I finally cracked: After a couple weeks of verbal abuse from people wondering why I didn't have Vanderbilt in my top 25, I'm giving them their full props with a #16 ranking this week after a gosh-darn exciting game against Auburn. If the 'Dores go out and lose to Mississippi State this week, I'm tracking down where each and every last one of you live and I'm slashing your tires.
Games watched: First half of Cincinnati-Marshall, Florida-Arkansas, bits of Georgia Tech-Duke, about half of Alabama-Kentucky, Vanderbilt-Auburn, enough of Virginia-Maryland to be completely gobsmacked, a little bit of Missouri-Nebraska.
Waiting room: Michigan State, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Boston College, California.
Dropped out: Ole Miss (18), Oregon (19), Auburn (20), Fresno State (22).
· After last week's chaos, there's comparatively little movement in the top 10 this time around, other than Texas Tech entering the Champagne Room after stomping Kansas State and a minor chair-swap between Penn State and LSU (mainly because LSU's one marquee win thus far, at Auburn, has already lost quite a bit of its tantalizing new-car smell).
· Vanderbilt, of course, makes the immediate jump from unranked to #16, but another big riser is Boise State -- not that I was that impressed with their shellacking of Louisiana Tech last Thursday, but a whole bunch of teams above them lost, so.
· Wisconsin drops two spots for losing a close one to Ohio State, while South Florida plummets to #22 by virtue of losing to a Dave Wannstedt team (and of not having any other particularly impressive performances on their '08 résumé, other than a looking-flukier-by-the-second three-point win over Kansas a few weeks back).
· Ole Miss and Fresno State both lost to unranked teams at home on Saturday, so buh-bye, Ole Miss and Fresno State. Oregon got a prison-shower pounding from a Southern Cal team that just lost to Oregon State, so out you go, Oregon, who by the infallible logic of comparative scores should be a 40-point underdog to the Beavers when they meet at the end of the season. The last team to get bounced out is Auburn, a talented team undone by the kind of clueless coaching staff that thinks it's a good idea to favor the pass by a 2-to-1 margin even when Chris Todd and Kodi Burns are the ones throwing the passes. The "Spread Eagle" is quickly reverting from double-entendre back to single-entendre status.
· Taking the places of these worthless losers: Vandy, obvs; Illinois, after laying waste to what was sort of maybe kinda supposed to still be a decent Michigan D; North Carolina, who stands as good a chance of winning the rancid ACC as anyone at this point; and Georgia Tech, ditto, despite having such a small supply of the magical pixie dust that allows people to catch Jaybo Shaw's passes that they had to use it all on one receiver against Duke.
Aaaand the SEC Power Poll ballot:
1. Alabama -- Everyone should've seen the inevitable too-close-for-comfort game against Kentucky coming, but last year's team would've found a way to lose that game. This one didn't.
2. LSU -- Their defense has been a little less than confidence-inspiring over the past couple weeks, but it's still a real stretch to think that this is the team against whom Tim Tebow and the Gators are finally going to have their offensive breakout game, particularly considering that the Tigers have had a week to rest up for them.
3. Georgia -- I should be laughing my ass off about what's going on at Tennessee right now, but I can't because a) our team looks like a M*A*S*H unit at the moment and b) I still have vivid Vietnam flashbacks about what the Vols did to us last year.
4. Florida -- Took a while to get it in gear against one of the country's worst defenses; nearly half their yards against Arkansas came in the fourth quarter. The defense also let Michael Smith, who quite conspicuously is not Darren McFadden or Felix Jones, run all over them.
5. Vanderbilt -- Undefeated, ranked, and finding ways to win the games that previous Vandy teams would've given away. Get ready to hear the pundits start conjecturing about whom Vandy's gonna get paired with in their bowl game, 'cause the only thing standing between the 'Dores and a sixth win is Mississippi State.
6. Kentucky -- Even taking into account the post-Georgia loss of focus Alabama was destined to go through, Kentucky played the Tide impressively close. Like Vanderbilt, this is a team that's imperfect in a lot of ways but still one that opponents underestimate at their peril.
7. South Carolina -- Played easily their most impressive game of the season against Ole Miss and came away with their first SEC win. Spurrier may have a man-crush on Stephen Garcia, but it looks like Smelley's his guy until further notice.
8. Ole Miss -- Gave away multiple leads at home against the Gamecocks. Was this just a predictable post-Florida letdown or a sign of defensive breakdowns to come?
9. Auburn -- Supposedly this was the week the Tigers were going to get back to basics and run the ball more. So why did they switch to favoring the pass by a 2-to-1 margin once Vandy had a mere one-point lead? I can't believe I'm channeling Donald Rumsfeld here, but at some point Tony Franklin is going to have to realize that you go to war with the offensive roster you have, not the offensive roster you might wish to have at a later time.
10. Tennessee -- Congratulations, Vols: After a month fraught with controversy and embarrassing losses, you have proven you can hold your own in the Mid-American Conference. (OK, so I can laugh a little.)
11. Mississippi State -- Had one of their best offensive performances of the season this past Saturday.
12. Arkansas -- Appear to have finally found a rushing threat. Now if they can just find a game-breaking receiver, a run defense, a secondary, a quarterback, and a kicker, they'll be all set.