This weekend brought a pair of big showdowns to the SEC, as four of the conference's top five teams played each other in an early season test of supremacy. Then-#1 ranked Florida hosted defending champion South Carolina in one of the most highly anticipated showdowns of the year. One time zone west, #12 Arkansas welcomed #2 Vanderbilt in a matchup that the Hogs hoped would erase the pain of a series loss to Auburn a week earlier.
The slate showcased just how dangerous SEC teams can be, as dominant pitching played a role in all six games. The Gamecocks secured their spot at the top of the heap by limiting Florida's potent offense to just seven runs all weekend. Vanderbilt was even more impressive, holding the Razorbacks to only four runs over three games. Both teams ended up 2-1 winners of their respective series, showcasing the gritty style of play that could carry them into Omaha this summer.
Overall, the big winner was the SEC East. The six-team division now has three of the country's consensus top four teams. Even Georgia is showing signs of life, picking up two big wins against suddenly free-falling LSU over the weekend. The Bulldogs' possible resurgence has balanced off the mediocre play of Kentucky and Tennessee, who seem content to play the wild card role in the league this season. Elsewhere in the conference, Alabama (5-1 SEC) took over the SEC lead with a three game sweep of the 'Cats, Ole Miss continued to prove absolutely nothing about their season, and Mississippi State cast off 2010's stench of defeat with a sweep of #20 Auburn.
The AoG full rankings are after the jump:
|1)||2)||Vanderbilt||23-3 (4-2)||Vandy survived their own weekend batting slump by holding Arkansas to just four runs in three games. These guys have too many veteran hitters to be held down too long.|
|2)||4)||South Carolina||18-5 (4-2)||I'm sorry that I doubted you, Gamecocks. A week after I gave LSU the benefit of the doubt over the defending National Champions, they turn around and take 2 of 3 from Florida while LSU drops a series to Georgia.|
|3)||1)||Florida||21-5 (4-2)||South Carolina had no interest in passing the torch to the Gators in Gainesville last weekend. The Gamecocks torched Friday starter Brian Johnson for seven runs in a statement game. Though Florida bounced back to split the final two games, they lost their grip on the #1 slot in both the country and the SEC.|
|Battling for Hosting Gigs in the NCAA Tournament|
|4)||6)||Arkansas||18-6 (2-4)||Played the Commodores tough at home, essentially shutting down an offense that put up 11 runs in the game preceding their series. The drop off from the league's top three is significant, but the Razorbacks currently head up a crop of very good teams in the middle of the pack.|
|5)||9)||Mississippi State||18-6 (4-2)||Currently hold the league's best winning streak - 4 games. Exposed Auburn in a three game sweep and now own the #2 spot in the SEC West. Arguably, they've already accomplished more in two months of 2011 than all of 2010.|
|6)||3)||LSU||17-7 (1-5)||They got the benefit of the doubt until Georgia took 2 of 3 from them. Granted, the Bulldogs are better than most of us expected to be in SEC play, but top ten teams don't lose series to the Bulldogs.|
|7)||7)||Alabama||18-8 (5-1)||Swept Kentucky and now have the SEC's best record at 5-1, but still haven't been tested by some of the league's better teams. Early losses to Auburn and Georgia may be the true indicator of who this team really is.|
|Fighting for a Spot in Hoover|
|8)||8)||Ole Miss||18-7 (3-3)||Still haven't beaten anyone of note, though they were impressive in their two wins against Tennessee. Unfortunately for the Rebels, those might not be counted as quality victories for much longer based on how UT has been playing.|
|9)||5)||Auburn||15-10 (2-4)||Way to make that Top 20 ranking last, Tigers. With a sweep at the hands of Mississippi State that included two blowouts, Auburn negated any goodwill they had gained with their wins over Arkansas.|
|Who the Hell Knows?|
|10)||11)||Tennessee||18-6 (2-4)||They've already lost to Ole Miss and Kentucky, and the schedule only gets tougher from there. Florida, South Carolina, and surprising Alabama follow, meaning that they Vols likely won't be in good position to win a series until they host Georgia in late April.|
|11)||12)||Georgia||11-14 (3-3)||Played South Carolina tough. Beat Alabama. Took a series against LSU. Have won games against UCLA, USC, Florida State, and Baylor. You never know which team is going to show up when you face the 'Dawgs, but you can bet that they're going to put up a fight.|
|12)||10)||Kentucky||15-11 (2-4)||Swept by Alabama this week. Like Ole Miss, their best wins of the season have come against Tennessee.|