Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.
LSU/ALABAMA. Back and forth we go. A week after the Tide leapfrogged the Bayou Bengals in the AP poll by the slimmest of margins, LSU's overwhelming defensive performance on the road in Starkville -- and in Thursday night prime-time -- was enough to push them back ahead in the media balloting. Alabama couldn't have been much more dominant than they were in thumping North Texas 41-0 ... but with the game airing on regional pay-per-view, did enough media get a look at it?
In any case, the coaches didn't mind; though the Tigers collected five first-place votes to the Tide's four, Alabama's 38-point margin only shrunk to 29. And it's not like the Tide won't have a chance to surge back in front -- possibly for good -- when they tangle with Arkansas in the league's highest-profile game to-date this Saturday.
SOUTH CAROLINA. It's not an easy trick to fall two spots in one poll and rise one space in the other, but after the Gamecocks' 24-21 escape against Navy, Carolina managed it. Only eight points separate teams 10 through 12 in the media poll, but unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they wound up team No. 12, five points behind Florida State and three more behind Oregon.
On the one hand, the Gamecocks can't complain too much when they struggle so badly with a lesser opponent like the Midshipmen. On the other, the four teams defeated by the Seminoles and Ducks so far this season are ULM, Charleston Southern, Nevada and Missouri State--as strong as the teams FSU and Oregon lost to are, should they really be ranked ahead of an undefeated team with two wins (Navy and Georgia) stronger than any claimed by the two teams in front of them?
The Coaches would seem to agree; the Seminoles dropped to No. 14 and the Gamecocks moved up a slot to No. 11.
ARKANSAS. The poll-vs.-poll debate regarding Florida State also affected the Hogs. With the Coaches dropping the 'Noles to 14, the Hogs got a one-spot bump from 13 to 12; the AP keeping FSU up at No. 11 meant the Hogs likewise stayed at 14. Given the cupcake-laden slate the Hogs have faced thus far (and their struggles with Troy), though, it's hard to argue Arkansas deserves to be any higher.
FLORIDA. No SEC team has made a more consistent charge up the ballots than the Gators, who after their decisive win over Tennessee have reached the No. 15 spot in both polls. But with the 14 teams in front of them all members of the preseason top 15, the Gators may have hit their ceiling until a few more losses open things up. (Which is not to say that's how it should be; having seen off a quality team in the Vols, the same complaints regarding Carolina vs. Oregon and Florida State apply here, too.)
EVERYBODY ELSE. With Auburn falling to Clemson and Mississippi State dismissed so rudely by LSU, the SEC can still claim a full third of the top 15--but after starting the season with eight teams of the polls, those first five teams are now the only ones to still make the top 25 cut. Auburn is the only team even close, ranking "No. 27" in the AP.
And frankly, that's the way it should be. With the Tigers so unimpressive in getting clubbed by their South Carolinian mascot equivalents, the Vols unable to survive the Swamp, and Vanderbilt not yet proven top-25 caliber (though we applaud the 'Dores for picking up a handful of votes in both polls), the next SEC team to make the ballot will have to prove it belongs.