By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 12 SEC Power Rankings
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1. LSU (11-0) – Four plays into Saturday’s game against Ole Miss and there was never a doubt about the outcome. Defensive back Ron Brooks picked off Zack Stoudt and returned it 46 yards for a score, effectively ending any chance the Rebels had of pulling the upset. The Tigers are two wins away from playing for the national title. However, the road isn’t going to be easy, as LSU hosts Arkansas this Saturday and assuming it beats the Razorbacks, will take on Georgia in the SEC Championship. Considering the chaos that happened last weekend, a loss to the Razorbacks wouldn’t necessarily knock the Tigers out of national title contention.
2. Alabama (10-1) – Georgia Southern’s option attack was a handful for the Crimson Tide to prepare for in just one week and the results showed. Alabama’s defense allowed a season-high of 21 points and 341 yards to the Eagles. Although the Crimson Tide got a tougher challenge than some may have expected, that wasn’t the biggest news coming out of Tuscaloosa this weekend. With losses by Oregon, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Alabama is back in the national title mix. The Crimson Tide play at Auburn this Saturday and a win could lock in a finish in the top two of the BCS and setup a potential rematch against LSU.
3. Arkansas (10-1) – The Razorbacks have flown under the radar most of the year, but thanks to a shakeup in the BCS standings after Week 12, they are squarely in the mix for the national title. Saturday’s convincing 44-17 victory over Mississippi State moved Arkansas to 10-1, with its only loss coming to Alabama on Sept. 24. While the Razorbacks a riding a seven-game winning streak coming into Friday’s game against LSU, this will easily be their toughest challenge since losing to the Crimson Tide. Needless to say, Arkansas will have to have its best effort of the year to knock off the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
4. Georgia (9-2) – It wasn’t the blowout some predicted, but the Bulldogs defeated Kentucky 19-10 to clinch the SEC East title. Georgia’s offense never seemed to get on track, especially after an injury to running back Isaiah Crowell. However, the defense suffocated Kentucky’s offense in the second half, which was more than enough to clinch the victory. Crowell’s ankle could be an issue for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, but his health figures to be more important for the Dec. 3 SEC title game. The Bulldogs have won nine out of the last 10 meetings against the Yellow Jackets.
5. South Carolina (9-2) – It was a weekend of mixed feelings in Columbia. The good: Saturday’s 41-20 win over The Citadel. The bad: Georgia’s victory over Kentucky eliminated the Gamecocks from winning the SEC East. Although South Carolina can’t play for the conference title, there’s still a chance to win 10 games this season. The Gamecocks host rival Clemson this Saturday and will play in likely one of three bowl games: Cotton, Capital One or Outback.
6. Auburn (7-4) – Samford was probably a little too close for comfort for Auburn fans, but the 35-16 victory helped to erase some of the bad memories of the 45-7 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. Running back Michael Dyer carried the offense, rushing for 157 yards and one touchdown on 30 attempts. The passing attack continues to be a struggle, as Clint Moseley threw for 167 yards and one touchdown on 13 completions. The Tigers have a chance to play spoiler this Saturday in the annual Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama. The Crimson Tide need a win to stay alive in the national title picture, and a loss to Auburn would eliminate any hope of getting a rematch against LSU on Jan. 9.
7. Florida (6-5) – For one quarter, it looked like the Gators were going to fall victim to Furman’s upset bid. However, Florida rallied from a 22-7 deficit with 20 points in the second quarter and eventually won 54-32. Quarterback John Brantley had a solid afternoon, throwing for 329 yards and four scores on 28 attempts. While the offense seemed to click after the first quarter, the effort on defense left a lot to be desired. Florida hosts rival Florida State this Saturday.
8. Tennessee (5-6) – The Volunteers kept their bowl hopes alive with a 27-21 overtime victory over Vanderbilt in Week 12. Quarterback Tyler Bray had missed the five previous games due to a broken thumb, but shook off the rust to complete 16 of 33 throws for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also tossed two picks, with one returned for a touchdown. Although Bray’s performance was critical to Tennessee's win, the rushing attack finally came alive. Senior Tauren Poole rushed for 107 yards and a score on 19 attempts. The Volunteers need to beat Kentucky this Saturday to get win No. 6 and a trip to a bowl game.
9. Vanderbilt (5-6) – Coach James Franklin certainly has this program on the right track, but once again, the Commodores cannot get past Tennessee. With Saturday’s 27-21 defeat in overtime, Vanderbilt has lost 28 out of the last 29 meetings to the Volunteers. The Commodores still have a chance to get bowl eligible, but face a difficult challenge on the road at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons defeated Vanderbilt 34-13 last season in Nashville and the 2011 version is a much-improved team.
10. Mississippi State (5-6) – Arkansas simply had too much firepower for the Bulldogs in Saturday’s 44-17 loss. Mississippi State’s offense never seemed to find a rhythm behind the quarterback carousel of Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre, while running back Vick Ballard was held to 54 yards on 13 attempts. The Bulldogs head into the final week of action with bowl eligibility on the line in the matchup against rival Ole Miss. Mississippi State has won the last two meetings in this series and is a heavy favorite for Saturday’s game.
11. Kentucky (4-7) – The Wildcats gave Georgia a tougher test than some may have expected, leading 10-6 in the second quarter, before losing 19-10. The loss was Kentucky’s seventh of the year, which has eliminated it from bowl contention. This will be the first season since 2005 that the Wildcats will not play in the postseason. Kentucky now turns its attention to Tennessee this Saturday. The Wildcats have not defeated the Volunteers since 1984, and the odds are not in their favor of snapping that streak this season.
12. Ole Miss (2-9) – The final chapter in the disappointing Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss provides a chance to play spoiler. The Rebels are heavy underdogs in the annual Egg Bowl matchup against rival Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have won three out of the last four in this series and need a win to get bowl eligible. While the Rebels have a six-game losing streak and have not won in SEC play this year, a rivalry like the Egg Bowl can bring out the best in a losing team.