Posted: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013
One of the things you notice when participating in a poll of this sort is that over time it takes on the look of a giant flow chart. A power poll ballot is really just the result of a series of if/then statements playing out over the course of 14 weeks. While I'm not going to try to map it all out, I can say that a pretty large portion of the possible outcomes became less likely (though not impossible) this weekend solely because Georgia beat LSU in Athens. Among the now more remote possibilities are the following:
That South Carolina will pass Georgia in this poll. Connor Shaw is currently soldiering through the schedule with his habitually banged up shoulder, and while Gamecock fans shouldn't write off their team just yet, LSU beating Georgia was probably their best shot to get even with the Bulldogs in the loss column. While Georgia is always a threat to lose to Florida, and kicking off against Missouri in a couple of weeks at noon looks like the trappiest of trap games, the odds of the Bulldogs losing two SEC games at this point while the Gamecocks win out in SEC play are not great.
That LSU will pass Alabama and Texas A&M.; The Tide will be prohibitive favorites from here to Atlanta in the first week of December. Texas A&M; is following the Georgia plan, namely outscore errbody. LSU beating both of them at this point isn't out of the realm of possibility, but beating both of them looks like a long shot.
While there now appears to be a pretty clear pecking order at the top, the middle and bottom of the poll are still a flaming wagon wheel rolling across the Southland with no apparent rhyme or reason, setting things on fire with a random and tragic glory. Oh, college football, if you ever become logical I may stop watching. But I know that ain't about to happen. At any rate here's how I ranked them, and as usual, I urge you to bring me to my senses in the comments below:
1. Alabama. Poll voters have been asking the Alabama defense to go out and dominate a quality SEC opponent. In the Tide's 25-0 skunking of Ole Miss, they did. The Tide have not been a complete football team this season, but they've demonstrated that all the components are there for them to become one as the season progresses. No one lese on this list can plausibly say that at this point.
2. Georgia. I cannot believe I am doing this. Really, it scares me to rank the Red and Black this close to the peak of the conference because, barring a run through the remainder of their schedule and a third time's the charm win in the Georgia Dome in December, there's nowhere to go but down.
The 'Dawgs have played exceptional offensive football and inconsistent to bad defense. If that continues, they will in fact proceed down toward the middle of the pack. The question is whether any of the teams below them can catch the Classic City Canines before that young defense improves to the point of being a mere weak sister to the offense rather than an outright systemic liability.
3. Texas A&M.; Defense ain't there. Don't care. LSU on November 23rd and Missouri on November 30th may be the only two teams left on the schedule with any hope of going score for score with the Aggies.
4. LSU. The Bayou Bengals proved over the weekend that they are at worst the most vulnerable of the four elite teams at the top of the SEC. While the teams above them all have question marks, the squads below them have many more and the answers don't look as promising.
5. South Carolina. It's okay Gamecock fans. As a Georgia Bulldog I really have no right to talk smack about anyone struggling with Central Florida. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking it.
6. Florida. Tyler Murphy looked at least okay against Kentucky, and the defense has looked as good as any in the SEC, and better than most.
7. Ole Miss. To be fair, the Ole Miss defense did a pretty good job against the Bama offense, better than anyone else has done to this point. But Hugh Freeze's offense looks a little more like a cut rate version of Gus Malzahn's every week.
8. Missouri. Five weeks into the season I keep checking the SEC score updates for Missouri and have yet to see them. Are we sure they didn't go back to the Big XII without telling anyone? (Missouri will finally play an SEC contest this week against Vandy).
9. Auburn. At this point I know the top four teams on this list are very good. The next four are the ones I'm not quite sure about. This is the point in the ballot at which I am pretty sure that the group just isn't very good. In Auburn's case, it's lack of familiarity with the new system, youth in key positions, and a need to build depth on a roster stocked with blue chip prospects who never really developed under Gene Chizik. In other words, Auburn's problems are correctable, just not this year. So there's that, Auburn fans.
10. Vanderbilt. Looked a helluva lot better against UAB than they did against UMass.
11. Arkansas. Scored 33 on the Aggies in an effort that Bret Bielema probably would have liked to have seen last week during their trip to Rutgers.
12. Mississippi State. Don't think they will score 62 on LSU this weekend the way they did on Troy before their recent bye week. I'm pretty sure that Dan Mullen's squad has the makings of a decent offensive football team, but their ceiling just isn't very high.
13. Kentucky. I find myself trying to decide whether beating South Alabama 31-24 is worse than losing to Florida 24-7. Ultimately no one really winsin that kind of comparison.
14. Tennessee. Sure they jumped out to a big lead over South Alabama. Sure, they eventually won. But in legal circles we have a vehicle called "punitive damages." Punitive damages are distinguished from "compensatory damages" in that, as the names imply, the latter compensates the plaintiff for what he lost, while the former punishes the defendant for what he did. This Kanagroo Court finds that stumbling around late into the fourth quarter against a school which hadn't even played a football game when Lane Kiffin took the reins on Rocky Top is grounds for an award of punitive power polling. See also Arkansas v. Rutgers, 2013.
Until later . . .