LSU and Kentucky took care of business last weekend, setting up one of the SEC's biggest baseball series this Friday.
The Tigers and Wildcats, leaders of the SEC West and East divisions, will clash this week in Lexington with temporary dominance over the country's toughest baseball conference on the line. LSU has rallied hard after a 2-3 start to SEC play, going 9-1 against teams like Florida, Arkansas, and Auburn to stake their claim at the top of the heap. Kentucky took a different approach, coming out like a house on fire and winning 22 straight games to start their season. Both teams sit at 11-4 in conference play for the season.
More importantly, they're the 1-2 combination at the top of the SEC Power Rankings, though a hungry Florida team sits in wait behind them. At 9-6 and ranked #5 in the country by BaseballAmerica, UF is the clear third member of the SEC's elite. The Gators bounced back from series losses to LSU and Ole Miss with a big win over in-state rivals and top-ranked Florida State last week.
Florida's winning ways have kept a surging South Carolina team at bay. The Gamecocks have rolled through the SEC with a 7-2 record in their past three weeks, but continue to inexplicably lose their weekday matchups. SC lost to the College of Charleston this week after suffering a defeat at the hands of Division II Francis Marion seven days earlier. If you were hoping to get some commemorative gear from that historic upset, don't worry - FMU has got you covered.
These performances have left a jumbled mess in their wake. The SEC's middle ground is populated by teams that are hovering around .500 in conference play. Georgia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and even Arkansas have all put together up and down performances this season that each team will hope to sort out before the conference tournament rolls around. While Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky have created some separation at the top of the league, only Alabama has effectively cemented themselves in the basement.
So where does everybody stand after five weeks over conference play? The full rankings are after the jump...
|The Old Guard (and Kentucky)
|The 'Cats bounced back from adversity, rebounding from a 12-0 loss to Louisville and a series-opening defeat against Arkansas to close out their series with a pair of big wins. Kentucky could have folded under the pressure, but held strong to take down a top 15 team on the road. This team continues to erase doubts as the season rolls along.
|LSU just keeps winning, albeit this week against lowly Alabama. It'll be a good tuneup for their upcoming series with Kentucky, which should set an early favorite for the SEC Tournament.
|After losing 2 of 3 to LSU, the Gators rebounded early last week by defeating top-ranked Florida State on the road. They carried that momentum into a tidy series win over Tennessee. The Gators aren't overly dominant, but they just win baseball games.
|Still Fighting to Host NCAA Tournament Baseball
|After a 1-5 start to SEC play, the Gamecocks are 7-2 since then. Looming matchups with a fading Auburn team and a terrible Alabama should help boost them into the upper tier of the conference and amongst the nation's elite, but those early losses to Kentucky and Florida will weigh heavily on Ray Tanner and his crew. Can revenge be the motivating factor for a talented, but young South Carolina team?
|Narrowly came out on the losing end of a tightly fought series with conference leader Kentucky. The Razorbacks are now 1-5 against teams with winning records in conference play this season. While Arkansas has been proficient in defeating the teams that they are supposed to, this mark will raise some questions as the season wears on.
|The Middle Ground of the SEC, the Upper Tier of Other Conferences
|A pair of wins versus Ole Miss has righted the ship in Athens after series losses to Vandy, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Georgia's upward growth will be tested in the next two weeks, however, with matchups against Florida and LSU on the horizon.
|Losing to Georgia keeps the Rebels locked right in the middle of the pack in the SEC. That's a crowded and confusing place to be, but also fertile ground for a long postseason run.
|Power issues doomed the Vols in a pair of games where they plated just one run against Florida. Tennessee is 7-8 in SEC play, but has lost four of their five series so far this season. Only a sweep against lowly Alabama is propping them up so far.
|From 6-3 to 7-8 in SEC play in just two weeks, against the conference's two worst (record-wise) teams. Auburn had built themselves up as a darkhorse early in the season, but now they're quickly fading out of postseason contention. A rough end-of-season schedule could land them under .500 for the year.
|Bad, but Talented.
|Vandy switched up their weekend rotation and it led to their first Friday win in SEC play. Pecoraro/Beede/Ziomek is a talented, but untested, trio who can give this team spotless innings or terrible blowups. Still, they'll have to prove that they can beat the league's toughest teams if they want to be taken seriously.
|Swept in close games against South Carolina, and then topped on Tuesday by their in-state rivals Ole Miss. That's a pretty awful week for the Bulldogs, and it drops them below Vanderbilt despite beating them in series play the prior week.
|The Alabama Zone.
|Outscored 31-5 in their last four games.