: Beat Kentucky and clinch a spot in the SEC Championship. Georgia has won eight games in a row, including a 45-7 thrashing of Auburn on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Murray has been stellar this season, breaking Matt Stafford’s school record for touchdown passes with 27 through 10 games. The Bulldogs will be a dangerous opponent for LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game, but they have to care of the Wildcats on Saturday, before focusing on winning the conference championship.
5. South Carolina (8-2) – Without Marcus Lattimore and a sluggish passing attack, it’s no surprise the Gamecocks posted an ugly 17-12 victory over Florida on Saturday. South Carolina’s offense managed only 299 yards, but the defense held the Gators to 12 points and made a key stop in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. The Gamecocks still have hopes of making a return trip to the SEC Championship, but have to hope for a Georgia loss against Kentucky. Considering how much the Wildcats have struggled this season, those chances appear to be slim. South Carolina hosts Citadel this Saturday.
6. Auburn (6-4) – Winning on the road in the SEC has been difficult for the Tigers in 2011. Outside of a 16-13 slugfest against South Carolina, Auburn is winless on the road and has managed only 31 points in three conference losses. The Tigers were easily defeated 45-7 by Georgia on Saturday, which was also their worst loss of 2011. With a handful of young or inexperienced players stepping into key roles, Auburn knew it would have its hands full this season. The Tigers should have no trouble beating Samford on Saturday, before taking on Alabama on Nov. 26.
7. Florida (5-5) – It’s been a disappointing year in Gainesville. Although a new coaching staff and a collection of young players was going to be a difficult mix, most expected Florida to have a better record than 5-5 entering Week 12. The Gators should get bowl eligible with an easy win over Furman this Saturday. However, Florida still has to face Florida State in the finale, which means a 6-6 regular season record is very likely. It’s too early to judge coach Will Muschamp, but 2012 is going to be an important season to show the Gators are headed back in the right direction.
8. Vanderbilt (5-5) – A balanced offense and a swarming defense was more than enough for the Commodores to crush Kentucky 38-8. Running back Zac Stacy continued his march for 1,000 yards, gashing the Wildcats for 135 yards and three scores. Stacy needs just 109 yards in the final two games to get to 1,000. Vanderbilt faces off against Tennessee this Saturday and hopes to reverse its fortune in this series. The Commodores have won only once in the last 28 matchups against the Volunteers. With a win against Tennessee or Wake Forest, Vanderbilt would qualify for a bowl game.
9. Mississippi State (5-5) – The Bulldogs gave Alabama their best shot, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Mississippi State’s offense never got on track, managing only 12 rushing yards, while quarterback Tyler Russell threw for only 110 yards. The seven points scored against the Crimson Tide was the second-lowest output by coach Dan Mullen’s offense this year. The Bulldogs still need one victory to get bowl eligible and head to Arkansas this Saturday, before closing out the year in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
10. Tennessee (4-6) – The Volunteers enter Week 12 with their backs against the wall. Tennessee has to win its final two games in order to reach the postseason, but received a bit of good news on Monday, as quarterback Tyler Bray could return for Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The Volunteers have had the Commodores’ number, winning 27 out of the last 28 matchups between these two teams. If Tennessee can knock off Vanderbilt, it should get by Kentucky to finish with a 6-6 record.
11. Kentucky (4-6) – One week after earning their first SEC victory of the season, the Wildcats turned in a dismal effort in a 38-8 loss to Vanderbilt. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith struggled to find open receivers against a solid Commodore secondary, completing only 15 of 31 throws for 179 yards and one interception. Kentucky’s defense was unable to get stops, allowing Vanderbilt to rush for 203 yards, while quarterback Jordan Rodgers added 207 through the air. The Wildcats still have a shot to get bowl eligible, but they will need to beat Georgia and Tennessee in their final two regular season games.
12. Ole Miss (2-8) – The Rebels’ 2011 campaign somehow got worse on Saturday night. Louisiana Tech upset Ole Miss 27-7 in Oxford, dropping the Rebels to 2-8 overall and winless in their last five games. There’s also another quarterback controversy brewing for this Saturday, as Randall Mackey was pulled in favor of Zack Stoudt. Neither quarterback was particularly impressive, so both may see action on Saturday. Considering LSU and Mississippi State are the final two games for Ole Miss, a 2-10 finish appears very likely.