SEC Power Rankings: Inaugural Edition

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2009

It has certainly been a wild year in the SEC, where the conference hierarchy changes night in and night out.

In order to get a better grasp of the power structure of this exciting conference, I’ve decided to start issuing a set of weekly SEC Power Rankings. The rankings will typically be released each Tuesday before the first set of SEC games on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

In future weeks, I will include more features, but since this is the first week I figured it would be best just to focus on where each team stands. The first installment is below.

1. LSU (17-4, 5-1)

The Tigers, who are the only SEC team with less than two conference losses, have earned this spot with their recent hot play. LSU has won its last five SEC games, with a loss to Xavier their only blemish during that stretch. A victory at Tennessee last week helped secure the top spot for the Tigers.

2. South Carolina (16-4, 5-2)

The Gamecocks find themselves ahead of their SEC East rivals after winning in Kentucky Saturday. South Carolina may have defeated both Kentucky and Florida in the game’s final seconds, but they won both contests and that’s what counts.

3. Tennessee (13-7, 4-2)
Despite all that has gone wrong in Knoxville, the Vols still have the best NCAA Tournament résumé in SEC, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Tennessee has beaten Florida and South Carolina and its 80-68 defeat of Marquette on Dec. 16 is by far the best nonconference win (the victory over Oklahoma by the enigma that is Arkansas notwithstanding) by an SEC team. The Volunteers could easily find themselves in the No. 1 spot by season’s end.

4. Kentucky (16-6, 5-2)

Yes, I know. They beat Tennessee, at Tennessee, by 18 points. But that’s really all the Wildcats have done in SEC play, as their four other conference wins all come against teams with losing records. Wins against Mississippi State and Florida in the coming weeks would give the Wildcats’ résumé a bit more beef.

5. Florida (18-4, 5-2)

The Gators could easily be higher on this list - frankly, spots one through five are virtually interchangeable right now - but they also lack a marquee conference win. In fact, none of Florida’s five SEC victories has come against an opponent with a winning record.
6. Mississippi (12-9, 3-4)

Mississippi had a huge week last week, defeating Kentucky at home and then beating Mississippi State in Starkville. Their season is still on life support, but the Rebels — who have already played every team above them in these rankings except Tennessee and have yet to face Auburn, Vanderbilt, or Georgia — now have a chance to fight their way back into the SEC race.

7. Mississippi State (14-7, 4-2)

Like Florida, Mississippi State has some work to do to back up its record — the Bulldogs have also failed to defeat an SEC opponent who has a winning conference record. A win at Kentucky tonight would go a long way towards legitimizing this team.

8. Alabama (13-8, 3-4)

The Crimson Tide have been inconsistent at best — they are the only SEC team to defeat LSU this season and yet are the only SEC team to lose to Arkansas this season. Alabama has also yet to win a conference road game.

9. Auburn (13-8, 2-4)

The bottom four of the SEC hasn’t done much right in conference play, and the Auburn Tigers are no exception. They gain the No. 9 spot by virtue of their win over Alabama, but both Arkansas and Vanderbilt could easily be here instead.

10. Arkansas (13-6, 1-5)

Nobody understands the Razorbacks. They are the only team in the country to have defeated Oklahoma, yet hold only a single SEC win. There’s still some time for this team to turn its season around, but Arkansas needs to start winning immediately.

11. Vanderbilt (13-8, 2-5)

The Commodores are a shell of the team they were last season and have really yet to figure out how to replace Shan Foster. In a year with four strong SEC East teams, the Commodores have little margin for error.

12. Georgia (9-12, 0-6)

The Bulldogs are still looking for that elusive first SEC win — and it may not come soon, as their next four games are against LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. Who knows? Maybe another conference tournament run is in the cards.