South Carolina may have dropped a game this week against Mississippi State, but they remain the top team in this week's SEC rankings despite sweeps by the two teams below them. Vanderbilt and Florida both pulled off dominant wins over LSU and Alabama, respectively, but couldn't gain ground on the Gamecocks since both teams failed to have success against South Carolina earlier in the season. By virtue of the 'Cocks 4-2 record against the #3 and #4 ranked teams in the country, they maintain the #1 spot in America's toughest conference.
The middle of the pack got a bit muddled, as Georgia and Auburn picked up resume boosting wins while Alabama and Arkansas suffered tough losses. The Razorbacks got the benefit of the doubt that their series loss to Kentucky was a weather-enabled fluke (rain decimated their weekend and even stretched into last night's game with Saint Louis), but 'Bama took a hit in the standings after dropping their third straight weekend series. To the Tide's credit, the team lost to a dominant Florida squad, but the former West leaders have gone just 1-8 in their past nine league games.
The bottom of the ranks had a little movement as well, with LSU finally plummeting into the Kentucky/Tennessee zone. The Wildcats and Volunteers have each done something over the past two weeks that the Tigers have yet to do all season - win a series against a team ranked in the top 2/3rds of the SEC power rankings. The race to the basement will heat up this weekend when LSU and Kentucky square off; the loser will effectively be eliminated from any postseason play.
The weekend should be good for some entertaining, but possibly underwhelming, matchups. South Carolina-Auburn and Florida-Ole Miss will give two teams that are fighting for relevance a shot to stake a claim for a two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Georgia-Arkansas should give the SEC a clear cut #4 team. Mississippi State-Alabama might end up dictating who wins the West. And LSU-Kentucky might get canceled due to a meteor strike based on how both teams' luck has panned out this season.
There are only four weeks to go until it's time to head to Hoover, and only three teams have truly separated themselves from the pack. Week seven begins the stretch run that will propel some of the SEC's best towards Omaha. Check out how the league looks after 18 games in the AoG rankings after the jump.
|1)||1)||South Carolina Gamecocks||32-8 (14-4)||Sandwiched a loss to Mississippi State in between two blowout wins to make the SEC regular season title race a bit more exciting. Vandy and Florida would have to put some space between themselves and SC to jump back into the top spot after the Gamecocks beat both in weekend series.|
|2)||2)||Vanderbilt Commodores||35-5 (14-4)||Swept LSU, which would have been awesome 6 weeks ago, but not as much now. The team's bullpen problems on Sundays (4 run 7th innings given up to both South Carolina and LSU) are starting to become a red flag.|
|3)||3)||Florida Gators||31-10 (14-4)||Held Alabama to three runs all weekend. The Gators have several different ways to win games and have as good a shot as any team in the country to bring home a national championship.|
|Good Teams With Bad Losses, or Bad Teams With Good Wins?|
|4)||4)||Georgia Bulldogs||22-20 (11-7)||8-2 against the West, 4-5 against the East. Georgia wins the game they have to win and are capable of big upsets despite a relative lack of talent. The Bulldogs also picked up a marquee win against #11 Georgia Tech at Turner Field Tuesday, so their inclusion in the national Top 25 may be approaching.|
|5)||5)||Arkansas Razorbacks||28-11 (9-9)||Won their second straight series with a tough showing against Mississippi State. At 8-7 they're tied for first in the SEC West, but showdowns with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina loom on the horizon.|
|Darkhorse SEC Tournament Champions|
|6)||7)||Mississippi St. Bulldogs||24-16 (7-11)||The Bulldogs have swept Auburn, won games against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Florida, and have one of the easiest remaining schedules of anyone in the SEC. They've got a legit shot to win the SEC West, and they're going to be a tough matchup for anyone in a tournament format.|
|7)||6)||Alabama Crimson Tide||26-18 (8-10)||Swept by Vanderbilt, lost 2 of 3 against Tennessee, and then swept by Florida. It's safe to say these guys don't care for the SEC East outside of Kentucky.|
|8)||8)||Auburn Tigers||22-18 (9-9)||4-2 in weekend series against the SEC, but both losses have been sweeps, keeping them at .500 in league play. The Tigers are tough but inconsistent, and their inability to avoid disaster might keep them from climbing back into the Top 25 for the rest of the season.|
|9)||9)||Mississippi Rebels||24-17 (9-9)||A series loss to Auburn just hammers home the point that these guys aren't much more than a middling team. They'll make it to the NCAA Tournament, but barring an incredible hot streak they don't look like they'll be dangerous for many opponents.|
|Pretty Bad…Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty…Pretty Bad.|
|10)||12)||Kentucky Wildcats||20-22 (4-14)||Beat Arkansas in a tight, weather-affected series to spring out of last place. If they can beat a reeling LSU squad this weekend then they'll be within striking distance of a SEC Tournament berth. Needless to say, that 8-seed isn't being terribly well protected right now.|
|11)||10)||LSU Tigers||25-17 (4-14)||It wasn't just that they got swept by Vanderbilt - it's that they only made it close for a few of the 27 innings they spent in Nashville. They have to beat Kentucky this weekend, because if they don't they can kiss almost any shot at tournament play - either NCAA or SEC - goodbye.|
|12)||11)||Tennessee Volunteers||22-17 (5-13)||Played Georgia tough in Knoxville and lost a pair of close games after a series-opening win in extra innings. They might not be the worst team in the SEC, but I can't convince myself to put LSU there just yet, and a series loss to Kentucky shuffles the Vols back into the basement for now.|