SEC Baseball Power Rankings: Week Two Brings Separation at the Top

The key to Kentucky's 2012 resurgence on the diamond apparently dates back to a strict 2008 diet of BEEFCAKE. via 2.bp.blogspot.com

The top of the rankings held steady in the second week of SEC play, as the league's elite teams continued to roll along on their path to the College World Series. Florida, Arkansas, and Kentucky all suffered their first conference losses of the season, but pulled out series wins to keep the order static amongst the SEC's best. Things weren't nearly as tidy in the next tier.

South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, and Mississippi State all lost their weekend series to teams of varying skill, leaving a void for that fourth spot in the conference ranks. The Gamecocks were able to break UF's 18-game winning streak on Friday, but their second straight week of facing a top 10 team left them at just 1-5 in conference play. Georgia was unable to follow up on their week one wins over Tennessee when they lost late leads in Saturday and Sunday contests at Vanderbilt. LSU dropped a tight series to Auburn that put both teams right in the middle of the conference pecking order.

As a result, South Carolina moved up to the fourth spot despite a dismal conference record thanks to a tough strength of schedule and a strong lineup on both sides of the plate. Auburn slid into fifth by virtue of being the only remaining team in the rankings to win both their SEC series so far. LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt all sunk into the lower half of the rankings, where teams normally would be fighting for a trip to Hoover. Fortunately for these teams, 2012 will mark the first year that the SEC accepts 10 teams to the conference tournament.

There seems to be a clear divide developing between the good and the great of the SEC. Florida, Arkansas, and even Kentucky are making a strong case for their fans to start looking into hotels in Omaha this summer. However, with plenty of games left in the season and talent across the conference, there are no guarantees that this divide will be as clear when June rolls around. The full rankings and analysis are after the jump...

Rank LW Team Record Analysis
Your Early Favorites
1) 1) Florida 23-2 (5-1) Of their 22 nine-inning wins this season, only six have been by two runs or fewer. The Gators aren't just beating their opponents in 2012, they're beating them up.
2) 2) Arkansas 22-3 (5-1) Overcame a game one drubbing against Mississippi State (11-2) to come back and win the series with an 11-inning Sunday victory in Starksville. The Razorbacks are a steady team with the pitching depth to carry them through SEC play.
3) 3) Kentucky 25-1 (5-1) Kentucky finally lost a game, but rebounded to post three straight wins following a Friday loss to Tennessee. Baseball America finally has them cracking the top 10 nationally, and that's a ranking that the Wildcats have rightfully deserved. A road trip to Georgia this weekend will put that to the test.
The Ever-Changing Middle Ground of the SEC
4) 5) South Carolina 18-7 (1-5) South Carolina is just 1-5 in conference play, but the defending champions are too good to stay that way for long. They dealt Florida their only SEC loss this week after getting swept by the streaking Wildcats before that. Second baseman Erik Payne is starting to mash - a .538 slugging percentage in his 15 starts so far this season.
5) 9) Auburn 15-10 (4-2) Auburn's ascent to relevance continued this week when they took 2 of 3 games from LSU over the weekend. A midweek loss to Samford tempers expectations a bit, but the Tigers have all the makings of a good conference team in 2012.
6) 4) LSU 18-6 (3-3) Played Auburn tough, but came out on the wrong end of a closely fought series. The Tigers don't have any marquee wins yet this season, but they'll have the chance to get some when they host #3 Arkansas this weekend.
7) 7) Ole Miss 18-7 (3-3) Ole Miss suffered a 10-0 beating at the hands of Southern Miss, then went 2-1 agains the SEC's worst team. It wasn't a great week for the Rebels, but it wasn't completely terrible either.
8) 6) Georgia 17-9 (3-3) Two deflating come-from-ahead losses at Vanderbilt morphed into a listless 10-5 midweek loss to a mediocre Clemson team. The Bulldogs need to pull themselves out of this developing tailspin if they're going to prove that they belong in the top 25.
The SEC's Wildcards
9) 8) Mississippi St. 17-9 (2-4) State lost another series in conference play, but it came against the third-ranked team in the country, and the Bulldogs were a few good swings away from making that a big time upset.
10) 11) Vanderbilt 10-15 (2-4) Two late game comebacks have given Commodore fans hope that this team could be turning the corner. Strong pitching performances in the past week from Kevin Ziomek, Tyler Beede, and Sam Selman may be the most positive sign of all.
More Likely to Play Spoiler Than Be Spoiled
11) 10) Tennessee 14-10 (2-4) Zack Godley (4-1, 2.92 ERA) has emerged as a legitimate Friday starter. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, struggles on Saturday and Sunday have become a concern for a team that is running out of steam after a strong start to the season.
12) 12) Alabama 9-16 (1-5) The Tide aren't built for shootouts, so teams with a solid offense should be able to outscore Alabama all season long.
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