The fifth week of SEC play brought some big time showdowns and some major surprises. South Carolina took two of three against Vanderbilt to earn the top spot in this week's rankings, while Florida fended off the surging Georgia Bulldogs to cement their place amongst the league's top teams. Towards the bottom of the rankings, Tennessee pulled off an upset with a doubleheader sweep of seven-inning games against Alabama, while Mississippi took care of Kentucky in three straight games.
This action, combined with Arkansas's series win, created a three-way tie in the SEC West, where 'Bama, Ole Miss, and the Razorbacks are all leading the way at 8-7. Auburn and Mississippi State sit within two games at the halfway mark of SEC play. Winning the SEC West title won't have any major consequence - it might not even be good enough for a top four seed at the conference tournament - but it's still a badge of honor for any of these schools. A five-team race in what has become the league's consolation bracket will keep things interesting down to the final week.
The outright conference race looks as though it will boil down to three teams - South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Florida. Georgia sits only three games back but with series losses to both the Gamecocks and Gators already, it appears that their upward growth may be limited. The SEC's three elite teams will battle it out for the regular season title and a lock for a national seed, and it seems like South Carolina is the safest bet of the triumvirate. Ray Tanner's team has rebounded from a slightly disappointing early season to run through conference play so far, defeating both Vandy and UF on their way to a one-game edge in the standings.
South Carolina is on top - but how does the rest of the conference shake out? Check out the full rankings after the jump.
|1)||2)||South Carolina||29-7 (12-3)||The Gamecocks won a tournament style showdown with the Commodores last weekend to earn the top spot in the SEC. SC came up with four huge runs with their backs against the wall on Sunday, showing the mettle that a national champion possesses…|
|2)||1)||Vanderbilt||32-5 (11-4)||...But it also helps that Vandy's touted bullpen melted down late in the game Sunday. There's no shame in dropping a tough series like the 'Dores did in Columbia - hopefully it will resonate for this team in the postseason.|
|3)||3)||Florida||28-9 (11-4)||As many losses as Arkansas (9), but five have come against #11 Florida State (3), and #2 South Carolina (2). Florida still has the horses to win the SEC, but still face three tough series (Vandy, Arkansas, 'Bama) and have arguably the toughest remaining schedule amongst the league's elite.|
|The Ever-Shifting Middle Ground of the SEC|
|4)||4)||Georgia||19-18 (9-6)||The Bulldogs played Florida tough and hang on to the fourth spot as a result. Georgia doesn't field the most impressive roster, but they've come together as a team to stake their claim as a competitor in the SEC.|
|5)||5)||Arkansas||27-9 (8-7)||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.|
|6)||6)||Alabama||25-15 (8-7)||Short innings were the Tide's worst nightmare, as weather forced a Sunday doubleheaded that Tennessee swept on the virtue of a pair of one-run leads. The end result was the Vols' first SEC series win and a slip down the rankings for Alabama.|
|Maxing Out at a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament|
|7)||7)||Mississippi State||23-14 (6-9)||The Bulldogs are two games out of first place in the West and have the softest schedule remaining of any of the teams in contention. Can Mississippi State make a run to the top and put themselves into the top half of the bracket in Hoover?|
|8)||8)||Auburn||20-16 (7-8)||Took two of three against LSU and stayed in the hunt for a SEC West title. Of course, that's not much of an accomplishment, with five teams within two games of each other at the top.|
|9)||10)||Ole Miss||23-15 (8-7)||Swept Kentucky. So there's that. Now they're somehow tied for first in the West. Did we mention that it's a shitshow out there?|
|The LSU Row of Shame.|
|10)||9)||LSU||23-14 (4-11)||The Tigers have won as many SEC series as Kentucky or Tennessee so far. A trip to Nashville to play the #3 team in the country doesn't seem like a great recipe for a turnaround, but if Vandy takes these guys lightly it could provide the spark LSU needs to get their season back on track.|
|Pretty Bad…Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty…Pretty Bad.|
|11)||12)||Tennessee||21-15 (4-11)||Won a pair of pitchers' duels against Alabama for their two best wins of the season. Unfortunately, their series victory probably did more harm for the SEC's reputation than it did good for UT's season.|
|12)||11)||Kentucky||17-21 (2-13)||Sunk to the bottom after Tennessee finally beat someone. Four straight losses have dropped the 'Cats under .500 for the season.|