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. The Crimson Tide weren't at their most impressive against Ole Miss Saturday -- a recurring theme in the Tide's home games, where they've gone 0-for-3 against huge point spreads -- but it didn't make any difference in the polls, where they picked up the final missing AP first-place vote to become the unanimous No. 1. (It had previously belonged to LSU, more about that in a second.) There are still two holdouts among the 59 Coaches voters. But as has been the case since Week 1, the Tide aren't going anywhere in the polls until/unless they lose a game.
Playing a devil's advocate and maybe the Tide don't deserve quite that much respect. They vaulted to No. 1 on the strength of a blowout of an overrated Michigan team. Then they strengthened their grip after a blowout of a really overrated Arkansas team, and their other three games have pretty much run out the clock. Throw out 2011 and look at this year alone, and it's debatable whether the Tide should be ranked ahead of, say, Texas. The Longhorns are also undefeated and fresh off of a road win over an arguably better team (Oklahoma State) than any team that Alabama has faced this season. Texas also beat Ole Miss more soundly in Oxford than Alabama did in Tuscaloosa. Compare only the data points that both teams have given us in just this season, and it's easy to claim the Tide should be ranked behind the Longhorns -- and maybe even behind teams like
Of course, that also ignores the rather whopping data point that Alabama was the best team in college football last season, is still fielding what might be the most talented top-to-bottom roster and is coached by what might be the best coaching staff in the sport -- meaning that we won't blame pollsters a bit for staying firmly aboard the Tide bandwagon. (The numbers guys aren't disagreeing, either.) If we had a vote, we'd vote Alabama, too.
But until the Tide play better opposition or flex their muscle with a little more conviction against lesser opponents, it's something to think about.
4/3. LSU. To call the Tigers' 38-22 win over FCS Towson a slog would be an insult to your average slog -- this was a superslog, a slog on Super Mario Bros. mushrooms and a codeine overdose. (Remember: This same Towson team found the going rougher back in Week 1 against Kent State.) That 41-3 blowout of Washington still counts for something -- more now than at this time last week, in fact -- and the Tigers deserve enough of the benefit of the doubt to keep them in the top 5 or 6, at least.
But given the scalps on the wall of Oregon (49-0 over Arizona) and Florida State (Clemson), the AP also has it right in docking the Tigers a spot until they prove the past two weeks were a fluke. (No time like the present, with the trip to Gainesville on the docket this week.)
5/5. Georgia. On the basis of last Saturday's 51-44 win over Tennessee, the Bulldog offense is every bit national top-5, SEC championship-caliber; the defense, however, remains far more a work in progress than one with its brand of experience of talent should be. In any case, seeing off the dangerous (if badly defense-deficient) Vols was enough to keep the Bulldogs comfortably in front of No. 6 South Carolina. And speaking of the Gamecocks ...
6/6. South Carolina. ... they needed a half to get going at Kentucky, but it was quite a second half they had once they did: a 31-0 third- and fourth-quarter whitewashing for a comfortable victory. For a team that under Steve Spurrier has had frequent problems finishing games in places like Lexington, Ky., it was an even more encouraging second half than a discouraging first half, and reason enough to keep the Gamecocks ahead of defense-averse West Virginia or turnover-dependent Kansas State.
Of course, with the Bulldogs and Gamecocks colliding Saturday in Columbia, those kinds of arguments will be settled quickly: Winner is a top-5 no brainer; loser takes a tumble.
10/11. Florida. The Gators had the week off, but it was a highly profitable Saturday all the same: Stanford's loss propelled Florida into the AP top 10, where the SEC now makes up fully half of that poll's first 10 teams. The Coaches preferred Texas, however, keeping the Gators just outside at No. 11.
Frankly, both the 'Horns and Gators deserve to be ranked that highly; West Virginia's best win was Saturday's harrowing home escape against Baylor, a far cry from Florida's Texas A&M-Tennessee back-to-back road triumphs or Texas' win in Stillwater. Fortunately, again, the Mountaineers' trip to Austin and the Gators' date with LSU will fix things quickly.
Also Receiving Votes: Anyone who watched Texas A&M destroy Arkansas can't be surprised the Aggies are knocking on the polls' doors, ranking "No. 28" in the AP and "No. 27" in the Coaches. There's a case to be made for them to be even higher, given that the loss to Florida looks explainable and that their three wins have come by an average of 49 points.
At the same time, though, there's no blaming the pollsters for not moving them all the way into the ballot when A&M's two wins over FBS competition have come over teams (SMU, Arkansas) that themselves have yet to defeat an FBS team. Maybe next week.
Oh, and Tennessee is still pulling a tiny handful of AP votes for some reason.