This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
1/1. Alabama. When the Crimson Tide kicked off their last national championship defense in 2010, they were given the honor of staying at the No. 1 spot in the preseason. No such courtesy was extended in 2012, even though this edition of the Tide returns far more defensive experience than 2010's and boasts a definitively superior offensive line.
As it turned out, it took Nick Saban's team just one week to force what they'll feel like is a correction, bludgeoning Michigan in the young college football season's most impressive performance so far. Their reward: 82 of a possible 118 first-place votes and the little "1" beside their team name in every televised score update for at least the next couple of weeks.
3/3. LSU. Les Miles's Tigers seemed headed toward the AP preseason No. 1 ranking before the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu and building hype surrounding USC and Alabama dropped them to No. 3 in the preseason media poll. That's where they stayed after Saturday's 41-14 win over North Texas. The coaches were kinder in the preseason, ranking the Tigers No. 1, but even that was short-lived; both the Tide and Trojans leapfrogged LSU after the Trojans' 49-10 victory over Hawaii.
There's certainly an argument to be made for both Alabama and USC to be ranked above LSU, but it's odd to see the coaches' minds change so forcefully. Is trouncing Hawaii all that different from trouncing North Texas, especially given the massive distraction (and lost practice time) from Hurricane Isaac? If there's any good news for LSU, it's that the margin between the Tigers and Trojans -- 23 points in the coaches poll -- is slim enough that they could move back to No. 2 with a dominating performance Saturday against Washington.
7/7. Georgia. The Bulldogs slipped one spot in both polls, falling behind previous No. 7
8/10. Arkansas. The Razorbacks benefited from Michigan's pratfall and South Carolina's struggles with Vanderbilt to leap past both teams into the media's No. 8 spot. The coaches had other ideas, keeping the Gamecocks static and promoting impressive West Virginia instead. Frankly speaking, it's the coaches who have things right: The revamped Hogs defense didn't look any more top-10-caliber against FCS Jacksonville State -- whom the Hogs eventually saw off 49-24 -- than did South Carolina's sputtering offense. Given that the Gamecocks (and Mountaineers) were facing substantially greater Week 1 competition, they deserve the higher slots.
T-9/9. South Carolina. The Gamecocks hung on to their preseason No. 9 ranking after their escape from Nashville, but just barely -- they finished tied with West Virginia in the AP and only narrowly ahead of Arkansas in the coaches poll. Keeping them steady is justifiable, given that few teams behind them posted victories of any better quality than one coming on the road vs. the dogged Commodores. New No. 12 Clemson, seven-point neutral-site victors over Auburn, might be the exception. A strong outing by the Gamecocks at home vs. East Carolina on Saturday is likely necessary to maintain this perch another week.
24/23. Florida. Here's a case where the pollsters are just flat wrong. In what way was the Gators' immensely frustrating home victory over Bowling Green more deserving of a ranking than Tennessee's explosive performance vs. a quality N.C. State squad in Atlanta, or BYU's blowout win over Washington State? Why do the coaches still prefer the Gators to a Louisville team that completely dominated its rival from Kentucky on Saturday?
Beat Texas A&M Saturday, and then the Gators will be deserving of a ranking. Until then, the votes they received this week should have gone elsewhere.
Also receiving votes: As documented above and elsewhere at the Eye on CFB, Tennessee did more than enough to earn an appearance in the polls against the Wolfpack; as is, they're "No. 27" in the AP and "No. 29" in the coaches poll, well back of making the poll in either ballot. Not good, pollsters.
Missouri, Texas A&M and Auburn received a smattering of votes in both polls; Mississippi State picked up one stray vote in the AP, with Vanderbilt surprisingly earning a token nod in the coaches Top 25.